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Hire Contenders Not Pretenders—Why Policyholders Have to be Careful Choosing Professionals In an Artificial Intelligence World


The essence of hiring a true contender lies in recognizing and valuing the core attributes of authenticity and expertise. Holly Howanitz is an accomplished insurance defense attorney and the Managing Partner of Tyson & Mendes’ Jacksonville office. She wrote the following on her LinkedIn account, which is an important message for policyholders when choosing professionals and contractors to help them following a catastrophe:

I am sure all of us have heard the expression ‘Fake it til you make it’ more times than we can count.

My question for everyone today is can you really fake it until you make it? And should you?

I’m going to give the lawyer answer here and say ‘it depends’. Many young lawyers struggle with confidence. From my experience, female lawyers struggle with confidence even more than our male counterparts and tend to avoid taking on challenges that we are not 100% sure we can be successful in.

To the extent that ‘fake it til you make it’ refers to stepping out of our comfort zones, trying new things, and giving ourselves the opportunity to get better—we can and we should!

On the other hand, we can’t ‘fake it’ forever. Eventually, we have to learn the material and actually become skilled in the tasks we take on. We eventually have to ‘make it’.

Also, with some complex tasks, there really is no faking it. Under certain circumstances, it’s important not to pretend to know how to do something if we don’t.

So, again, whether you can or should fake it until you make it depends.

What do you think? Can you fake it til you make it?

Holly Howanitz’s perspective brings an important question to light on professional development and expertise, particularly in the highly specialized property insurance claims field where effective representation can determine success or failure. The principle of authenticity has become even more crucial in our digital age, especially when choosing professionals to handle sensitive issues like insurance claims. In this era where artificial intelligence (AI) and digital advertising can blur the lines between the skilled and the unskilled, policyholders must be extremely vigilant in hiring authentic contenders, not pretenders.

I remarked to Howanitz’s post with the following:

This is an excellent point. Can you imagine a brain surgeon or any surgeon for that matter, ‘faking it?’ Why should our profession of attorneys without skillsets, training and experience ‘practice’ upon clients in areas and issues of law when they are clearly ‘faking it?’

This does not just apply when policyholders hire attorneys, it applies to policyholders selecting public adjusters, as I noted in “What Questions Would Public Adjusters Ask If They Were Hiring a Public Adjuster?

The call to “Hire Contenders Not Pretenders” isn’t just about checking credentials, which are easily flaunted and sometimes falsified in the digital space. It is about ensuring that the professionals policyholders choose are genuinely capable and deeply knowledgeable in their field. Artificial Intelligence advancements and sophisticated marketing techniques have made it easier for pretenders to create a façade of expertise. Fake reviews, manipulated testimonials, high-tech websites, and follow-up hard sell sophisticated call-in centers all create the illusion of competence and reliability, potentially misleading policyholders into making poor choices for representation.

The dangers of falling for pretenders are manifold. In the insurance industry, where stakes involve critical financial decisions and legal complexities, the cost of entrusting a claim to someone who merely looks the part on a digital platform can be devastating. Unlike simpler tasks where “faking it till you make it” might be harmless, insurance claims require a deep understanding of policy details, experience with loss details and estimating, legal implications of all of these, and strategic negotiation skills that can’t be improvised without mastered and real expertise.

In addition to the types of questions I noted in “What Questions Would Public Adjusters Ask If They Were Hiring a Public Adjuster?” policyholders must adopt contender seeking when selecting their representatives. This selection criteria champions the essential qualities of authenticity, thorough knowledge, and proven competency. Contenders are professionals who not only claim to know the field but also have demonstrable experience and a verifiable track record of handling claims successfully.

Policyholders should not hire people who are faking their ability and competency, subjecting themselves to financial danger. Claims are serious business with real money at stake.

To distinguish these authentic contenders from the pretenders, policyholders should take several steps:

  1. Verify Credentials and Experience: Beyond glancing at qualifications, delve into the professional’s history. How long have they been practicing in the specific field of insurance law? What specific cases have they handled? Can they provide references or case studies?
  2. Look for Signs of Genuine Expertise: Authentic contenders will often share their knowledge freely, be it through articles, blogs, or presentations at industry conferences. This not only demonstrates their expertise but also their commitment to the field.
  3. Assess Their Communication: Genuine professionals communicate clearly and without excessive jargon. They make it easy for clients to understand their policies and the legal landscape. If a professional cannot communicate complex information in a comprehensible manner, it might be a sign of superficial knowledge.
  4. Beware of Overpromising: Pretenders often lure clients with promises that sound too good to be true. Authentic contenders will be honest about the potential challenges and realistic about the outcomes of a claim.
  5. Use Consultations Effectively: Initial consultations are not just for the professional to learn about the case but also for the client to interview the professional. This is a crucial time to assess whether they are a contender or a pretender.
  6. Be Wary of Digital Deception: In the digital age, appearances can be deceptive. Sophisticated websites and online profiles may not always reflect true capabilities. Policyholders should conduct thorough research, going beyond the digital facade to understand the real person or company they are hiring.

As Holly Howanitz pointed out, stepping out of one’s comfort zone is necessary for personal growth, but when it comes to handling complex insurance claims, this step must be taken with someone who has genuinely made it, not someone who is still trying to fake it. In this way, policyholders can ensure that their interests are protected by professionals who are truly equipped to champion their cause in the challenging arena of insurance claims and disputes.

I will be analyzing this topic and the need for public adjusters to embrace a “Contender Mentality” during my presentation at the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA) Annual Meeting on June 14. The speech is entitled, What Does Your Client Think of You? How to be More Successful by Running a Value and Ethical Oriented Public Adjusting Firm.

Thought For The Day

Esse quam videri
Translation: “To Be, Rather Than to Seem”