I was meeting with a medium sized insurance defense law firm partners a few years ago and trying to understand why they were paying what seemed like about 3 times what their attorney malpractice premium should be. According to the area of practice grid (AOP) the firm did 100% insurance defense. But when we got to the claim questions, they had a family law malpractice claim. In reviewing the loss runs the indemnity payment was over $500,000. My next question to the partners was how in the world did they manage to get a family law claim when all they do is insurance defense work? (Tact is not one of my fortes).
One of the partners piped up that he was responsible for the claim. He had a friend that needed an attorney for a divorce and as a favor took on the case. Needless to say, he was now not very popular with the other partners.
In another case, a newly minted solo practitioner that specialized in family law saw an opportunity for a big settlement in a med-mal case that a friend had. The attorney had never done med-mal and decided to go it alone so as not to share the fee. The problem was that he never got the ‘expert’ witness he needed for the case and blew the statute of limitations. Things really went off the rails after this. The attorney also let his malpractice insurance lapse, so he had no place to report the claim. Not sure who gave him the next piece of advice, but the attorney then decided to file bankruptcy to avoid paying the claim himself. This managed to get the attorney suspended. Now that his suspension was nearly up, he wanted to get back into practicing law. One of the requirements to practice again was obtaining attorney malpractice insurance. This attorney will be in surplus lines paying many times more than what he would have been paying without the suspension. Additionally, almost to the end of time he will get to explain the suspension on his malpractice insurance applications.
Stick to your knitting.
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Lee Norcross, MBA, CPCU
Managing Director, CEO
(616) 940-1101 Ext. 7080