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2019 Women to Watch: Michele Jacobson

Michele Jacobson

Michele Jacobson
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP
New York
Age: 56

As a young attorney, Michele Jacobson’s knowledge of insurance didn’t go past her own renters insurance policy when she came across her first dispute for an industry client, she said, joking.

She began her legal career handling securities and commodities disputes at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP in New York, where she worked her way up to partner.

Now the lion’s share of her work is in insurance and reinsurance, a legal specialty that started with one case and a curiosity about business risk.

“I think what surprised me at first was that there was something called reinsurance,” she said. “You always hear about disputes between policyholders and their insurance carrier — you hear about that in the news — you don’t hear about reinsurance. You don’t hear that there is a spreading of the risk. … a long chain of insurers and reinsurers. It fascinated me, the fact that risk was spread in the way that it was. I started to get more and more into insurance industry dispute work and counseling, and it took off from there.”

“By the end of the ’90s, the vast majority of my practice was in insurance and reinsurance disputes,” she recalled, listing the cases that made history books. She’s handled disputes related to all major catastrophes, from Wall Street’s Enron Corp. fiasco to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and just about every major hurricane, she said. “It’s been a pretty active career.”

Today she’s expanded her litigation work to help businesses draft policies to mitigate disputes. “I take my dispute work and I learn from that and I help my clients rewrite their contracts to make them tighter,” she said.

Frank Papalia, Morristown, New Jersey-based chief legal officer of ProSight Specialty Insurance Group Inc., has sought Ms. Jacobson’s counsel for more than two decades and said her instincts and wealth of industry knowledge are what set her apart from others.

“In comparison to other litigators, Michelle truly understands our business — the insurance and the reinsurance business,” he said. “If you don’t understand the business, it is difficult to advise on it in a wise way.”

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