Travelers, the second-largest professional indemnity insurer, has struck an exclusive agreement with Quinn’s former broker, Prime Professions, to offer cover to sole practitioners left in limbo by Quinn’s expected departure from the market. Quinn presently insures around 1,900 sole practitioners and about 1,000 small firms.

The development will be welcomed by the smallest firms as they seek cover in the toughest renewals round yet. However, Prime director Richard Brown stressed that Travelers will only take on around three-quarters of the 1,900 sole practitioners currently insured by Quinn, and will charge them premiums 15-20% more than it charged sole practitioners last year. Market sources suggested that Travelers may take on fewer practitioners than indicated by Brown. Travelers declined to comment.

Around 500 sole practitioners currently insured by Quinn are therefore likely to face the extremely difficult task of finding alternative cover. Elsewhere in the market, the Gazette understands that insurer RSA, which had a 6% share of the PII market last year, will cut a significant number of its existing customers, and will not take on any new firms this year. RSA declined to comment on its renewal policy, but said in a statement: ‘RSA has decided to continue to insure solicitors in England and Wales in 2010. Only existing clients will be considered for primary (compulsory limit) covers. This means that no new business will be written for these primary covers.’

RSA also noted ‘significant concerns’ regarding the assigned risks pool, and said that it wants to work with the Solicitors Regulation Authority to address these.

There was more encouraging news from insurer Lemma Europe, a branch of Ukrainian insurer Lemma Insurance. It is to increase its PII capacity by up to five times, from £4m capacity last year, to £20m this year, according to Nick Rowe, business production and development manager at broker Monitor Insurance Services, which brokers for Lemma. Lemma typically insures one- to five-partner firms, Rowe said.

Earlier this month, Chartis, the UK’s largest PII insurer with a 15% market share last year, said that it does ‘not have an appetite’ to take on new law firms with fewer than 10 partners this year, although it is not reducing its existing client base. Zurich, the third-largest PII insurer with a 13% market share last year, said in July that it will significantly’ cut the amount of new PII business it underwrites for law firms this year.

Last month a new entrant, Vision Underwriting, entered the market after striking a deal with the Law Society.

In a further development, the Law Society this week opened its PII helpline for solicitors. Email or call 020 7320 9545.