Rachel McCarthy Provides Insight Into Milestone’s Financial Solutions for Plaintiffs and Law Firms

By Susan Barfield
June 12, 2024

Dan Miner (0:00:06) –  Welcome to the Leverage Report. This is Dan Miner, the CEO of Case Works, and we’re excited today to talk with Rachel McCarthy, the director of strategic partnerships at Milestone. Rachel, welcome.

Rachel McCarthy (0:00:18) –  Thank you, Dan. Happy to be here. 

So as you mentioned, I run strategic partnerships at Milestone. I’ve been here for seven and a half years, and I oversee our relationships with other companies in the industry. So other vendors that are providing legal services to lawyers and law firms. 

Dan Miner (0:00:34) –  And and so tell us a little bit about Milestone. What are the problems that Milestone solves for your customers?

Rachel McCarthy (0:00:43) –  Sure. So Milestone provides settlement administration. What that means is we partner with attorneys and with law firms. And when it comes time for the settlement monies to be distributed to claimants, we manage that whole piece of the puzzle. So we have a technology platform called Pathway, and that helps us streamline mass tort settlement distribution. So the Pathway also allows for people to sign their statements digitally and learn about settlement planning options and choose how they want to receive their settlement money. The value to us is putting the plaintiff first, making sure that plaintiffs are receiving financial education, that they are having the best possible experience with the settlement distribution process, and that we’re answering all kinds of questions and concerns that the plaintiff has. 

Dan Miner (0:01:33) – Cool. And I’ve I’ve seen a demo of Pathway. Impressive, what you’ve been able to build and and try to drive some of that automation. So tell us some of the torts, whether it’s just the mass torts or some personal injury, but tell us the types of torts the firm has worked on. 

Rachel McCarthy (0:01:51) –  Yeah. So, Milestone’s worked on every major mass tort over the past several years. Definitely some of the ones you’ve heard of Roundup, 3 m, Jewel, etcetera. And then we also do work with personal injury, single event attorneys as well. And that was sort of, you know, when we started decades ago, it was primarily single event work that we were doing settlement planning for. And as we’ve grown in the space and realized there was a need for more resources towards settlement administration, We shifted some of our focus to the mass tort space. So we still work with single event cases, and we work on mass tort work. And we sorta like, you know, the combination of the two. So how do you help firms distribute settlement funds in an MDL? And some of the approaches that you take to do so. Sure. So what Milestone does is we establish a qualified settlement fund, which is essentially it’s a type of trust, and it holds the money from settlement while liens, allocation amounts, attorney’s fees, all those things get determined. Once everything is finalized, we work with claimants and their attorneys to make sure that the claimants are getting their money. And that includes signing any paperwork, choosing how they wanna receive the money in a way that works for them. And we also do more than just distribute the funds. We have a settlement planning component like I mentioned. We educate claimants on different options that they have for their settlement. So they can learn about what it would look like if they were to invest their money. They can learn about government benefits preservation. So for example, if someone receives certain government benefits programs, they are means based, which means you have to be under a specific income threshold. And receiving a settlement could put you over that threshold and disqualify you from that government benefits program. Most people wouldn’t know about that. I mean, most people, hopefully, a settlement, a lawsuit and a settlement like this is a once in a lifetime experience for them. And so we wanna make sure that everyone understands the implications of receiving that money. I’ll give you a quick example. So with Juul, for example, a lot of those plaintiffs were in the 18 to 25 year old range, and a lot of them receive FAFSA, which is the student aid program from the government. So for them, settlement could disqualify them from their FAFSA. And we wanted to make sure that they all understood that before they elected to receive the money however they wanted. So it’s just really important for us to incorporate the settlement planning piece as well. And then we do also have the ability to coordinate probate and bankruptcy, which are components of the settlement too. And the the world has changed probably in the last 20 years or so moving from paper checks to to all these new new tools and technologies. 

Dan Miner (0:04:28) – Tell us a little bit of some of the the different ways that that the plaintiffs can actually get their funds. 

Rachel McCarthy (0:04:51) – Yes. Historically, you know, people have been mailed checks and mailed paperwork, and there’s a lot of issues that can come with that, especially when you’re talking about thousands of plaintiffs. And I always think of the example of someone who prints out their agreement and then puts it in the back seat of their car and then forgets that it’s back there and accumulates all sorts of stuff. And then weeks later or months later, they’re like, “oh, man. I meant to sign send this back”. And so what our Pathway does is it makes everything digital. So not just the paperwork, but also the payment part. People move too, and lots of life circumstances change. So just keeping track of thousands of plaintiffs can be difficult. And what we have done with our Pathways, we introduce multiple options for payment distribution. So a claimant can choose to get their money through direct deposit or Zelle. If they don’t have a bank, they can do PayPal if they have a PayPal account. If they, you know, there’s also a digital Mastercard solution, so they can get the money on a digital credit card that they can upload into their iPhone or their whatever kind of smartphone they have. That meets people where they’re at. So for people who might be unhoused or have, like, a precarious living situation, pretty much everyone still has a smartphone so they can receive their funds that way. But it’s just, we’re giving flexibility to people to just and and choice, you know, up until now, they’ve probably had very little choice or say in how the litigation has gone and just to give them a little bit of control over the situation. And, you know, also a lot of these check cashing places, if you don’t have a bank account and you take your money there, they’ll charge you a pretty predatory fee to cash your check. So it’s just another way to avoid that too. The plaintiff circumstances can vary. Each plaintiff has kind of their own unique circumstances. 

Dan Miner (0:06:36) –  On your website, you mentioned trauma informed settlement planning. Could you talk a little bit about that? You have a team dedicated to it. Tell us what that means and what you get. 

Rachel McCarthy (0:06:53) –  I do wanna add one more thing, actually. People can still get a paper check if they so choose. If that is their preference and they wanna have that and that is that feels secure to them, that is certainly an option, so we can still mail checks. So trauma informed care. So this is something that we have done for years now, and I really love it personally. So we partner with doctor Laura McGuire, and she provides annual trainings for our team. She’s a consultant. She founded the National Center For Equity and Agency. And doctor Laura will she’ll host these trauma informed trainings for the company. Really opens your eyes to all the different types of trauma. I mean, there’s just so many different levels of trauma that I never knew existed. I mean, there’s like generational trauma and there’s things that you wouldn’t think of. And then she also educates us on the mental and emotional and physical effects of trauma and how these things sort of manifest. And really, it teaches us to be mindful about the trauma that many, if not most, plaintiffs have gone through and to use that sensitivity and that understanding in our communications. So primarily the folks who handle the conversations with claimants about settlement planning and exploring their options. You know, those the team that speaks to claimants directly, they’re the ones who are the most trained in this, but all of us at the company get exposure to the training every year. So it’s just a nice I feel like it’s a good reminder to us of why we’re doing what we’re doing and who we’re helping. And I think it’s a good differentiator too for our company. 

Dan Miner (0:08:30) – Yeah. To me, when you look at that life at the other side, you’re prioritizing that life on the other side as well, which is it aligns very much with our own values at Case Works. One of the other kind of unique differentiators is your attorney fee deferral process. Could you talk a little bit about that as well? 

Rachel McCarthy (0:08:53) – Yeah. So as I mentioned, we are plaintiff first, but we do have a few solutions that are attorney focused, and our fee deferral program is one of those. So our fee deferral is it’s a legal and financial strategy that allows attorneys to defer their contingency fees. So sort of like a structure would be for a plaintiff where they have the option to invest it, choose a payout schedule, receive some money, but invest a portion, and then have it last longer. Attorneys can do something similar. They can delay constructive receipt, take the funds, and have them grow in an investment account pretax. And then they can use that to better plan for meeting certain financial goals that they may have. So if you have an attorney who’s working towards retirement or wants to manage the cash flow to their law firm better, by using something like attorney fee deferral, if they’re getting a substantial or significant fee from a case, they can certainly receive a portion of it upfront, but then they can choose to delay receipt on a portion as well and then invest that money and be a little bit more strategic with what that money is gonna do for them in the long run. 

Dan Miner (0:10:03) – So we’ve talked about plaintiff first, and some of the solutions you have just in terms of trauma. Talked a little bit about the fee deferral… But the organization is also extremely philanthropic. We see that the Milestone Foundation, there’s a scholarship program. Can you talk a little bit about those as well? 

Rachel McCarthy (0:10:20) –  Yeah. So our founder, John Baer, was really

passionate about helping people in general, but also helping underserved people. And he was also very solutions oriented. So he wanted to find ways to make a difference when he noticed an area that could use some improvement or use some help. So that’s how the foundation came about. The foundation was created because there weren’t any non profits in the non recourse lending space for plaintiffs. If you’re a plaintiff and you have a lawsuit, you know, litigation can take months or years, and you might be severely injured and you’re going to have a settlement that will be significant, but you’re not going to see that money for a few years. In the meantime, you’re injured, you’re out of work, you have bills to pay, you may have a family to provide for. So it’s not uncommon for people in this position to fall behind on their payments or just fall into some financial hardship. And there is an industry of companies that provide funding in this specific situation called nonrecourse lending, but there weren’t any non profits. So the Milestone Foundation was created as another option in that industry to offer low interest funding to people who needed to help them bridge the gap basically between when their lawsuit starts and when it concludes. And this was sort of just seen as another way to provide access to justice for people. If you find yourself in that situation, you might be inclined to say, forget it. I don’t want to pursue this lawsuit anymore, or I’ll just take whatever they’re willing to offer me now. That doesn’t allow the whole cycle of justice to complete itself. So this was a nice way to, again, put the plaintiff first, create a solution that can help those in need. And, you know, I actually ran the foundation when it first started back in 2017. So it’s also a cause that’s near and dear to my heart. Now it’s its whole own entity, and they’re up to great things. So we’re lucky to have that. Sort of the same thing with the the scholarship, we wanted to help more women get into the trial bar space, and one way to do that was to help female law students. So that’s how the scholarship was born. And it’s been a really fun program to do year over year and to see how it grows, how the applicant pool grows, becomes more diverse. Last year, we received applicants from all over the country and really some top tier law schools, which was really cool to see. So we’re in a unique position where Milestone tries to use whatever sort of power or leverage that we have for good. And so whatever opportunities that we identify or that come to us where we can put our money where our mouth is or do what we can to just support the greater civil justice space, we usually tend to jump at those opportunities.

Dan Miner (0:13:11) –  Milestone has a an event that they’re sponsoring on June 27th, which is the Harris Martin conference in Buffalo. Buffalo in June is beautiful. As a fellow Buffalonian, it is a beautiful place. For anyone who’s still considering, should I attend? Should I not? What can they expect? Who’s speaking? What are the main topics? 

Rachel McCarthy (0:13:42) – Mhmm. Yeah. Believe it or not, we don’t have snow in June in Buffalo. I don’t think that’s ever happened. I mean, sometimes in April, but not June. So, yeah, the Harris Martin Mass Tort Settlements Conference is the end of this month and we are really excited and honored to be cosponsoring it. We have an awesome agenda. There’s a kickoff party the night before that everyone is welcome to that is being sponsored by Motley Rice. And then the day agenda itself, it’s Thursday, June 27th. There’s a morning full of panels that are broken down by litigation type. So public nuisance, toxic tort, sex abuse, and there’s a product device litigation panel as well. And then after lunch in the afternoon, we have discussions around issues such as bankruptcy, AI, going against the Department of Justice as a defendant, some bigger, broader topics. And then the conference wraps Thursday night with a big party for everyone. So sponsors, speakers, attendees, everyone is going to get to come together and just have, like, a big blowout party Thursday night. And then if people want to stay for the weekend, they’re welcome too. There’s plenty to see in Buffalo. There’s a lot of history, a lot of culture. We have some incredible art museums, and Milestone’s actually worked to get attendee coverage. You can get admission to most of our cultural institutions for free when you come to the conference. So if you need an extra incentive to come, you can make a little trip of it, bring your family, but it should be a really awesome short get together. 

Dan Miner (0:15:04) – And then on the personal side, where do you recommend folks go for wings? There are a handful of places, but what’s your recommendation? 

Rachel McCarthy (0:15:13) –  Obviously, if you want to go where they originated, there’s the Anchor Bar, which is good and fine. Gabriel’s Gate is a fan favorite down on Allen, and I do love Gabriel’s Gate wings. I like a few of this the dirty pizza places, like Just Pizza or La Nova or, you know, or you can get pizza and wings and get them covered in barbecue sauce. That’s that would be my go to, I think. Do you have a favorite, Dan? 

Dan Miner – I always stop at the airport, Anchor Bar, on my way back. There’s a couple of local pizza establishments that that are the wings places as well. Typically, the Italian restaurants have some of the best wings. 

Rachel McCarthy – Yeah. You gotta get pizza and wings. Like, you gotta do the duo together. Yeah. People come to this conference. They’re gonna eat well for a few days.

Dan Miner (0:15:56) –  That won’t be a concern. Yeah. If you can get the combo, the beef on WEC and the wings, it’s it’s a a great combo. Mhmm. For any law firm that’s watching today’s episode that’s interested in working with Milestone, potentially getting a demo, how can they reach out, get the ball rolling? What are the things and questions that they should be asking? 

Rachel McCarthy (0:16:21) – Sure. Yeah. If there’s anyone who’s working on any sort of mass tort, I mean, what we’re trying to encourage people to do is to think about settlement

 as early as possible. I know a lot of lawyers are so focused on the litigation, you might not really start to plan for settlement until you’re close to the end, but it helps to incorporate it into the plan as early as possible. And we’re happy to give anyone a demo of our Pathway platform. You know, you can just reach out to us online. You can give us a call. All our info’s on the website. We are more than happy to hash through even if hypotheticals at this point. You know, a lot of this litigation, you never know when or what is gonna happen and if you wanna feel prepared, if you wanna come up with a loose plan, we’re happy to talk you through it. And then 2, with settlement planning or with fee deferral, our teams on that side are more than happy to speak with anyone. So whether you’re working on a mass tort case, a single event case, if you have a plaintiff who’s could use some settlement planning advice, or you are an attorney that is considering fee deferral, you know, we’re at the ready to talk about any of it. 

Dan Miner (0:17:33) –  Well, Rachel, thank you for joining us today. For those who are interested, I highly recommend the conference in Buffalo on June 27th.

We will be there as Case Works celebrating not only the the Milestone team, but all the the great attorneys who will be there as well. And so I encourage you to join. And if you have questions on on Milestone Solutions, visit their website, as Rachel said, and reach out for a demo. It’s a pretty impressive solution. Yeah. 

Rachel McCarthy – Thank you so much, Dan. It’s been really nice to chat with you. 

Dan Miner – Thank you.

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