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After two-plus years managing a 450-lawyer firm, others might be stuck in a never-ending round of strategic-planning sessions and administrative minutiae. But that’s not how Roger Warin works. Clients still come first for this Steptoe & Johnson partner. These days, Warin estimates that he spends at least 75 percent of his time representing insurance companies in disagreements with their policyholders. Warin, 61, has recently handled coverage disputes involving pharmaceutical products, environmental claims, and events cancelled as a result of 9/11. AIG, the worldwide insurance and financial-services company, has been a client of Warin’s since the 1990s. “Roger has a great ability to take some very difficult subject matters and simplify them so that they’re understandable to all who are involved,” says Thomas Carey, senior vice president of AIG Domestic Claims. “He has a great ability to earn the trust of others even on the other side of the table.” Other significant clients include RiverStone Group and St. Paul Travelers Cos. Warin began representing insurance companies in the late 1970s as an associate in the D.C. office of Steptoe & Johnson. After the matter was turned down by partners at the firm, Warin was assigned the task of representing Home Insurance Co. in a case involving defective steam-generator tubes used in nuclear power plants in Michigan. The case was settled after three years in the New York courts. As a commercial litigator, Warin has also handled a slew of noninsurance cases, ranging from legal and medical malpractice defense to First Amendment disputes. Indeed, in 2000, he handed over the reins of Steptoe & Johnson’s insurance practice to partner Antonia Ianniello and picked up the leadership of the litigation department. He has been chairman of the firm’s executive committee since 2004. “The rush that you get from litigation, I still love that part of the practice,” says Warin. “Unlike many areas of the law, it continues to evolve and change as a reflection of societal problems.” One very memorable case began with controversial whistle-blower Karen Silkwood. A laboratory analyst at an Oklahoma plant that made fuel rods for nuclear reactors, Silkwood alleged that her employer, Kerr-McGee, was failing to protect its workers from plutonium contamination. After she died in a 1974 car accident, her father and children (on behalf of her estate) filed suit against Kerr-McGee over contamination of Silkwood’s person and property. The jury returned a $10.5 million verdict against the company. Warin and his team were hired to assist defense lawyers with the appeal and to advise the insurer on coverage issues. The case reached the Supreme Court in 1984; after the justices remanded the dispute for further proceedings, the parties settled. Defending insurance companies can be challenging because of the negative public perception of them, says Warin. He notes that many people have had “unsatisfying” encounters with their own insurers. “The insurance company may not be the most favored in the eyes of the judges or juries,” he observes. That’s probably why his clients like to have Warin on their side.

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