As a lawyer, adjusting your practice can be difficult. Different practice groups, new clients, and other unfamiliar procedures can throw off even the most experienced lawyer. For Danielle Bird, a workers’ compensation attorney at SiebenCarey, her career change caused her to see things from the other side, literally. After eight years as defense counsel for an insurance company, she moved to doing plaintiff’s workers’ comp about two years ago.
After practicing for eight years, Bird was looking for a change. Bird had a challenge finding a position where she could use the experience and knowledge she accumulated during her time as defense counsel. “The idea was 'How do I continue to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone and have a personally rewarding work experience, but still use the knowledge and information I have gained with workers’ compensation laws, statutes and court personnel in such a specialized area?’ The answer was obvious, switch sides. So when I did make the move to SiebenCarey about two years ago, I carried that experience with me, however, since then my day to day work has been challenging and invigorating. I continue to learn new things every day, it really keeps me on my toes,” she said.
Bird now works for a new group of clients: injured workers. “For my current clientele, this process is new to them, and it can be scary. There's no learning curve. Just because I explained to one person the rules of workers’ compensation or what to expect, it doesn't mean this new person has any knowledge or understanding. It is important that I spend a lot of time with each individual client talking to them about what types of benefits are available through workers’ comp and answering their questions, because it’s a complicated system and they usually have a lot of questions,” she said.
Bird’s background in understanding claims processing helps troubleshoot certain delays in treatment and puts her clients at ease. "When clients call me and are wanting to know what's going on and why there is such a delay in getting treatment approved, I bring a unique perspective on that situation, and in many instances am able to facilitate a quicker resolution,” she said.
While workers’ compensation is a very analytical field of law, Bird’s current job allows her empathetic side to flourish. “The conversation is much more personal because it's not like their life is a number. To most people, this is their livelihood on the line or their credibility on the line,” she said.
Bird has also been able to gain advice from a source outside of her colleagues: her family. Her father is also a plaintiff’s workers’ compensation attorney who practices in Rochester. While practicing in insurance defense, Bird didn’t often have a need to seek advice from her dad. Now that they both practice in the same field, their conversations regarding the law are much more nuanced and have a common thread to them since they are both now ‘on the same side.’
“I've been able to just sort of bounce things off of him, with regard to strategy and especially tough client conversations. He’s been practicing a long time and I most certainly trust him,” she said. Bird has also credited her colleagues at SiebenCarey, Mark Olive, Mike Scully, and Sue Holden for their assistance and mentorship.
The Workers’ Comp section of the HCBA is also getting a boost from Bird’s work. Along with Kathryn Hipp Carlson and Judge William Marshall, they are reviving the section after a few dormant years. They look forward to another year of interesting dialogue and CLEs especially in light of the new laws which took effect in August .
Bird believes that the section can help practitioners of all levels. Discussing the issues and developments surrounding workers’ comp can help attorneys keep up with new developments in the field. "The HCBA is really good at bringing all varieties of people together from all different areas of expertise and different experience levels, which is what I appreciate about it most.” she said. “It is very invigorating to get out and meet your fellow bar members, not only to talk about legal issues but to meet like-minded people and forge lifelong friendships.”