Argo Surety writes bonds that guarantee the completion of environmental reclamation projects, in which Lavitt takes a special interest.
“In the old days, a company would use all the coal up, leave a hole in the earth and go broke because it had no more to sell,” Lavitt explained. “And the hole would be there forever.”
“Now, there are surety bonds that ensure that the reclamation will be completed,” he says. “Hopefully the reclamation will be completed by the bond principal, but if it isn’t done by them, it’ll be done by us.”
Embracing surety’s challenges
In addition to its U.S. business, Argo Surety writes bonds in countries around the world using fronting companies. When dealing with large sums of money, as well as international business and government entities, claims handlers and underwriters lean on legal experts like Lavitt.
“We have to hire local counsel and make sure we’ve got the authority to reinsure for a local company that’s issuing a bond or letter of credit on our behalf,” Lavitt says. “I find that very interesting and challenging at the same time.”
Lavitt also says that sureties can create further challenges by limiting collaboration between legal experts and underwriters – but that’s not a problem for Argo Surety, as leadership encourages open communication.
“The most successful surety companies are the ones that let their attorneys closely interact with the underwriters,” he says. “If the underwriters have a legal question, they can go directly to the attorneys and get things ironed out.”
Advice to lawyers: Find your niche
For younger lawyers entering the job market, Lavitt offers some advice: Find an area in which you can specialize.
“The legal field today is so crowded,” Lavitt says. “Unless you find a niche, I think you’re really going to be lost. Find something you like to focus on. For me, it was surety.”