Conroy, Simberg, Ganon, Krevans, Abel, Lurvey, Morrow & Schefer, P.A.
Hollywood’s Under-the-Radar Insurance Defense Firm
It was October 19, 1979, when Bruce Simberg and Tom Conroy opened a new South Florida insurance defense firm in downtown Hollywood. “At that time, the insurance business was very localized,” says Simberg. “We had three major carriers as clients: Employers of Wausau, American International Group (AIG) and Lloyds. Our clients said if we were located in Hollywood they would send us work for both Dade and Broward Counties, so that was an easy decision for us.”
But opening their own firm was a risky step for the two young lawyers who had worked at the Miami firm of Thornton, Conroy & Herndon, having just four and five years of prior experience. “At that time the insurance defense business was handled by a small group of well-established downtown firms,” says Simberg. “There weren’t any other two-lawyer firms running around like ours.”
Simberg began focusing on liability work for insurance carriers and self-insureds, while Conroy — who was with the firm until his retirement in 2008 — handled workers’ compensation matters. The firm grew steadily, attracting new partners like former colleague John Edward Herndon, now a partner in the Tallahassee office. Meanwhile, the firm’s headquarters has remained in Hollywood, moving from one office building to another on Hollywood Boulevard to accommodate its growth.
A Culture of Collaboration
|Bruce Simberg and Scott Krevans|
From a small 270-square-foot office with just two lawyers and a secretary, Conroy Simberg has grown steadily through the years, and now has more than 150 attorneys, 40 paralegals and 400 total employees in ten offices throughout Florida. Last April, the firm opened its newest office in Naples, which is managed by partner Joseph M. Sette. John Lurvey (West Palm Beach), John Morrow (Orlando), and Michael Kraft (Tampa) all started in Hollywood before running their respective offices.
“We take pride in our family atmosphere,” says Simberg, noting the career of partner Scott Krevans, who started with the firm 27 years ago as a clerk. “Scott is a good example of how we like to grow our own talent. Most of the partners in our offices came from Hollywood originally, so they’ve been able to bring our firm’s culture along with them.”
One of the hallmarks of that culture is nurturing the careers of younger attorneys, says Krevans. “When I became an associate, I learned from Bruce about how to manage cases, take depositions and try them in court,” he says. “After doing litigation for many years, I’m now training other lawyers at our firm. We want to teach them to be effective lawyers, and how to be part of a team.”
Krevans says that sense of mutual cooperation and collaboration is one of Conroy Simberg’s unique attributes, and an important factor in recruiting new attorneys. “This firm is not a place where people just come to work,” he says. “Our attorneys and staffers build strong bonds through the years of working together. In many ways, we really are a family of professionals.”
A Mix of Litigation Cases
Conroy Simberg’s entire practice is litigation, focusing primarily on insurance defense work, which includes representing self-insureds who face the same kinds of lawsuits. “We also take on some commercial litigation matters and are working on expanding that area of our practice, where we can utilize the talents of our very experienced trial lawyers,” says Simberg.
In addition to its liability division, the firm has a well-established workers’ compensation department, headed by Neal Ganon, with a presence in every office, and a six-person appellate department, led by Hinda Klein.
Through the years, the nature of insurance defense work has changed, according to Simberg. Matters are no longer so localized, and attorneys can handle cases in different parts of Florida – one reason for the firm’s building a statewide network. “When we started there was also more camaraderie among lawyers,” Simberg says. “As the value of cases has gotten larger, it’s become more important to put everything in writing, rather than rely on a handshake, and put the settlement in front of a judge.” Simberg tried his first case less than a month after becoming a lawyer, and has handled more than 200 trials in his career. In Tallahassee, Herndon has tried 300-plus cases.
Conroy Simberg has invested in technology, including sophisticated applications that help the firm’s attorneys comply with the specific requirements and guidelines of their clients. “Our clients are very professional and highly attuned to the needs of their businesses,” Simberg says. “We strive to give them a better product year after year, and we make sure that we are efficient in moving the cases along toward resolution.”
The process of deciding whether to settle or go to trial starts at the beginning of each case, says Simberg. “We look carefully at the facts and evaluate each witness,” he says. “We also see if there are experts involved, the nature of the plaintiff’s case and the chances of winning or losing in court. We then look at the value of the case, make a recommendation to the carrier and take the next steps based on the client’s decision.”
Krevans adds that a seasoned partner supervises associates in these case-by-case analyses as they determine the value of a settlement offer. “Our veterans have a good sense for how a jury will see the case, and hopefully the plaintiff’s lawyer will see it the same way,” he says. “We also monitor the progress of each case in order to provide consistent, quality service to our clients.”
Giving Back to Local Communities
The firm is committed to giving back to local communities throughout Florida, with particular support for Miami Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Miracle Network. “We are involved in giving scholarships through our workers’ compensation group to high school students going off to college,” Simberg says. “We believe in taking care of our own employees, who may be facing cancer or other serious health conditions. We make sure they are not left to fend for themselves.”
Looking to the future, Simberg says the firm isn’t planning to open more Florida offices since its network already covers the state. However, the partners have discussed possibly expanding to neighboring states in the Southeast.
“Through the years, our firm has always tried to do the right thing for our clients, our attorneys and our staff,” says Krevans. “That’s why we’ve been so successful and it’s something that won’t ever change here. We will always follow the Golden Rule and treat others in the same way we would like to be treated.”
South Florida Legal Guide 2014 Edition
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