Insurance is very useful in life, but for some people, it can be daunting in certain unfortunate circumstances. Scott Carson talks with his longest known friend and attorney, Jason Byrd, from the Byrd Law Firm about some insurance pitfalls that investors need to look at, along with discussing his entrepreneurial journey. It is a fact that insurance companies are your friends before you got a plan from them, but once there are claims, they can become your worst nightmare. With these kinds of scenarios, Jason has developed some solutions for you to start a battle with your insurance company. Be equipped with the right knowledge and understanding to prepare for these situations.
Listen to the podcast here:
Property And Casualty Insurance Pitfalls with Jason Byrd
I am honored and excited to have my oldest friend and a distinguished attorney who is just an amazing guy and done some amazing things as well in his life. He’s the host of an amazing and hot new podcast called The Byrd Chronicles as well. All the way from Beaumont, Texas, the one, the only, the man, the myth, the legend. It’s Jason Byrd.
Thanks for having me, Scott. That’s quite an auspicious introduction. That’s a nice thing anybody said about me in a long time. I appreciate it. It’s been a long time since I’ve been anybody’s treat, but from a world internet-famous guy like you, I’ll take it.
Jason and I had been friends since before the summer of our fourth-grade year.
We were about nine years old.
That’s in a small town at Ingleside, Texas. We’re Ingledinks from Ingleside, as we’d like to say. There are about 3,500 people. My dad owned the local hardware store, Ingleside Hardware. Your family owned the local car lot, Byrd Automotive. Who knew that this small kid who comes skipping into the hardware store to buy some nuts and washers and talking trash we’d still be friends to this day? It’s hard to believe, 33, 34 years ago.
It’s been something like that. We’re getting old.
Why don’t you share a little bit about what you do and what you’re doing, your main gig?
I’m a lawyer. I’ve heard you had lawyers on and they’ll talk about some legal issues. My practice doesn’t particularly tailor or play into a lot of what you do. A lot of your work is on the business side, on the backend. I want to say I grade those guys’ papers, so whenever there a problem that’s when I get involved. I do a lot of litigation. It’s hard to pigeonhole my practice. I call it commercial litigation. Within that, there’s a broad spectrum of things that we do. I’ve always done a lot of insurance litigation and what I call the first party. Simply, you’ve got first-party claims and third-party claims. I’ll give you an example of a third party. Let’s say you’re driving your Honda and you crash into me and I’m mad and I have to sue you. I deal with your insurance company, that’s on a third-party basis, i.e. it’s your insurance company. The first-party claim is let’s say I have my own insurance company and I have my own client and I make a claim and I’m not happy with the outcome where they don’t treat me fairly or whatnot. Most of my practice insurance-wise involves all lines but involves first-party clients.
I liked that particularly for a variety of reasons. Number one, to oversimplify it, but generally, in a third-party context, the insurance company doesn’t have to treat you fair. They owe you no duties, they can lie to you. They can do whatever. On a first-party basis, you paid for that product. They have to treat you fair. When they don’t, the avenues available under common law and under the statutory structure, at least in Texas and not every state but most states, allows for little more leverage points. We’ve got that and then do other things. I call it fighting with the government and that’s pretty broad. Most people got a view of, “The government does something, I could use the legal process to fix it.” It’s not always that easy. Typically, the government operates under the structure of sovereign immunity. It goes back to the English system and the king. The king can do no wrong. That still applies now. The government’s immune from anything unless they say they’re not. Most notably, those are constitutional issues. A big one we’re dealing with right now is some eminent domain cases.
As a government, I can’t come to take your property unless I have a public reason to do so. If I do, I have to pay you fairly. That harkens back to taxing colonists for tea and crap like that. It goes back to taxing people on tea and not giving them representation and things like that, and so we deal with that. Sometimes there are other constitutional issues that deprive people of life, liberty, ability and happiness. I have a pretty interesting case to go. One of those where it turns out I have a client who was sexually assaulted by a police officer. As it has come out, it isn’t his first rodeo. Since we got a little notoriety on the case and a little bit of news coverage locally, I know over a dozen other victims have come forward and contacted us.
They add to the story, he’s been this deputy for seven, eight, nine years. He worked as a prison guard before and a preacher on the side as well. His previous coworkers and employers in both the church and in prison contacted me and are like, “I’ve got a story to tell you.” Unfortunately, I think the guy has been not on a tear for a while. We’ll find it out in federal court and go from there. A little bit of that. I’ve gotten to where I don’t handle as much volume as I used to, and so I’m a little more selective. I’ve got a lot of business disputes and that just fall under commercial litigation that I do for people I like or people I want to help or things like that. A little bit of personal injury, but not much. It tends to be fairly significant situations and not a high volume. At a cocktail party, that’s a long answer.
Usually, I define it by what I don’t do. I don’t do criminal law and I don’t do family law. That helps because at the cocktail party, everybody wants to ask you about their divorce or their child support or, “I’ve got this ticket,” or some crap. I’m just, “I do this all day. I don’t want to talk about your problem that frankly. My knowledge of it is I’ve got some buddies who do it or I remember that many years ago on the bar exam. If you’re fighting over your child or your visitation, don’t call me.” I can do it. That’s the flip of it too is when people are, “I want you to handle this.” “Bring me $50,000 and I’ll look at it.” They look at me like I’m crazy. I’m not joking. If I’m going to have to do something I don’t want to do, you have to pay upfront. When that’s over, you have to bring some more. That easily quells people’s interest. Isn’t that terrible?
No, it’s not. That’s one of the things that I love about that is you’ve grown your firm and you’ve gotten to a point where, “I want to focus on my bread and butter. I want to focus on this stuff and I want to help people. I’m glad to help people.” When you had me on your podcast, you talked about if you have a friend, something like that, it’s in your realm. You’re glad to, “Let’s sit down, let’s talk. Let’s see if there’s something that makes sense and we’ll go from there,” as long as it’s in your wheelhouse. You don’t want to be the do-all be all to everybody because you’ve worked your butt off, done some amazing things and let’s focus on what our sweet spot is and stick to that versus trying to be a jack of all trades attorney.
It’s the same in your industry and in frankly, life in general. I can’t be all things to all people. Once I realized that and stopped trying to do that, then things are better. I’ve got a much smaller firm now. We had about nine lawyers at one point and probably twenty staff. From starting on your own with just you and that’s it and a part-time receptionist, it’s a big difference. It’s an overhead monster. That’s the flip of it too. I have good people, good lawyers, good paralegals. Those aren’t low paying jobs. That’s a big, monthly nut. I make good money and it’s great. I probably make about 80% of the money now, but I have a lot less drama and so I’m good with that.
You have kids who are growing up. They’re all at camp right now. They’re in the summertime for you.
I have not missed them yet. They’d been gone quite some time. I’m really jealous. You and I didn’t know this crap existed when we were kids. We were fighting at the police station or running the railroad tracks in a scooter or a go-kart. We had this go-kart that was fast as hell but so unreliable. Scott was a big kid. We put on a little weight. We all have with age. Me too, but he was just a big kid at nine or ten. He was the only one who could start that go-kart.
How about the lawns that you and I mowed?
I had to call Scott and I had to run down there and get him and we’d go-kart around. The boys are at Camp Stewart and my daughter is at Heart on the Hills and these are camps that are not close. They’re a lot closer to you than they are to me. They’re at Mountain Hunt, Texas, if you know where that is. It’s just mostly Kerrville and near the headwaters of the Guadalupe and it’s cool out there. They ride horses and are involved in archery, riflery, camping, fishing, swimming in the river and singing Kumbaya and all that stuff. They’re there for a month, so they’re spoiled. It’s a great opportunity because a lot of our city kids don’t see that anymore. I think it’s good for them to be out there and they don’t have cell phones, they don’t have iPads. If they want something like that, they read a book or we leave them a stationery and write a letter. That’s lost on a lot of people now. It’s important. It’s part of the human condition. All this technology is great, but as humans catch up with what it all means until after we’re way gone. We’re not evolutionarily tied to use quite yet, I don’t think. It makes a lot of things better and it makes a lot of things harder. I know for me, I have to put my blinders up. It’s information overflow. I like to learn, I like to hear new stuff, but then I can become overwhelmed at a moment’s notice almost. It’s overwhelming.
You’ve got to turn that off. It’s healthy to turn it off. Put it away. Sometimes it’s funny too. I’ve seen the joke where you’ve got four or five kids in a circle and they’re all on their phones and they’re all texting each other versus having a conversation.
I’ve seen it live and in-person, so go figure. I talk a little trash on technology here.
It’s come a long way from us running down the street. Jason and I one time got in a fight and scrapped in front of the police station at Ingleside and the cop comes out. I was like, “What are you doing?” After Jason threw his bike on top of me and vice versa. I think I threw a rock at you. The small town has changed a little bit there. These days we’d been locked up for sure in juvenile hall or something like that versus just getting a scolding and a warning because they knew our parents.
They didn’t even call our folks. That scared us. I was scared of the police back then. Now I sue them. Go figure. That was a terrible joke. We had some respect for them and just the fact of them taking our names and our parents’ numbers. We kept checking in every day. “Did they call your mom?” We lived through it, you lived through it, we made it and here we are.
Jason went off to a valedictorian class, went off to Texas A&M and graduated there. I was not the valedictorian. I was in the top 25% of the graduating class. You had a full ride and you had a full academic and athletic scholarship East Texas state back in the day. You went on to Texas Tech and got your law degree from the Red Raiders. Are you working? Are you mentoring anybody, attorneys and stuff like that? Are you seeing or keep up with comments going on law schools and people graduating and things like that?
Not so much with the young students because it’s a little tough, unless you have some entree to somebody. There’s not a law school in my community. There’s a few in Houston, but that’s 90 miles away. In the west side, I already had some type of relationship with someone, but that doesn’t mean I’m open for it. My mom carried some kid from the church in here and wanted me to talk to them about law school and this and that. That part of it’s a little hard for me because it feels like another life ago. I’ve been out of college for many years. It was many years ago almost when I was taking the LSAT and doing all that. I haven’t had any reason to keep up with it. I’m not probably the best mentor there. I write a lot of letters of recommendation at A&M for good kids around here. I’ve stayed tied to A&M a little bit. We set up a scholarship there just to give back to kids. Without people doing that for me, I couldn’t have gone to school or would have been in a much different situation. In fact, I was there to deal with the foundation a little bit. I don’t do much with Tech. That’s where I went to school. Plus, it’s in the middle of nowhere.
It was one of the better places I’ve ever lived simply because of just the personality of the community. You’ve got good people out there. I attribute it to somewhat of an island mentality. You’re isolated. You’re in this desert that’s isolated from the rest of humanity and you’re all in it together. It was good up there. There are some younger lawyers than me here in the community that I’ve gotten to be friends with. Not many, but one or two here and there that I try to help out. I don’t try and tell them what to do or how to do things because part of the duty is figuring it out yourself. I try to be if they need a sounding board to do that. I don’t hang out a lot of lawyers on my free times on purpose. It’s not that lawyers are bad people, but so many of them, like in any industry probably caught in the rat race and they talk about work gratuitously to talk about it.
That’s part of my podcast is I’m a lawyer, I know what I’m doing and I feel I’m pretty good at it, but I’m not defined by that. To my lawyer buddies, if you want to talk about your case and you’re like, “I’ve got a question,” or “What do you think?” I’m happy to do that all day long. You don’t run your mouth about some case. I don’t want to hear that. I’ve got a filing cabinet full of them too. Do your job. I think some of that too is how we’re trained. You sit in law school and this viper pit and get you geared that way. Maybe I’d be better if I was more like that, but I can’t. I can’t be solely concentrated on, “Here’s what I do for my professional life.” I probably like fishing a lot more than lawyering.
That’s all I was going to say. You do spend time fishing and hanging with the kids. If I remember correctly, you’ve got a rental portfolio there in Beaumont to some rental real estate investment stuff that you’re dealing with too. You’ve got a great mixed bag of things outside of just being an attorney. You’re an attorney, but it doesn’t define you.
The problem with that is I say I like fishing for example and other stuff, but it feels like I never do it. I’m always working. Me and my best buddy, we got a big boat. We got a Galveston. I hadn’t been on this in over a year. I’ve got a 54-foot header. He’s just sitting there. When you guys get ready to go fish, let me know. We’ve got to come in out of the water. We’re going to have to do a bottom job on it because it’s just been sitting, but we’ll be ready to run. Fall is my favorite time to go offshore because your weather’s more reliable and the fishing is pretty good.
We have been fishing quite a few times. Gigged a lot of fish, fished a lot. We caught a lot of flounder or redfish or stuff like that and drank a lot of cold beer.
We’ve got that little cabin down at the beach and I serve fish a lot just as a throw down because it’s easy. You can work it as hard or as little as you want. Get out there and get after it or not. Anyhow, that’s me.
Taking us back a little bit because I’ve got somebody ask a question. If you’re dealing with an insurance company, because we deal with them all day long on either claim. Especially at this time of year with the storms and trying to file a claim against roofing or especially with what we’re doing in the debt space of putting insurance on it. Not being able to see the interior of the property on a note deal then foreclosing coming inside and see stuff. What’s the best way if you wanted to fight? You’re paying for coverage but maybe they decided not to do it. Are there any tips or solutions you would give the readers when they have to start a fight with their insurance company?
First off, it’s easy for me to say over here in ivory tower, but you need to know the product you get. I see it across all sophistication levels is when you’re talking to that insurance agent. What are you getting into? You’re getting into that premium number. You’re getting into that price and how it fits in whatever your model is and how you brought. Be careful. It’s not universal, but the lower the premium, the most likely the least amount of coverage. You will probably do it this way and I do it too is where they email you over the e-sign stuff. You e-sign documents at the back. Be wary of what you’re signing because you’re signing endorsements that exclude certain coverages and those coverages may not be important to you or your business. It may or may not be but know that you’re excluded because typically those endorsements take out big chunks of coverage for only a few dollars. I see it a lot and this is more in the consumer market, but I’ll give you an example. Let’s say animal liability. Forever, most homeowner’s policies had animal liability coverage and then they got around to, “We don’t really want it to do this, but we’ll do it. We’ll only exclude it if it’s a pit bull,” and then they got to where if it’s a pit bull, it’s a German shepherd, it’s a chow, then we’re excluding it.
Now we see a lot of policies that there’s no cover. You’ve got to be careful with that. I would think your readers are a little more geared to the investment market as opposed to the consumer of my home properties. One thing to consider is how the coverage works. Typically, we saw the end of it in our careers, but you’re not going to see it in your market very often anymore. There used to be called on for property and casualty all-risk policies. Most of the policies they sold were all risks. What I mean by that is they generally say, “We cover this property against all risks, except for, here are the excursions.” They would exclude terrorism or riot or whatever they put it there. Those are generally pretty inclusive type policies because you start from the baseline of everything’s covered unless it falls into one of these little niches. That’s changed. I would think that the concept of all risk with most of your readers is not something that’s going to fit into their price model to make money. You can still get it, but it is going to be prohibitive. On your property and casualty, everybody’s going to have name peril coverage. On the name peril policy, the difference is they say, “Here are the things that are covered.”
They still have all the exclusionary language like before, but that’s, “I’m only going to cover this.” With respect to what are the real risks for the investors with respect to insurance, your number one in your historical risk is fire. Most of these policies are going to cover fire. You’re probably safe there as long as you’re not the one who burnt the place down, arson and things like that. General negligence they still allow for, but if you do something that could look intentional, yes. That’s good. The one where you see there are two areas where I would think your folks that read this and are in this note game, but the real estate investment, loosely. The real risks in the insurance issues they’re going to see on property and casualty, you’re probably going to be, number one, wind-related. That’s where the folks need to spend a little bit of time looking at these policies and working with an agent who’s knowledgeable. If you’re not sure, ask somebody else. I’ve seen it particularly in the last few years on the commercial policies. They’re getting tight on what they’re allowing for and what they’re not. I’ll give you a great example.
The one you’re seeing is your metal roofs. If any of your commercial buildings have these metal roofs, you have some endorsements that most of the major carriers are adding that disallowed for mooring, scratching the damage. They’re using it very broadly and as a sore. There are a couple of endorsements flipping out there that some are tighter than others. I like the ones that are a little more open because then I can work with them. I’ve got a client and he’s got property everywhere, but he’s got some pretty big structures outside of San Antonio. A big hailstorm comes through and his roofs were beaten. Now his issue with it most likely is I would think is he’s a real estate investor. He’s built these places. He’s mixed in with other pools that he’s going to hold own a few years and he’s going to flip. The roofs generally are performing. There are a few leaks here and there, but they look terrible. They’re beat to hell. He got a new policy right before this and didn’t pay much attention to it. He’s got this exclusionary language that the company is saying, “We’re not paying you for it.” You say, big deal. To replace those roofs, it’s $1 million. It’s $1 million of the roof. It’s not because it’s some fancy roof. It’s big plates and several buildings.
Now he’s left with over probably a couple of hundred dollars savings that his agent slapped it in there and he didn’t talk about it. They’re going to look at it. He’s going to take the loss at some point unless I can weasel some coverage for him. The loss may not be $1 million at the sale, but it may cost them $500,000. It’s one of these things too. If you’re going to buy that big of a property, if the roof alone cost is $1 million, someone’s going to boots on the ground and look at that place. What’s the first thing they’re going to tell you? They’re going to beat you up saying, “This roof’s all beat out.” Whether it is or it isn’t, it sure looks like it. You’re going to have to deal with it. I use this example. It’s like when we have a case in litigation. Sit and write. Folks get fired up especially when it’s your business and people feel wronged. You’ve got to stop worrying about what’s right and what’s true. When we go down to the courthouse, it’s not about what’s true. It’s about what looks true. It’s the same thing. That roof might be performing, but it sure doesn’t look like it. You’re taking a hit if you want to sell it. That’s the first area. That’s general. I answer questions about this all the time, so I’m always happy if you’ve got people with specific questions, I’m happy to answer it. I’m not going to charge them anything. I’m happy to point them in the right direction.
The second area that I would think your readers, i.e. note investor, real estate investor-type folks need to watch is the water-related coverage. Those are the things that small loss can grow on you. Some of the investor-type policies, depending on what state you’re in and what form you’re using are pretty limited in the resulting damage. I’m not saying you need to go get the insurance that covers everything. You just need to know what you’re working with. In some areas for some losses, if you buy a bunch of beach houses in Galveston, your wind coverage is going to be crazy. It’s not going to be the same thing at your house in Austin. That’s going to affect your bottom line. You’ve got to buy that one cheap or you’re going to have to self-insure or depending on what it is. I’ve seen folks get stuff at a non-traditional market in London and other places.
There are all kinds of ways to skin a cat particularly in the commercial when you started into apartments and multifamily and things like that. There are ways to layer your risks that bring down your premiums and you see that fairly commonly. The insurance companies are collateralized in their risk and they’re putting together a big pool and there are layers of it. I might be getting into the technical terms, but Scott Carson insurance has 15% of the first layer and Jason Byrd has 20% and they spread that risk. The market is so wide, they’re so big, they can do that and still make a bunch of money and they’ll have no risk. It ultimately does somewhat help drive the price down for the investor crowd. That’s what you’re worried about. You don’t want to get into something when the carry cost is going to kick.
We’ve had some friends that bought some stuff in Florida on the water that was in the hurricane, but the insurance is killing them. They didn’t check that out that much until they closed on the deal. They didn’t do the right due diligence on the front end. That’s a big thing for people out there. You should be talking to an insurance agent before you’re closing or have somebody who’s handling your coverage, making sure, “This is what we want to do and it’s what we want to protect against this.”
You can get a feel for that with experience. Sometimes you’ve got to get burned. It’s crazy. I’ll give you an example. We’ve got a little cabin down at the beach. It’s nothing fancy. It’s nicer than anything we probably grew up in, but it’s nothing fancy. Three-bedroom, two-bath house, elevated, down on the beach. It’s maybe 1,400, 1500 square feet. It’s not much. Insurance is $7,000, $8,000 a year. That’s high for that size of the house. It might be more, but it’s sad. Taxes are about the same. It’s the personal carry of that little gap and it’s $1,500 a month out of the box. That’s it in insurance, not to mention the stuff in town, so I’ve got to keep working.
That are the important numbers to look at because it’s not always the first thing that we’re looking at when we’re looking at assets. You’ll get excited about sometimes seeing cities. I love Florida like the rest of them, but specific areas had been hit hard. I guarantee insurance in Daytona Beach is a lot more expensive these days than it was a few years back.
Statewide in Florida is going to be a tough market. They don’t like it. It’s the wind and it’s a tough market. Texas can be difficult too because of its vastness. They know how to underwrite and they know their risk on fire. They’ve got that figured out. They know what incident rate per million dollars in insurance they’re going to have to fire. Thousands of years we got that figured out. What they can’t gauge is the wind. They just don’t know. You’ll have freak deals and wind storm over Big Bend, who cares? You could have the same amount of wind, but that’s a disaster. That has worldwide implications in the insurance market. To hedge against that, you’re going to pay these premiums. I think California has got similar issues. It’s these places, they have the hard risk to gauge. You don’t know when you’re going to have a fire out there. You don’t know when you’re going to have a hurricane come across the Gault. You don’t know these sites. I try to buy as little insurance as possible personally. Part of that’s because I’m so skewed. For years and years, you represent people who have problems with carriers and they may call it outliers, but I see some bad behavior and I’ve got a skewed view.
I never typically have too many problems with my personal claims but I know what to do about it too. I know that leverage points that others don’t. When you’re in business, if you’re dealing with me, you’re not going forward. You’re dealing with me, you’ve got problems. Ultimately we try to fix it for folks, but you don’t want to be there. You want to avoid those problems at all cost. By knowing what coverages you have, it also can help you to present it in the most light. The light was favorable to you. Make no mistake about it, there’s a reason. There are three parts of any insurance company. You’ve got the advertise and marketing agent guys. “Give me your money,” then you’ve got the investment guys. “We’ve got the money, let’s go make money with the money.” You’ve got the claim people and they’re the red-headed stepchild. Nobody wants to give them the money. When it’s in their hands, make no mistake about it, they’re not your friend. They’re looking to reduce liability for the carrier. That’s their job. They do it every day. If you present something, it may seem innocuous.
The words you use, the vernacular you use, it’s like talking to the cops. It can and will be used against you. It’s characterized as a loss in a way that tends to lead towards to no coverage. I’ve even seen that trend in my career become more aggressive. Many years ago, the claims processor wasn’t quite so aggressive, but they’re aggressive, particularly with real estate investors. It’s sophisticated people. You’re going to be held to a higher standard, if not technically, legally by perception.
That’s definitely the truth in different areas too. We’ve experienced that personally, having assets in the wrong side of Chicago or vacant properties. You pay through the roof and you’re still not going to get a lot of it. It’d be a lot of exceptions, a lot of clauses in there for you to get the full coverage that you need for either vandalism or fire.
Particularly on the vacancy, typically you’re allowed 60 days. It can be a little different on your commercial properties, but you do some notice requirements and you can extend those times. A lot of people don’t know that. Sixty-two days in, someone comes in and steals all the copper. Breaks out the sheetrock, steals all the copper out of the building, the structure. That’s a big dollar fix. That’s not a place you want to be. They’ll say, “It’s been vacant,” and they’re going to have those clauses in every policy you’ll have. Sometimes you’ll learn the hard way, but I’d rather have your folks not learn the hard way.
You don’t want to go through the school of hard knocks and try to learn as you go on and stuff. We’ve had that happen a few times. Copper got stolen from one property three times in a row.
Watch the copper market. When copper prices get high, you better lock your stuff up. Crack heads are coming for your copper. I had it happen at the office. I had to put a cage around our AC units. They get in there and pull the copper tube out of the AC units. I’ve got this old house. That’s where we lived for a long time. We moved years ago, but I still own the thing. If anybody out there has any interest in a 5,000 square foot, three-bedroom, two-bath house in the historic district in Beaumont, Texas, give me a call. There’s no interest, but it’s a beautiful place. It’s cool. It’s got this roof structure. It’s pitched at the top of the big part and it comes down to a flat-like valley area, a big rectangle on the top. It has the floor drains, but drains in the room that then goes down through the structure and back out, down the brick, down these huge drains that come down the side of the house. These gutters, they’re all copper. The lady that built the house had more money than she knew what to do and they’re all copper. They’d been there for 65, 70 years. They’re grainy. Unless you know what you’re looking at, you don’t realize it. I used to think, “I hope these crackheads don’t figure out that things are copper drainage.” They’ll climb up on this house with crowbars and pull that copper off. No one’s gotten to them yet. There’s more copper all over that place. One of the caps on the fireplaces, that’s all copper. It’s a cool house, though. I liked being there. It just didn’t fit us for a while. It’s a lot of space.
Did you run into any issues with it being on the historical property on what you could and could not do to the property? You had to keep it pretty clean.
Half of them. They have some restrictions. It’s like a whole neighborhood, the old town district. They have some restrictions and you’re supposed to go through approval to do stuff. I asked forgiveness, not permission typically. That’s my house, but I never did anything crazy. When I do things, I was consistent with how it looks, but I never did a lot. Although right before we moved, I had a designer come up with an addition. That’s still my wife. We had rich white people problems. We had this big old house, but we had more kids than we planned. They were just getting older and they’re all sharing a bathroom and all this. We had to add one on the bottom. I would’ve had to go through a pretty extensive approval process. They’re not as bad as you in that district as you see. For example, in Houston Heights, my brother-in-law lives in the Heights and he bought this house years ago when he was single. It was 800 square feet with little two tiny bedrooms, one bathhouse. He got married and they popped out a couple of kids and they were still living there. It wasn’t doing the trick. What’s funny is there’s been this revitalization of this neighborhood that’s inside the loop. It’s often downtown and it’s a neat neighborhood too. You have these huge devices now are built up all around. By the time he went to do the same thing, he had to go through their historical district and it took him a long time. I think it took him a year-and-a-half to get approval.
They’re getting big in that time frame of a year-and-a-half.
They did. They did the construction, so I think it was a challenge for them, but they got a great place in a great neighborhood now. I’d be at the place just to come in and buy would be probably prohibitively expensive for them.
You and I have both gone different routes than we probably expected out of high school and different things. I think we’ve both done very good for ourselves. We’ve got there and done some amazing things out there. What’s been one thing you’ve done since graduating and going through college that just stands out that you’re excited about and proud of?
Looking back, I’m happy I’ve never been to prison. I said that jokingly. There’s some sincerity to it. I’ve been to jail a few times, but never prison. I’ll count those one night stays. I would say it’s some realizations and it’s coming to understand my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve been working on those things and trying to keep an open mind because the world is changing around us. It’s always been this way. Society changes, things happen in paces of which I think are faster than had been in the past. An example I use for that is I say, “My childhood upbringing, culture, society around us for me and you is I think more akin to our parents than our kids to ours.” Our world was a little different than our parents. It’s all these kids and this rock and roll or whatever. Our kids, it’s just more dramatic. It’s not something I’ve done it. More than it’s been trying to be mindful of who I am and who I want to be. I’ve been working on that. Part of that comes to a realization that I always tried to take care of everybody, but I’ve got to take care of myself too. I’ve been working on that too. In part of keeping that open mind and working on me, that’s part of why I do the podcast. I don’t know what I’m doing with my podcast and I’m not trying to make any money off of it. I am not going to get clients off of it and it’s not my goal.
It’s not my hustle or I’m not going to do some mastermind. Let me teach you about insurance law. It’s a way for me to try and express myself a little bit. I talk to folks that I like and I want to magnify them or learn more about what they’re doing and try and have a little fun doing it. It’s that goal of me trying to do this, to make myself better is what I’m doing. I used to think, “I’m going to do this and I’m going to get these cases. We’ll make all this money and I’ll be happy or I’ll be good.” It doesn’t work that way. Wherever I go, I’m there. I’m starting to find I have a little more peace by working on me at the same time I’m doing these other things, I’d be going to yoga. That yoga is hard. That’s good for me. It’s good for me to challenge myself with those. Also learn my limitations. I can do something, but I don’t need to be spending my time doing that. I can handle your divorce case, but just pick my lane and stay with it.
That’s a powerful lesson I think. We deal with that all the time. I’m talking to people, “What about this?” I’m like, “Find what you enjoy, find what you’re good at and stay in your lane. You don’t have to try that. It is good to learn new things and nothing against that, but you’ll find yourself running all over trying to do everything. You’re not going to be happy. You’re going to burn yourself out from burning the candle at both ends and you’re not going to find happiness in the long run. It’s going to be difficult.” I’m happier now doing less than I was doing a couple of years ago and being more focused. I know you are. We’ve had this conversation a couple of times about things and it’s a powerful message for those that are reading. If you find yourself unhappy because you’re probably doing too much, you just need to focus on cutting back to one or two things at the max and challenge yourself that way.
I’ll give you an example. Many years ago, if you’d told me, “You’re going to be regarded as probably maybe not the expert, but an expert in insurance law of the state of Texas,” I would have laughed at you. That sounds so awful and boring. It’s one of these things when you’re young, you fall into stuff, then you have a little success at it and then you run with it. Now I’ve done it so long. I’ve probably had 3,000 to 5,000 first-party insurance cases, those cases where I’m the lead counsel. I’ve done hundreds of millions of dollars in litigation just on coverage. It sounds so boring and it can be. I always used to think to go to school, go to college, get educated, do good and I’m entitled to some type of this feeling of the glamor. What do you mean glamorous? It’s not. I have bad days. I have crappy days sometimes. Sometimes my goal is I try to have more good days than I have bad. I still think I have that in my professional life. If I can keep it there, then that’s good. If I get to a point to where I have more bad days consistently than good days, then maybe I need to look at doing something else.
It’s good warm advice. We all have ups and downs and a lot of people just like to see the ups. They don’t recognize the downs out there. No matter what your age is, as an entrepreneur, a business owner, you have your share of bad. That makes the good even sweeter. As they say, “The juice is worth the squeeze when you get through the good and the bad in there.”
“What do you want to call those line of credit? Due? Do you know what I mean?” There are challenges but then it’s how we respond to those challenges in our personal, professional life or any walk of life. That defines us. You’ve had them. You’ve had plenty of challenges. I’ve watched you over the years. I’ve seen you have them. It’s like, “This is the next best thing,” and then a few months later, maybe not so much. You’ve learned from it. That’s one thing I’ll say about you too is you’re open to learning from those things and if nothing else, you know how to put your head down at work. I think that you’d even admit that that has brought you through a lot of challenges, if nothing else. I’ll just work through it. At least, I’ll work on it. That’s a lot. 80% of the battle, 90% of the battle, show up. You show up and put some work in, there you go. That’s a good lesson. I don’t frame any profession. That alone is not going to get you there.
That’s half of the game. It’s showing up and putting the hours in and keep your head down some times and keep plugging forward. That’s the only thing sometimes that you can do.
I have a question related to that for your business. How do your relationships, your professional relationships, affect your actual business practice? Are that relationships across the country? Is that how you get your deals? How does that work?
It’s still a relationship business. Steph and I were talking about this. We have a lot closer relationships with people outside of Texas, outside of our hometown, than we do locally because we’ve traveled. We spent so much time in the last few years at events speaking at conferences. Some of our best friends are people that are all across the country. Entrepreneurs that we’ve spoken with and hung out with. We’ve got some local friends here in town that are in what we do. It’s a relationship business. Some of my best friends have come from the note business and vendors and things like that. We hang out and shoot the breeze with them. It’s also too, and I’m sure just like you. Those peers go through ups and downs and those are the people to reach out to when you are facing struggles and troubled times are dealing with trying to figure out what’s the next story or what’s the next avenue for you as you’re going through things. Everybody goes through stuff.
It was interesting to ask you that because that’s a mistake I made early in my career I took for granted or didn’t appreciate. What I mean by that is I’ve never felt like, as a young man, anybody had done anything for me. I felt like no one in my family had gone to college. I went to college, I went to law school with a bunch of kids who were set up. Their daddy was such a judge or was a lawyer, had this connection. They had to go show up and do the work, but they were on easy street. I had to graduate with honors and get on the law review to do that because I needed someone to give me a job. I did that and got a great opportunity then and here with a good size firm and just miserable. I stayed a few years frankly because they invested in me and I felt like I owed them. When I got to a point where I knew they had made money, not lost on me, that’s when I left. When I left, they laughed at me.
They said, “What big firm are you going to? Are you going to Houston, going to Fulbright over this?” I said, “No, I’m going on my own.” They laughed. I didn’t have any business or any money and no prospects for any of it. I always had this “me against the world attitude,” which is very good in many respects because it drives me. With a little bit of age, I’ve come to appreciate it didn’t always have to be that hard. There are good people out there that’ll work with you and that’ll help you. For the first several years, I didn’t appreciate that. If I have anything to look back on it, I probably could have done a lot better. Being open to helping others and more importantly, receiving help and advice. I asked them for it.
I would be willing to bet though that laugh at you was probably one of the biggest driving factors to prove them wrong. “You can’t do that. Good luck with that. Good luck on your own.” That was one of the biggest driving factors to get me where I’m at now. I know it’s one of the biggest driving factors to get you where you’re at now too. With your podcast, you’re starting it and everybody’s got a different story, a different thing. Ours is focused on the note game and it’s taken over some of the things that we used to do, so it’s become a lot easier. Consolidate. I love your podcast. I loved the episode and your son. I love you with Wendy Davis on. You had a big interview with somebody who was a senator. I can’t remember what her name was.
We’re still trying to get that setup. It’s not out. These people running for president, they can be difficult. I’m having fun with it. I had a friend come on, we talk about work-life balance and she’s pretty awesome. She’s a fitness model. She does modeling. She’s a trainer. She’s got three little kids and is a full-time lawyer too. It’s like, “How do you do all this?” That’s what I wanted to talk about. I had a buddy who is an insurance agent. We wanted him to come to talk about insurance, but he’s also an MMA fighter. We talked about MMA the whole time. He tried to go to a couple more fights because I don’t think his wife and family like him to fight anymore. I’ve got a buddy coming. I hadn’t seen him in years. He runs a group in Austin called Texas Watch and it’s a consumer advocacy group. I try to get things to touch on it all because that is my lane loosely, I get it. I really try and spin it into, “Here are these interesting people. Here’s what they do, but how the legal aspects touch across life in general and everyday life.” Some of them are going to be a little more legal in nature and then some of them, like the one with my kid, that was the most fun. He’s a handful, isn’t he? Eleven years old and he’s passionate. That’s the funny thing is talk to folks who are passionate about what they do because that makes it interesting.
You turned me on to a guy. You had him on, a friend of yours, Adam Schaeuble. The formerly fat guy, which I can relate to him immediately because I’m in the middle of that. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight and still got a ways to go but getting there. He’s passionate. The other thing, he was passionate and he was tough. He had some video where he was talking about Instagram and how to use Instagram to grow whatever your media presence. It’s like, “I am old and I didn’t even understand half the stuff he’s talking about.” I don’t want to push my podcast that hard because I’m not doing all this crazy stuff. I just got Instagram mainly because my kids are on it or my daughter and I was like, “I’m going to do this podcast. Let me get an Instagram.” I don’t have the energy for it.
You don’t have to do that. You’re doing great with what you’re doing and I love listening to it and I love those episodes.
I’m not going to hit 400,000 downloads anytime soon. That’s the thing I don’t care. That’s not what it’s for. Frankly, if no one listens to it, that’s fine. It’s for me to get better. I find this medium a challenge. I can go into court, I can have my plan. Nothing always goes according to plan, but I know what I’m talking about in there. I’m there in an adversarial type of role. I’m there on an angle. I’m leaning on you or whatever the case may be in and that’s fun. I’m trained for it and geared up for it. That’s not the goal with the podcast. I find it more challenging. I have to be a real human being and converse with people without pushing angles.
It gives you an opportunity to turn off that switch. I love that. That’s the thing when you’re out traveling, speaking and things like that. You said in court, you’ve got to be on. Jason Byrd, the lawyer. I liked the fact of having conversations wherein I can be myself like this one. This has been one of my favorite ones because there are two guys visiting and that’s what I miss a lot of the times.
We even talked about insurance. Hopefully. Your folks find that totally helpful. Seriously, if you or your folks ever have random insurance stuff, I’m happy to look. I answer questions all the time. Sure, I put stuff away all the time.
What’s the best way for them to reach out to you?
The Byrd Law Firm. You can search for me that way. It comes up. It’s been up for a while, but it’s TXByrd.com. It’s the shortest way I could use my last name.
You can also check out his podcast, listen to it, subscribe to it. You’ll love the episodes, The Byrd Chronicles on any podcasting platform out there for you.
It’s out there. I call it The Byrd Chronicles and I think we’ve got a website up too. TheByrdChronicles.com. The tagline is, “Where law meets life,” just the intersection of all the good stuff. I’m not as prolific as you. How many are you doing in a week? Three, four, five?
We try to do at least three, sometimes five, sometimes six. It depends on what the schedule is what.
I’m about once every ten days. I appreciate you having me. You can keep me as long as you want. Specifically too, I’m happy to come on and talk to your audience along the lines of litigation avoidance. If you’re in business, you don’t want to be in litigation. Maybe as the months go by and you see issues here, just make a little note of it. This is the type of stuff I’ve done so much. I could talk off the top of my head.
That would be awesome. Let’s get it booked. I think it’d be a great idea.
I’m happy to give you some real-world advice in a simple non-legally step or way. “Here’s what you need to do or don’t do that, that’s stupid,” and try to help. I try to encourage people to self-help as much as possible because it helps me in it. It helps me act in a reasonable manner and document things in an appropriate manner with whoever you have a potential dispute with. Not only document it but you’re reasonable, if you can’t get it worked out or resolved and I get it, what do I have? I have a story in itself. You have a story to tell about how reasonable you’ve been and you’re getting screwed over by the fox and you’re just trying to rent your hen house. It helps you in the long run.
I think it’s a great idea. We’ll definitely do that. Thank you so much. Check out The Byrd Chronicles. Check out The Byrd Law Firm at Beaumont. Jason, thanks so much. Give my best to Jennifer. Go out, take some action. Take in what Jason said. He dropped some great nuggets on the insurance companies first and third-party claims and things like that. Read your policy, see what you agree to and what you do and don’t have can make a big bang for the buck in the future. Quit trying to save a nickel on the front. It could cost you a lot in the long run. We’ll see you at the top.
- The Byrd Chronicles
- Jason Byrd
- Adam Schaeuble – past episode
About Jason M. Byrd
Jason M. Byrd originally opened TBLF in 2005. After several years of representing large businesses including insurance companies, petrochemical companies, manufacturers and suppliers, he decided his true calling was to help people with their legal needs. Now, TBLF typically represents individuals and small businesses in disputes with the Fortune 500 type of defendants he used to represent.
Mr. Byrd’s primary practice area involves the representation of policyholders in disputes with their insurance companies and has personally handled thousands of these types of insurance cases. Byrd also has considerable experience in the areas of commercial litigation, serious personal injury, dangerous drugs/pharmaceuticals and products liability litigation.