Features

Andrea Palmer – Higginbotham Insurance Agency Inc.

Entrepreneurial approach builds insurance broker’s legal operations

Andrea Palmer admits she didn’t fully understand the insurance business when she joined Higginbotham Insurance Agency Inc. in April 2018.

But she’s a quick study, and as she learned the intricacies of insurance law, regulations and licensing at the brokerage based in Fort Worth, Texas, she also found ways to improve legal operations.

Now the vice president for legal and compliance, Palmer is bringing outsourced legal tasks, such as subpoena response, in-house and adding technology to ease processes such as licensing agents to the mix.

Andrea Palmer | Vice President, Legal and Compliance | Higginbotham Insurance Agency Inc.

Andrea Palmer | Vice President, Legal and Compliance | Higginbotham Insurance Agency Inc.

Higginbotham was founded in 1948 and has grown to become the 20th largest independent insurance firm in the U.S. It brokers personal and business insurance and employee benefits from national carriers, and it provides human resources consulting and outsourcing services for customers throughout the U.S.

Palmer provides legal advice and guidance for all of Higginbotham’s departments, including HR, IT, marketing, claims and accounting. She also negotiates, reviews and revises contracts with vendors and insurance brokers and carriers and advises on M&A.

When Palmer chatted with Vanguard in April, Higginbotham had already entered four new partnerships in 2022. When new agencies are added, she guides compliance efforts with a team of eight that manages broker licenses, surplus lines filings and continuing education.

“I make connections between departments and facilitate information sharing, so we’re all on the same page from a legal and compliance standpoint,” Palmer says. “I provide legal and compliance advice that assists us today and positions us for growth in the future.”

Technology to help processes

When Palmer began at Higginbotham, she provided contract review services for its clients. She soon began assisting with internal legal projects, such as subpoena response and 1099 contracts.

As she took on more tasks and responsibilities, she realized the firm’s spending on outside counsel could be reduced. For instance, some processes were brought in-house, and she also began reviewing all legal bills before they were paid.

Andrea Palmer | Vice President, Legal and Compliance | Higginbotham Insurance Agency Inc.

Palmer also worked with Higginbotham’s IT and operations departments to develop a dashboard to facilitate processes such as licensing. It contains a repository of sample forms, regulatory guidance, and written policies and procedures that enables information to be shared quickly throughout the company. The dashboard also outlines the workflows and steps required for licensing and resources for continuing education.

Palmer and staff have also prepared a request for proposals for artificial intelligence-assisted contract review. It’s the next step in streamlining operations—she wants more automation in areas such as carrier contracts and vendor agreements, too.

“I’m looking to connect people in departments on things such as contracting or use of existing systems,” she says. “I see things like this because I’m in the middle of so much.”

Equitable growth

This level of involvement has been possible because of the encouragement and mentorship of Chief Operating Officer and Board Member Mary Russell and Vice President of Carrier Relations Mary Fowlkes, Palmer says.

Russell has been with Higginbotham for 32 years and manages legal operations and litigation. When Palmer shifted from a risk management position to become vice president of Higginbotham’s internal legal team, she gained Russell’s trust.

“She’s not a lawyer, but she acts and thinks like one,” Palmer says. “Mary has been so generous with her time and experience, and I wouldn’t be successful in this role without her support.”

Fowlkes helped Palmer learn about the industry.

Andrea Palmer | Vice President, Legal and Compliance | Higginbotham Insurance Agency Inc.

“She works with insurers on the commercial side and understands insurance and why carriers can be a good fit,” Palmer says.

All three, as well as the company’s chairman and CEO, Rusty Reid, have promoted diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, which include a partnership with the National African American Insurance Association. Higginbotham funds scholarships and mentored a college student team in NAAIA’s national talent competition.

“Part of it is just being open, humble and willing to ask yourself if you’ve considered the points and whether you’re putting someone in a box,” Palmer says. “We need to meet people where they are and understand their perspectives.”

Only the beginning

Now at home in the Lone Star State, she, her husband (who’s also a lawyer) and their dog, Sherlock, enjoy spending time together and with their six nieces.

Born in Milwaukee, Palmer moved to Texas when she was 11 and studied history and business at the University of Texas at Austin. After becoming the first college graduate in her family, she ventured to Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, to teach English at Caledonian School.

Palmer returned to Texas to attend Baylor University School of Law on a full academic scholarship. While at Baylor, she competed in mock trial and moot court, earning her J.D. cum laude in 2013 to become the first attorney in her family.

Andrea Palmer | Vice President, Legal and Compliance | Higginbotham Insurance Agency Inc.

She began her career in private practice with the firm of Anderson & Riddle LLP in Fort Worth, Texas, practicing civil litigation in state and federal courts and providing legal advice on aviation matters while defending pilots, manufacturers, maintenance facilities and fixed-base operations.

Promoted to her current position at Higginbotham in May 2021, Palmer says her work, just like the developing legal team, is just starting.

“I’ve been very entrepreneurial with my career,” she says. “Over three years, I got the trust and buy-in to lead the expansion of legal for a multistate insurance brokerage. I convinced them of the need and they agreed. This past year, I’ve realized what it entails and the company has realized what a corporate attorney can do.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Summer II 2022 Edition here.

Published on: July 5, 2022

regions:

categories: ,

Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!

Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing tag) where you want to display our review banner.

Testimonials

The piece highlighting my company, Bob Baker Enterprises, Inc., came out fabulous. Our company is in the new and used car sales and service industry. Everyone was great to work with and extremely professional. They produced a high-quality product and have provided expert assistance and guidance post-production of the article.
– Wade Poulson, General Counsel, Bob Baker Enterprises Inc.
As promised in advance, my feature in Vanguard has increased my visibility within the profession and prompted more than a few people I have not communicated with recently to reconnect. One of the Italian law firms I have used in the past is now in the process of interviewing me for an article on their website and tweeting out the feature story. Activity and the number of people connecting with me on LinkedIn has soared, which is great. The Vanguard writers and editorial staff were great to work with—highly professional and made the effort to make the experience both fun and rewarding (they were also respectful of the time pressures and demands all lawyers face). I was very pleased with the experience and the final outcome. Needless to say, I have been very pleased. All in all working with Vanguard has been a very positive experience which generated good publicity for both Shawcor and myself. My sincere thanks.
– Tim Hutzul, General Counsel, ShawCor Ltd.
I was honored to be the subject of an article. I enjoy reading Vanguard articles and seeing how other attorneys got to their positions and see their jobs. It's also interesting to see how different law firms partner with the subjects of the articles.
– Henry Marquard, in-house counsel, Stanley Consultants Inc.
It was a great honor to be featured in Vanguard Law. Working with every member of the team, from the initial interview with Erin Clark, through production with Victor Martins, writing the article with Taryn Plumb and creating the final content with Dave Gushee, was a true pleasure. Everyone was very professional, enthusiastic and supportive, and their creative approach and positive attitude clearly came through in the final product.
– Kevin C. Rakowski, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Compliance with Radian Group Inc.

LATEST EDITION

Fall III 2022

READ NOW

GET VANGUARD IN YOUR INBOX.

  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.