Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lawyers Professional Part IV (Coverage cont'd)

Signs help us find our way if we'll pay attention to them. Since not every town is laid out the same, it really helps if know what you're looking for and at least a general idea of where to find it. (This one is in Worthington, OH at a great little shop)

Lawyer's policies are similar to cities and towns, at least in my world, as neither of them are uniform. You really need to read the form (the map) and then if it's still not clear get some "directions" from someone. I wish there was a GPS for E&O policies, but until that happens, here are a few more coverage or wording elements to look for/understand:

Who Is An Insured? The word "Insured" in a lawyer's malpractice policy will/should include the following"...

Named Insured: That should be the entity (or person) named in the declarations. It's just as important that you get the name of the insured correct on this class of business as with any other, and the reasons are the same. Look for coverage to include terms like "firm" and "predecessor firm". In short, the predecessor firm is one that is inactive/no longer providing professional services and either 50% or more of the principals, owners, etc have joined the current insured's firm (your client's firm) or 50% or more of the assets of the predecessor firm are now a part of the named insured's firm.

Insured Persons: A current or previous employee of the Named Insured. This is where you find coverage for partners and principals, and for other staff. If it's "other staff" the wording could further define it as an employee that supports (or supported) an employed lawyer, and this commonly includes clerical and other employees that are not attorneys.

Other terms you will see include independent contractor and "of counsel", as they are also insured under the policy. An attorney who is "of counsel" to another firm in a practical sense is one who has specific expertise or experience that is brought in by a law firm to assist that firm in handling a case. According to Black's Law Dictionary , of counsel is one who is employed by a law firm to assist in the preparation or management of a case, or in its presentation on appeal, AND not a member, partner or officer of the firm employing them.

Insured also usually includes managers, directors, shareholders and the like.

All of the above are normally covered "while in the scope of their duties on behalf of the named insured or predecessor firm" or something similar.

Professional Services: It's usually under this heading, but you need to check the full policy for other services that are covered. The most common - in addition to legal or lawyer services - are as follows:

  • Arbitrator or Mediator
  • Notary Public
  • Lobbyist (some policies will include this and some won't)
  • Law clerk, paralegal, legal secretary/support staff
  • Administrator, conservator, executor, guardian, etc but these services only if they are services typically performed by an attorney
  • Author, speaker
  • Title agent

Let's take a look at that last one. Be careful if you have an attorney or law firm also operating a Title Agency; title agent coverage included in the policy is not the same as title agency coverage. Many lawyer's malpractice carriers will include the title agency on the E&O policy, but most of them will only do so if the title agency is wholly owned by the law firm. The insurance policy will need to be amended by endorsement to include the title agency by name and there will probably be a flat additional premium charged, average is around $500.

While I'm hard at work advocating caution, please look very closely at the wording on the law firm policy vs wording for a stand along title agency policy. Even if coverages were exactly the same (they're not) remember that you're providing one policy so the limit will be shared. As always make sure your customer also knows that.

More to follow...

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