Timothy Lickness, Golden Eagle Insurance

Timothy Lickness, Golden Eagle InsuranceTimothy Lickness, Golden Eagle Insurance

TITLE: General counsel

COMPANY: Golden Eagle Insurance at Liberty Mutual

AGE: 63

JOINED COMPANY: 1998

San Diego-based Golden Eagle Insurance and Portland’s Liberty Northwest are the two West Coast business divisions of Liberty Mutual Group, one of the country’s largest providers of commercial and personal insurance. Overall, Liberty provides commercial lines through eight regional companies, and its personal lines through Safeco Insurance. It reported revenues of $8.4 billion in the third quarter of 2010, up 6 percent from the same period last year. The company is based in Boston and has approximately 43,000 employees worldwide.

LEGAL TEAM AND OUTSIDE COUNSEL

Timothy Lickness, 63, joined Golden Eagle Insurance as its general counsel in 1998 and added that role with Liberty Northwest in 2008. Working in San Diego, he is also a vice president and assistant secretary for Liberty Mutual.

While Liberty Mutual employs more than 800 lawyers worldwide, Lickness is the sole attorney for Golden Eagle and Liberty Northwest, both of which offer only commercial lines. As GC, Lickness is responsible for all noninsurance claims-related matters for his two business groups.

“It’s my job to triage these [issues] to determine if I will do them myself or get someone else in the organization to do them or use outside counsel,” Lickness said. Issues can include trademark and service mark use, copyrights, antitrust, employment, trade secrets, attorney-client privilege issues, privacy and records retention. “Obviously, privacy issues are pretty important in our industry,” he said, because confidential information can often be in play.
In addition, Lickness is the regulatory and compliance officer for his units, and oversees all marketing and advertising campaigns. “I review everything that goes out of the building to our customers,” he said.

The company sends all nonclaims litigation to outside counsel, including employment and reinsurance disputes. The latter can crop up occasionally between the company and those reinsurers who are brought in to share the financial risks of its policies. These disputes typically result in arbitration. One reinsurance dispute recently concluded after 10 years. It was handled by a Chicago reinsurance specialty firm, Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd.

Although he hasn’t yet had any employment litigation in Portland, Lickness relies on Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton for employment class actions and the Brown Law Group in San Diego for individual cases alleging wrongful termination or discrimination. A wage-and-hour class action is now pending against the company. Lickness said the economic downturn has resulted in a newfound flexibility among outside counsel. “Outside firms are more competitive and more willing to negotiate rates,” he explained. “The again, I’m a big believer that you get what you pay for.”

Faced with declining legal work, outside counsel are also more aggressive in pursuing work from Liberty, Lickness said. But litigation has been decreasing for his two business groups. That’s because as the companies he oversees became more integrated into the Liberty family, they adopted its “well-established” and effective risk management procedures. And that helped reduce claims.

While it may seem counterintuitive, Lickness said that the regulatory and compliance process is relatively smooth in California. “It’s pretty transparent,” he said. “You know where the [insurance] commissioner is coming from. In one sense, that makes it easier.”

When looking for outside counsel, Lickness turns to his network for tips. That’s how he found Janice Brown and the seven-lawyer Brown Law Group when he joined Golden Eagle.

“I look for competitive rates and a willingness to sit down with me and discuss what we are going to do and get a budget,” Lickness said. Likewise, he wants a litigation plan to feature a cohesive strategy “every step of the way.”

He wants outside counsel to “deliver the bad news fast,” and puts a premium on getting a probability analysis on the odds for each of its cases. “I want to know what that is in a number,” he said. He also prefers short analyses. “Don’t make it so long that it’s useless,” he said. “I’ve got to boil everything down for my business units.”

Lickness reports to Liberty Mutual Group General Counsel and Vice President Edmund Kenealy in Boston.

ROUTE TO THE TOP

Prior to joining the company in 1998, Lickness was vice president for the claims and legal department of Highland Insurance Co., and he was a paralegal with Industrial Indemnity Co. in Houston from 1977 to 1997. He earned his undergraduate degree from Whitworth University in 1973 and his law degree in 1976 at Southwestern Law School. He served along the Demilitarized Zone in Korea in 1967 with the U.S. Army and was a first lieutenant infantry platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam in 1968.

DAILY DUTIES

Lickness typically arrives in the office at 6:30 a.m. and stays until 5 or 5:30 p.m. For the past couple of years he has been traveling to Portland twice a month for several days, although he expects that regimen to decrease somewhat, “because I know most of the people up there now.”

PERSONAL

Lickness is married and has three children in their early to mid-20s. He enjoys gardening, camping and racquetball. After losing a nephew who was serving in Iraq, Lickness began working as a volunteer counselor and religious instructor for the San Diego recruiting depot for the U.S. Marines. He meets there with 200 to 400 recruits in each recruiting class. Lickness has written extensively about his experiences in Vietnam, in publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal to the San Diego Daily Transcript.

LAST BOOK & LIVE THEATER

Lickness is reading “Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds,” about a renowned World War II pilot, and he recently saw the musical “Celtic Thunder.”

Erik Cummins is a freelance writer based in San Francisco.

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