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You Cant Sue Me, I'm An Attorney

By: Thomas M. Kallman

Lawyers today are increasingly becoming the target of allegations of malpractice like all other aspects of society. Imagine, you’re a legal professional faced with a lawsuit.

Clients, regulatory agencies, corporate shareholders, even third-parties can file lawsuits accusing lawyers and their firms of all types of professional negligence.

This can be the result of an honest mistake, at times it is a result of unreasonable client expectations, misunderstanding or a failure to communicate, and often the claim is false, frivolous and at times fraudulent.

Whatever the circumstances that lead to a claim of legal malpractice, the reality is that such claims have raised significantly over the past several years in terms of sheer numbers and financial magnitude. Even when the client is completely satisfied with the quality of the representation, lawyers and law firms can find themselves named as defendants in shareholder lawsuits, class actions, and those actions brought by government agencies, alleging some breach of duty to the public.

Regardless of the size of your firm, it is critical that you protect yourself, your practice, and your assets, with a properly underwritten policy of professional liability insurance. The best way to be certain that you have the broadest possible coverage tailored specifically for the nature of your practice, at the most competitive premium, is to seek out an experienced, independent insurance broker that presents your firm with several choices each renewal. You deserve great protection even if you have been accused of less than perfect practice.

Most Agents have access to many different “A” rated insurance carriers that are aggressively seeking to write lawyers professional liability. All carriers have appetites for certain types of law firm risks and as such it is of great help in choosing the right insurance professional to help you navigate the insurance gauntlet.

Primary limits of liability are available from $100,000 to as much as several Million. Some policies include coverage for expenses in connection with disciplinary actions. Claims expenses are sometimes included within the limits of liability, though a number of carriers will offer claims expense outside of limits.

Generally, small to midsize firms often select a deductible of between $1,000-$10,000, and carriers vary in terms of whether claims costs are charged against the deductible. Obviously, all of these issues will impact the premium.

The key advantage that I offer my numerous law firm clients is the fact that as an independent insurance broker, I am not limited to a single insurance company. or insurance program. While some association endorsed professional liability programs often provide coverage at competitive prices, you should never assume that they provide the best coverage at that price level.

Programs such as these are limited in their ability to actually accept your type of firm or practice which means that the underwriters’ flexibility is limited, since each policy must be viewed as part of the entire program, rather than priced entirely on its own.

If the focus of your practice tends to be in areas of high liability potential, such as IPO’s, financial institutions, securities, patent, intellectual property, personal injury or domestic law, most agents will clearly understand which underwriters and carriers are most comfortable with these practices.

Have you just passed the Bar exam, merged your firm, dissolved a partnership, your of counsel, part time, experienced some significant claims problems and so on. Some underwriters are nervous about these circumstances while others are more comfortable with this risk.

There are many very aggressive legal professional liability carriers looking to take on good law firm risks and your independent agent should hold the key to your success in finding that protection. Don’t settle but rather explore the options that are now available to law firms.

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