Linda Kornfeld is a card-carrying member of the ultra-elite club of insurance recovery specialists.
While it sounds like an arcane field, it’s one that provides serious financial benefits for any business with a portfolio of insurance policies – and one that is critical to almost any disaster, occurrence or happenstance you might imagine.
Kornfeld guides her clients through insurer minefields, and enables them to access insurance dollars for all manner of corporate crises, including cyber events, natural disasters like wildfires, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, and sex abuse and harassment scandals.
Helping to turn a page on tragedy for its victims by finding them resources to move forward is the forte of Kornfeld and her team, who recently joined Blank Rome's bustling Los Angeles office. They’ve recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for clients who had been denied coverage by their insurers.
Lawdragon: Linda, congratulations on joining Blank Rome. Can you talk a bit about what attracted you and your group to the firm?
Linda Kornfeld: Thanks. We are thrilled to be at Blank Rome. In 2016, more than 100 of Dickstein Shapiro’s attorneys (including its nationally renowned coverage practice run by my old friend and colleague, Jim Murray) joined the firm. I ran Dickstein’s L.A. office for a number of years and loved that firm’s culture and my insurance recovery colleagues. Blank Rome has an almost identical culture, and Dickstein’s coverage practice, so what could be a better fit for my team and clients? The move also provided us the opportunity to expand the firm’s insurance recovery practice on the West Coast and lead the charge to broaden Blank Rome's brand in this important market. This is very exciting for us given the wonderful attorneys and practices that are a part of Blank Rome’s rapidly expanding national platform.
LD: Can you please explain to our readers a bit about your unusual and highly important insurance coverage practice? It’s a rare and small niche but one that impacts every business and increasingly governments and other institutions worldwide.
LK: Simply stated, we ensure that our clients receive the maximum benefit from their insurance coverage assets. I truly enjoy being an insurance recovery lawyer because I have the unique opportunity to help protect corporate and individual policyholders from recalcitrant insurers and recover crucial insurance assets, oftentimes when these policyholders are in financial crisis.
For instance, 2017 was a year in which countless businesses and individuals were impacted by the devastating effects of natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires. Unfortunately, with disasters comes substantial financial loss. And, given the interconnected nature of our global economy, companies around the world can lose business and profits, regardless of where the disaster takes place. Insurance recovery can be a life line for companies during these difficult times. With each disaster like Katrina and Superstorm Sandy comes insurance coverage litigation and new legal precedent. As an insurance recovery lawyer, I partner with policyholders impacted by these events to help them effectively navigate the claims process and avoid pitfalls learned from prior disasters (and the resulting case law). Our goal is to help our clients maximize their insurance recoveries in difficult situations like those faced by so many in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and California.
LD: How did you get your start in Insurance coverage and can you talk a bit about some of your cases and results you’ve achieved?
LK: I graduated law school with an offer to be a securities lawyer at a large Los Angeles-based firm. But, that summer (1991) there was a financial crisis and that firm was doing deals with incoming first years to decrease the size of their first-year class. I knew insurance recovery attorney Kirk Pasich and asked if he might need a junior attorney for his team. He did, and here I am 26 years later.
My practice spans the gamut of insurance coverage issues, and jurisdictions. For example, I represent Penn State in its insurance recovery litigation efforts in connection with the Sandusky sex abuse claims. I also am litigating Cottage Health Systems’ cyber coverage claims for its 2013 and 2015 data breach events. Thus far in the litigation, Cottage has won forum and summary judgment battles and we are proceeding in Santa Barbara Superior Court. I’m also currently litigating Directors & Officers liability issues in L.A. Superior Court, asbestos coverage claims in San Francisco, and a flood loss in St. Louis Superior Court. My practice spans courtrooms nationwide, and issues as they hit the headlines.
LD: You are among the very small elite group of lawyers in this practice. Can you talk a bit about mentors or others you’ve learned from?
LK: I have been fortunate to work with some of the most highly regarded insurance coverage attorneys throughout my career. With the news presently focused so heavily on issues faced by women in the workplace, it seems appropriate to talk about my career-long focus on women’s leadership and advancement efforts. I’m passionate about helping women at every level overcome challenges, advance, and ultimately achieve professional success.
For example, in 2008 I and a group of eight other women partners from other law firms and practice areas, and Stuart Weitzman’s then GC and renowned champion for women, Barbara Kolsun, formed a networking group focused entirely on helping each other obtain success, and mentoring each other through issues commonly faced by senior-level women in law firms and business. For nearly a decade now, we have gotten together twice a year, every year, for a weekend of confidential conversation at McDermott partner Andi Kramer’s Michigan hideaway. We’ve also looked out for each other during the year to assist each other when opportunities or needs arise. We’ve referred business to each other. We’ve counseled each other through law firm moves, divorces, new marriages, navigating the business world, and a host of other issues. Talented women can do a great deal to promote each other and help their clients and businesses achieve financial success. Our small networking/mentoring group is a fantastic example of how when focused on a common goal we can truly help each other.
LD: What do you find most satisfying about insurance coverage work? And what advice would you give to companies or others you don’t currently represent about how they should view coverage in terms of an asset?
LK: I love what I do because on a regular basis, I confront fact patterns and insurance policy language that has not previously been legally addressed, and as a result, have had the opportunity to make law nationwide, including with Jim Murray in the Washington Supreme Court. Creative and analytical thinking are strong suits for me, and I use these skills to establish winning arguments for my clients to convince insurers to live up to their contractual obligations and make payments under their policies.
LD: You are from Los Angeles and went to law school in Washington, D.C., a city you remain fond of. Any favorite memories of going to law school in D.C.?
LK: D.C. is one of my favorite cities. I love its architecture, culture, and natural beauty. My first year of law school I lived two blocks from the Capitol and Supreme Court. I took daily runs with my dog by the Supreme Court and played with him on the Capitol lawn. As a first-year law student learning about monumental Supreme Court decisions and the congressional process, what could be more inspiring than seeing the buildings where those events had happened on a daily basis?
LD: What are your goals to help Blank Rome build its California practice, which from your deep connections will undoubtedly benefit?
LK: Part of what attracted me to Blank Rome is the vibrancy of its Los Angeles office. Under the dynamic leadership of my old friend from freshman year of college, trial guru Greg Bordo, the office has attracted many extraordinary corporate and litigation practices over the last couple of years, and I am thrilled to be expanding our insurance recovery capabilities in this market. It is a testament to Blank Rome that it has been able to successfully expand in L.A. over such a short period of time (the office has grown from 5 to more than 45 attorneys in 8 years), and I look forward to not only growing our insurance recovery practice, but also helping to attract other dynamic practices that will benefit my clients.
Equally as exciting, we have a tremendous team of iconic women lawyers in the office, including matrimonial lawyer star Stacy Phillips, who are doing amazing things for their clients and the community. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to team up with such a strong group of women to continue to build our collective momentum – both professionally and personally. I've been practicing in the West Coast legal community for many years and as a result have many great practitioner friends as well as those in the local media and publications, and I look forward to introducing them to the Blank Rome brand.
LD: What do you enjoy doing outside of law practice?
LK: Spending time with my family, of course, including my amazing 12-year-old daughter. She and I share a passion for dogs and horses. Regarding horses, I’ve been an equestrian since elementary school and have a particular love for jumping horses. Apart from providing a complete escape from the daily stresses of practicing law, because of the intense focus that is required, I think it is an amazing sport. Teaming up with a horse to successfully complete a course of fences is seriously exhilarating.