’I trained on the high street, undertaking considerable amounts of welfare benefits, work, housing Law, employment law, consumer law, and personal injury work (before all the barriers came down, and we had the chaos we have today in the area).
I did not do much commercial law stricto sensu, but from 1998, I did considerable amounts of criminal law, and developed a bit of a regulatory and licensing practice with a bent towards motoring and transport law/regulation.
I was unable to get my indemnity insurance, from the end of December 2016.
What I would like to know, is what I actually do now, without my indemnity insurance. I am a magistrates court advocate and I am a higher rights advocate, and I’m thinking of transferring to the barristers profession just because it is easier and more ad hoc than being that of a solicitor and every nine months, being at risk, of an insurer closing me down. So your, advice, would be intriguingly and usefully appreciated.
Where might one advertise for ad hoc agency/advocacy work, where presumably one has to work through a limited company, or another solicitors firm?
Does one know, when, we are can get our mutual insurance policy back, as indeed, the barristers profession has?’
Paul Bennett, partner, Aaron & Partners
Firstly, I am sorry to hear professional indemnity insurance has been so problematic for you. Having spoken to insurers and brokers the response was:
Why would we turn down a recurring premium income unless we thought the firm was unsustainable or was too high-risk?
Insurers turn down perceived high risks. For those facing this challenge following points should help:
- Use a specialist broker and brief them fully so they can help underwriters see your firm accurately;
- Work with your insurer to reduce risks by attending their training events, implement their guidance from their newsletters etc and tell them you have taken these steps;
- If you undertake high risk elements of work explain your expertise and demonstrate how you are reducing the insurers risks.
The SRA has looked to amend the minimum terms for insurers to encourage more competition (an insurer focus). By contrast the Law Society has created an offering to 1-4 partner firms to support the profession. Some insurers see this as unfair competition.
The Law Society through the Small Firms Division (a committee of solicitors advising about policy on small firm issues) has campaigned and published helpful material, lobbied the SRA and within the Law Society for a fair approaches and tried to encourage insurers to think positively about smaller and specialist firms.
All of which leave you with the same problem – convincing an insurer your firm is either financially viable and manages risks well. The SRA task is public protection so they will not help. The Law Society is focused on representation at a policy level. The support you need is from a specialist PII insurance broker to show your firm is a good risk, there are a number out there so speak to some and find the right one (and I stress one) for you.
The Gazette endeavours to feature as many of your questions as possible but regrets that our careers counsellors are unable to reply personally.