Rissa Revin – DAS Legal Protection Inc.
Imagine you’re an entrepreneur who started a business in downtown Toronto, locking into a high-rent space prior to COVID-19. When the economy ground to a halt because of the pandemic, your income died, making it hard to pay rent—and you’d already drained your savings. An angry landlord is ready to take you to court and it’s hard to legally defend yourself without funding.
What to do?
DAS Legal Protection Inc. CEO Rissa Revin says her firm offers legal expense insurance for small- to medium-sized Canadian companies and entrepreneurs before these issues arise. Since 2010, DAS has been growing across the country as a North American expansion of its 103-year-old European parents, Munich Reinsurance Company and ERGO Group AG. The Canadian entity she heads is a smaller company in the DAS group.
“The global DAS entities want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to access justice with appropriate legal assistance and services,” Revin explains. “You never realize how hard it is to make your way through the legal system until you don’t have the funds to go through it.”
Right place, right time
While the Munich-based parent company has a long-established global history, DAS is relatively new in Canada, laying down roots in 2010.
In 2018, Revin was in her fourth year working for the Toronto-based extension of Munich Re Canada and Temple Insurance Company as general counsel, corporate secretary and senior vice president of compliance and regulatory matters. When former DAS President Barbara Haynes announced her upcoming retirement, Revin was eager to lead the newly restructured DAS, having guided its redevelopment and integration into the Canadian Munich Re entities. After a lengthy vetting process she became CEO in 2018. Her priority was trans-Canadian growth.
“When I first arrived, the company was out of its infancy and now it was entering its teen years as DAS,” Revin says. “It was time to think about ourselves as a maturing company. We needed to develop new pathways forward.”
Part of the process was assessing its three business lines: legal expense insurance distributed through insurer partnerships; legal expense insurance distributed via brokerage channels, targeting associations and other large groups; and “after the event” insurance offerings providing smaller amounts of insurance for litigation of issues like personal injury. Canada, she notes, has a “winner-take-all” litigation system, whereby the losing side covers an opponent’s court costs.
Only by analyzing business data could Revin plan ways to grow a book of business to a top line exceeding $30 million across the second largest land mass globally.
“We needed to develop a regionalized response and a way of attracting customers in a geographically diverse market,” she says.
Internally, there was also work to be done for the maturing company in this age of social awareness. An initiative close to Revin’s heart is diversity and inclusion, and while DAS may only have 40 employees, it has worked to be a diverse team for its size that embraces inclusion. Revin credits that in part to the work being done to allow fair and objective hiring practices, such as keeping names obscured during the first round of application review.
“Establishing policies isn’t just something important to do,” Revin adds. “The importance of inclusion practices is that it makes us all stronger.”
During the pandemic, she says the two most significant areas of legal insurance for clients are for employment claims and general business disputes—things like unpaid rent and other issues putting pressure on small businesses.
“It’s difficult when you must let someone go. There are many different regulations involved. When you add the overlay of COVID-19, it becomes more complicated,” Revin says.
Factored into the equation was Canada’s version of the U.S. Paycheck Protection Program, a government program seeking to keep people employed through the crisis. But after many months, funding is running out, negatively impacting businesses.
“We were already experiencing government support that wasn’t enough to keep all employees engaged. Unemployment is growing,” she says.
The situation is also opening up reliance on force majeure—or acts of God—clauses, which could be more fodder for the court system.
“Our business has grown and there’s plenty of need, and we’re working through our corporate and broker channels to help our clients,” Revin says, praising the efforts of DAS’ in-house marketing, sales, underwriting and claims teams. “We don’t have the whole market, but we’re getting the word out and working on it!”
DAS reached out to regional partners to get the message and legal assistance to the masses, collaborating with entities such as Saskatchewan law firm McDougall Gauley in 2012 to work with its clients to advance and defend litigation matters.
Since 1891, McDougall Gauley has served the legal needs of domestic and multinational corporations, including financial and insurance institutions, among others.
“Working with a client to find solutions to challenging legal issues is a source of pride to our lawyers,” says Scott M. Wickenden, partner at McDougall Gauley. “DAS requires that each client—whether they are an individual or a corporation—be provided with the best legal advice possible.”
Resiliency and redirection
In her own words, Revin “gave herself a good piece of advice,” making her own case for creating a recession-proof career by shifting from architecture to law.
“I’m doing what I was meant to do. When certain paths were blocked, I found another way,” she notes.
A lawyer for 30 years, Revin entered York University-Osgoode Hall Law School in 1986 after two years of undergraduate study there in political science. Her first significant leadership role was senior vice president and global claims officer at Liberty International Underwriters in 2001, which she held for nine years. She’d have other senior roles at BMO Financial Group and AON before joining Munich Re in 2014.
“My experience leading DAS as CEO, especially during the pandemic, has opened my eyes to how truly difficult it is for people to find their way to good legal assistance. The goal is to find some semblance of justice while still leaving your pocketbook intact,” Revin explains. “There may be larger legal cases out there, but I know all cases matter to the clients we’re serving.”
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