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Insurance Defense: Introduction to Tripartite Relationship and Avoiding Conflicts of Interest

Recording of a 60-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Friday, June 7, 2024

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE webinar will explore the tripartite relationship and several frequently seen scenarios where conflicts of interest arise: reservation of rights letters, billing audits, billing guidelines, insured's lack or cessation of cooperation, coverage defenses, and policy limits demands. The panelists will review recurring problems and offer guidance about best practices and strategies for addressing the issues.


When a liability insurer hires a lawyer to defend its insured, a “tripartite relationship” arises among the three: defense counsel, the insurer, and the insured. Each owes duties to the other, so the relationship is full of potential and unending conflicts and divergent interests. In some states, lawyers have enhanced or heighted legal duties to juggle the competing interests. In other states, the insured may be entitled to select independent counsel, but that counsel, too, owes duties and obligations.

The duties and rights owed among the different parties spring from the insurance policy, state insurance laws, the rules of professional responsibility, and common law. The various sources of authority are unclear or in tension. At any given time, each person in the relationship has or can develop irreconcilable, complex, and intertwined economic and legal goals.

Listen as this experienced panel of insurance practitioners discusses how counsel can learn to recognize and identify potential conflicts in the tripartite relationship and avoid them if possible.



  1. Overview of tripartite relationship
  2. Overview of controlling authority
  3. Recurring situations
    1. Reservation of rights letters
    2. Billing audits without insured consent
    3. Billing guidelines
    4. Insured's lack or cessation of cooperation
    5. Revealing coverage defenses, policy limits demands
  4. Best practices for spotting conflicts


The panel will discuss these and other key issues:

  • What are the most common types of conflicts that arise?
  • How do different states analyze the tripartite relationship?
  • Who is the client? Who can sue defense counsel and for what?
  • How do case law and legal-ethics rulings intersect when navigating the tripartite relationship?


Beam, Heather
Heather M. Beam

Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons

Ms. Beam focuses her practice on complex design and construction litigation in arbitrations, state court, and federal...  |  Read More

Doss, Jeffrey
Jeffrey P. Doss

Lightfoot, Franklin & White

Mr. Doss focuses his practice on trial advocacy in the areas of white-collar criminal defense and complex civil...  |  Read More

Mayerson, Marc
Marc S. Mayerson

The Mayerson Firm

Mr. Mayerson specializes in complex insurance-coverage disputes including litigation, settlement and advice, and...  |  Read More

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Strafford will process CLE credit for one person on each recording. All formats include course handouts.

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