This Women in Subro blog series highlights powerhouse women in the industry while discussing leadership, management, and success in subrogation. Despite her humble responses in our interview with Pam Pengelley, we recognize that her success is not due to simple luck or circumstance. Pam is resourceful, knowledgeable, and hard-working. She is fierce in the courtroom and should not make any apologies for it. As a strong advocate, she embodies a core value of Cozen O’Connor and subrogation.
Pam started with the firm right after being “called to the bar” (Canadian phrase for obtaining a license to practice law). She is now one of two female shareholders in the Subrogation Department at Cozen O’Connor and the Office Managing Partner of the Toronto office. Pam has a psychology degree from University of Toronto and a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School. She has found her psychology degree largely helpful in communicating with and understanding people. After all, subrogation is, among other things, a people business.
Q: How do you describe subrogation to friends and family?
A: Simply put- property gets damaged, the insured has insurance to pay for it, the insurance company has the right (just like insured) to go after whoever caused the damage to get their money back. We are in the business of trying to make people who break stuff pay for the damage they caused and be accountable for their actions.
Q: Do you enjoy the practice of subrogation?
A: I love it. I enjoy taking complex technical concepts (construction, engineering, etc.) and simplifying the issues in laymen’s terms for the client, opposing side, arbitrator/mediator, etc. Cases are like jigsaw puzzles- taking the mess and putting organization to it.
I appreciate that clients understand the business. It is my job to explain the law, draw the picture of the loss, and evaluate the costs and risks for the clients. Then the clients make the call.
Q: Did you always want to be a litigator?
A: Yes, but ironically I have spent my entire career trying to work outside the litigation process. For subrogation in Canada, it is best for all parties to get to mediation or arbitration as soon as possible. Trials are rare in Canada, as it can take 5-10 years to get there and you risk adverse costs on all motions and verdicts.
Q: What would be the theme song for subrogation?
A: When I open a new claim file for some catastrophic loss, the familiar YouTube/TikTok audio loop for so many videos plays in my head, “Oh no… oh no… oh no, no, no, no, no…” (example here: ‘Niagara Falls’ flooding in North York condo – YouTube).
Q: What is it about subro that catches your attention and keeps you interested?
A: First, the variety- every case is different. There is no template; you never know what you are going to get. Second, in subrogation we are on the side of right- the insureds are usually open and honest. We have good, credible witnesses in our adjusters and experts. I love catching the adverse witnesses in inconsistent statements, finding what Defendants are trying to cover up, and catching them in the moment. Third, the rush of getting a recovery!
Q: How have you excelled in the industry?
A: Completely fortuitous. At the time I started, no one was doing what we were doing in Canada. We were one of the first, and we are still the only large loss firm in Canada.
While subrogation in Canada is its own unique feature, I handle assignments and report to clients across the country and U.S. I was able to get my name out there, accept the opportunity to prove myself, and build a good reputation in the industry.
While my office is a disaster and cluttered, I am meticulously organized when it comes to the facts of my cases. I take the time to learn the technical points, understanding all the concepts. Learning that extra level of detail has made me a more effective advocate. I have achieved successful recoveries by knowing the case better than the other side.
Also, I have an art background. For personal use, I use acrylic paint. For cases, I have found mockups, pictures, and diagrams in pleadings and briefs hugely useful. On large cases, I have worked with experts on 3D animated presentations. Art can go a long way.
We thank Pam Pengelley for this interview and for being a true leader in our firm and in the industry!
Stay tuned for the next post highlighting another prominent subro leader.