Attorneys that are not law firm staff or members may share common office space. But those attorneys should not have an expectation of using the law firm’s insurance coverage. The Hanover policy defines the Named Insured as:
Named Insured means the sole proprietor, entity, partnership, or corporation designated on the Declarations page.
Insured, also referred to herein as You or Your, means the Named Insured and:
1. Any Predecessor Firm;
2. Any individual, who was, is or becomes an owner, partner, officer, director, shareholder, associate, paralegal, manager, member or employee of the Named Insured, solely while acting in a professional capacity on behalf of the Named Insured or a Predecessor Firm;
3. The Named Insured’s part-time, intern, temporary or leased employees, but only while acting on behalf of the Named Insured;
4. Your lawful spouse or Domestic Partner, solely for liability arising from any Wrongful Act of an Insured committed without the participation of such spouse or Domestic Partner;
5. Your heirs, assigns, and legal representatives in the event of Your death, incapacity or bankruptcy to the extent that You would have been covered; or
6. A past or present Independent Contractor or Of Counsel attorney, but solely while acting in such capacity on behalf of the Named Insured.
Attorneys merely renting space are not found in the above definitions of Named Insured or Insured.
On occasions the owner of the building, who may be a law firm, rents space to an attorney. The lease includes legal malpractice insurance coverage for the attorney. The Named Insured law firm cannot extend insurance coverage to attorneys that are not part of the law firm. The Hanover policy has a typical exclusion that negates coverage:
p. Common Office Space
Professional Services rendered by, or failed to be rendered by, a lawyer, person or entity, with whom the Insured shares common office space, including but not limited to, theories of partnership by estoppel, apparent partnership, apparent agency, ostensible agency, vicarious liability or any similar theory, and who is not an Insured under this Policy;
Taking this one step further, a group of attorneys that are not part of the same law firm sharing common office space are not covered for acts committed by other attorneys sharing that office space. Do not give clients the impression that the attorneys sharing office space are a firm. Sharing receptionists, office staff, and/or conference rooms may give that impression. Don’t get dragged into a malpractice suit caused by one of your suite mates. The typical legal malpractice policy excludes coverage.
Courts in the past have ruled, “that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, it is a duck.”
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Lee Norcross, MBA, CPCU
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L Squared Insurance Agency, LLC ® DBA in California as
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(616) 940-1101 Ext. 7080