Kaufman Bar Meeting- Elections and Insurance Disclosures

This past Wednesday was the final Kaufman County Bar meeting for 2009. What a difference a year makes. It was only twelve short months ago when a dozen lawyers met for what was only then 5th KCB meeting of the year and elected Tracy Booker, myself, Keena Greling, and Lisa Gent to office.

Largely due to the hard work by President Booker and Secretary Greyling 2009 saw monthly meetings (each with CLE), and a huge spike in attendance. Things are looking up, and more organized for the KC bar.

So who will lead the KC bar into 2010?

President- Keena Greling
Vice President- Me
Secretary- Prescot Smith
Treasurer- Lisa Gent
I was considering a run for President. In Kaufman it is customary for the VP to become the P the next year. However, Keena was outstanding her role as Secretary and righftully ran unopposed.

Do you want to hire me, or sue me?
The officer elections were overshadowed by a heated debate over a State Bar proposal that would require attorneys to disclose whether or not we carry malpractice insurance. The vote was 40-0 against the idea.

What’s wrong with this requirement? Basically it is a huge competitive disadvantage for solo lawyers with little, if any, benefit to consumers.

Our very nice, and slightly overwhelmed State Bar rep had the unfortunate job of pitching this idea to a group of semi-hostile lawyers. The last thing solos want in this economy time is another requirement from the State bar for another rule that could get us grieved for a measure that if passed, will either brand a lawyer with a scarlet letter (I’m too broke or incompetent to get legal mal insurance!) or cost thousands in premiums.

Malpractice insurance is generally offered on a claims made basis. That is, it doesn’t matter when you did the work that got you sued, you are covered for all claims made during any coverage period (typically one year). Ergo, the larger body of work you have to be sued for, the more you pay. A relatively young (6 years in) lawyer like myself would pay less than a solo who has been out for 20+ years. Big firms can bargain for better rates in a way smaller firms can not. Just like health insurance you want to get a huge group to pool risk. I’m solo, I don’t have a pool to spreak my risk around in, maybe a bath tub at best.

Who benefits from this? Consumers allegedly, but that doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve never had a client ask about malpractice insurance. I would hope a prospective client is not already considering litigation against me and weighing how much they can recover. I’ve never had a client file a legal mal claim. Unlike grievances, lawsuits for legal malpractice are exceedingly rare.

The fantasy of consumer benefit doesn’t mask the reality of windfall profits for insurance companies. If I was selling legal mal insurance I would lobbying the State Bar to make my product quasi mandatory. Most solo lawyers know their odds of getting sued for malpractice in any year is around 0%, so they eschew legal mal insurance. What is an insurance company to do to get low risk attorneys to pay premiums for a product they don’t need? Pass a disclosure law.

If this measure is passed (and the details of what kind of policy/disclosure) have not been worked out, I am going to lobby my State rep for legal mal caps on damages against lawyers. Attorneys need some legal mal tort reform! If you want all lawyers to have legal mal insurance then why should we let frivilous lawsuits drive up our premiums!


2 responses to “Kaufman Bar Meeting- Elections and Insurance Disclosures”

  1. Russell says:

    You should research what a group of Army officers did back in 1922 when they were unhappy with the options for automobile insurance (See USAA). If you’re unhappy with the options for malpractice insurance for lawyers, band together with a couple dozen like-minded solo practitioners and form your own.

  2. Gabriel A. Riveros says:

    Thanks for the chuckle at the end. I recently moved here from Maryland this year and saw this plastered on the State Bar agenda. This must have been drummed up in the committee on how to piss off a lot of lawyers. Not one that I signed up for in that nice little option for committee membership. If I understand this correctly, state funds for attorney negligence are a concern. Another economic downturn? Now, private lawyers, most of which are solo, are going to be expected to dish out yet another cost of “practice” to offset negligent attorneys? What are my dues for anyways? In all seriousness, I found the TX bar to be more thorough than other states I am licensed in when applying for admission. Requiring legal malpractice premiums goes beyond the role of ethics regulation; will there be state minimums? Do I get a discount depending on coverage? Not being sued? Having legal mal coverage from a business standpoint is essential in my opinion, but that is just it–a business decision reserved for the attorney alone and not state imposed. Maryland which is a welfare state, antibusiness and consumer driven doesn’t even have such a requirement. I find it hard to believe such a thing would pass in Texas but stranger things have happened…look at tort reform (ie insurance protection and profit assurance legislation)

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