Professional Liability Committee Highlights

2020

April

The Standing Committee continues to collect data for the publication of its 2016-2019 Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims survey. This year, nine of the U.S. and Canada’s largest lawyers’ professional liability insurers and almost every bar-related insurance carrier will participate in the survey. The survey results will be published in Fall 2020 and will also be presented via panel at the Fall 2020 National Legal Malpractice Conference.

Standing Committee member Randall Miller, founding partner of Miller Law Associates APC in Los Angeles, CA, and ABA member Kimberly Ashmore, partner at Wiley LLP in Washington, DC, were panelists for the Standing Committee’s COVID-19 webinar, “Emerging Lawyer Risk Management and Professional Liability Coverage Issues.” The program covered emerging risks to lawyers and their practices in the wake of coronavirus, and the panelists will discuss potential exposures as well as ways to reduce risks to law firms during this time. The program was offered free to ABA members as part of the ABA’s coronavirus resources. Approximately 475 people registered for the program.

March

Due to the CDC’s recommendation that gatherings over 50 people be cancelled over the next eight weeks in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the public health emergency declared by the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans, and the growing number of firms and organizations imposing travel restrictions on their employees, the Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability made the difficult decision to cancel its Spring 2020 National Legal Malpractice Conference. The Standing Committee anticipates that many of its Spring panels will be transferred instead to its Fall 2020 National Legal Malpractice Conference, to be held September 23-25, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.

The Standing Committee continues to collect data for the publication of its 2016-2019 Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims survey. This year, nine of the U.S. and Canada’s largest lawyers’ professional liability insurers and almost every bar-related insurance carrier will participate in the survey. The survey results will be published in Fall 2020 and will also be presented via panel at the Fall 2020 National Legal Malpractice Conference.

Committee Special Advisor Eileen Garczynski participated on a panel titled “Year in Review – Significant Developments in Malpractice Claims” at the 2020 Legal Malpractice and Risk Management Conference in Chicago, Illinois, on March 3, 2020. The Legal Malpractice and Risk Management Conference is an annual conference put on by Hinshaw & Culbertson, and many attorneys and insurance professionals in the LPL community, including Standing Committee members and National Legal Malpractice Conference attendees, participate each year. Ms. Garczynski will produce a similar panel to be hosted at the Fall 2020 National Legal Malpractice Conference, detailing observations about the current state of the LPL insurance market.

February

The committee continues to prepare for its Spring 2020 National Legal Malpractice Conference, April 29-May 1, 2020 in New Orleans, LA. Registration for the Conference opened on January 7. Attendees can now also register for the Standing Committee’s annual Bar Association Breakfast. This year’s breakfast, entitled “Raising the Bar,” will encourage robust discussion on State Bar initiatives on lawyer wellness, the integration of paraprofessionals into the practice of law, and other legal malpractice topics pertinent to state and local bar associations. The event is open to all attendees of the Spring 2020 National Legal Malpractice Conference.

2019

October

The Standing Committee has finalized its session topics for the Spring 2020 National Legal Malpractice Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference will feature plenary sessions on the role attorney civility plays in lawyers’ professional liability claims, the use of predictive analytics and technology in underwriting and claims handling, and the evolution of the U.S. law firm and risk management implications with changing styles of work. Breakout sessions will include strategies for proving a lawyer’s lack of knowledge in a tort or legal malpractice claim, the effects of a law firm’s risk management response on coverage options, updates on case law and the state of the lawyers’ professional liability insurance market, and more. The Standing Committee’s Spring conference typically draws over 400 lawyers and insurance professionals from around the U.S. and Canada.

The Committee will next meet in person at their December 3, 2019, business meeting in Washington, D.C., where they will discuss their annual essay competition for young professionals and law students, the collection of data for the 2016-2019 Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims, and plans for an updated survey about lawyers’ professional liability and legal malpractice education and resources among the various state bar organizations.

September

The Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability’s Fall 2019 National Legal Malpractice Conference took place on September 11-13 in San Diego, CA. The Conference attracted over 300 legal malpractice attorneys, state bar representatives, and insurance industry professionals from across the United States and Canada. The Conference’s keynote speaker was Robert S. Brewer, Jr., the United States Attorney for the Southern District of California. Mr. Brewer shared his experiences prosecuting a high-profile espionage case and discussed the day-to-day issues he faces as the United States Attorney in San Diego, a city 20 minutes away from the border with Mexico.

The Committee is already underway with planning for the Spring 2020 National Legal Malpractice Conference in New Orleans, LA, from April 29-May 1, 2020. The Committee began weekly planning calls this month to discuss and plan conference sessions and select a keynote speaker. The Committee will finalize Conference sessions and activities at its next in-person meeting on December 4, 2019, in Washington, DC.

The Committee’s newest publication, Protecting Against Cyber Threats: A Lawyer’s Guide to Choosing a Cyber Liability Insurance Policy (Second Edition), was released on September 11, 2019. The guide was last published in 2016, and the Second Edition highlights additional data and privacy risks for law firms to consider and examples of innovative insurance coverages law firms can select to combat new cybersecurity threats. The guide’s helpful directory of carriers providing cyber liability insurance protection to law firms was also updated.

The Committee had its first meeting of the new bar year on September 11, 2019, in San Diego. The Committee discussed its ongoing projects, including preparation for the publication of the 2016-2019 Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims, the highly anticipated quadrennial overview of legal malpractice claims in the United States and Canada and the only study of its kind available nationally. The study’s questionnaire is being evaluated by the Committee and will be distributed to respondents in early 2020. The Committee is also preparing a new hypothetical for the Committee’s annual Ed Mendrzycki Essay Contest, an essay contest open to law students and young lawyers focused on legal malpractice and lawyers’ professional liability issues. The 2020 contest will commence in December 2019, and the winner will be selected in the spring.