Are You Taking Advantage of the Ancillary Benefits That Come With Your Malpractice Insurance Program?

I’m always surprised at the number of people who don’t take full advantage of the ancillary benefits that come with malpractice insurance programs. I know that most of the carrier programs we market have several useful benefits outside of the policy that can help a firm.

Items like: online risk management classes, some of which are eligible for free CE and possible premium discounts, samples of engagement, disengagement, and non engagement letters, as well as suggestions on how to implement a conflict of interest system.

You can also find examples of how to implement a dual calendar system and comments on the latest programs available in the marketplace for calendaring, client intake, and billing. Not all outside the policy benefits have everything we mentioned, but they do have some combination.

Keeping Your Documents Secure and Accessible

As an agency, we’ve developed a client portal with 256-bit encryption for your security. Current clients can use this portal to gain access to the previous applications you’ve submitted to us as well as your past and current legal malpractice insurance policies.

I get calls, some urgent, from insureds asking if I can resend the policy as they cannot locate it in their office. Imagine how convenient it would be if you could just go to the client portal and see all the information you needed online!

So if you’re one of the insureds that are using the additional benefits available to you from your legal malpractice insurance program, good for you. It can and will make your law practice better and maybe even reduce the chances of being sued. If you’re not, I would encourage you to at least take a look at what is available; you might be surprised. Oh, and did I tell you it is usually free?

Does a Legal Malpractice Policy Cover a Cyberattack, Data Breach or Wire Transfer Fraud Claim?

At INf, we just finished recognizing the month of October as Cybersecurity Awareness Month. I hope you enjoyed the few educational videos that we were able to send your way.

Since then, a few of our clients have asked me to talk a little bit about whether a legal malpractice policy would cover a claim that was based on a cyberattack, data breach, or wire transfer fraud. So as a bonus to our October series, we’ll go over a few of these issues.

Cyberattack and Data Breach Claims

Let’s take a look at the cyberattack and data breach issues. My answer is going to be a pretty typical insurance answer in this situation—maybe. It might be covered based on the claim circumstances. My best guess is that if you submit a legal malpractice claim based on a cyberattack or data breach, it will trigger the coverage.

The carrier will review the claim issues and decide which issues are going to be covered and which issues are not going to be covered. I would believe that those issues that are typically considered legal malpractice issues are going to be covered, and those issues that are strictly considered cyber issues will not be covered. Now, your policy may have certain language that will provide a very limited amount and scope of coverage for some cyber events. So you might be able to glean a little bit of coverage out of your legal malpractice policy in that event.

Wire Transfer Fraud Claims

On the other issue of wire transfer fraud, my answer is going to be a little bit different. I don’t believe that most legal malpractice claims or most legal malpractice carriers are going to cover claims for wire transfer fraud. Most of the carriers and carrier personnel that I have spoken to believe that wire transfer fraud is theft. And a legal malpractice policy is not theft protection.

Perhaps a fidelity bond, maybe crime coverage, or a standalone cyber liability policy would be the better policy from which your coverage would come. Some legal malpractice policies even specifically exclude theft, wire transfer fraud, and bank transfer fraud.

Consider a Cyber Liability Policy

If you’re looking for coverage to replace the physical funds that are lost from a wire transfer fraud, my suggestion to you is to not depend on your legal malpractice policy to do so. I think you’ll be very disappointed. Which brings me to my last and final point: you need to seriously consider the purchase of a standalone cyber liability policy. It’s going to protect you against a host of exposures, like cyberattacks, data breaches, ransomware, phishing schemes, and so much more.

So if you really want to protect yourself, the office, and your client, the purchase of a cyber liability policy is the way to go.

These policies help protect you from the threat of hackers, data dumps, stolen passwords, ransomware attacks and more.  

It takes less than 5 minutes to fill out the application for this insurance.  Contact INF to get started at 412.563.2106.

Facing Legal Malpractice Claims: Proactive Measures for Lawyers

Our July Legal Malpractice Awareness Month would not be complete without some discussion about legal malpractice claims. I get asked a lot about claims and if there are really a lot of lawyers who get sued for legal malpractice. I always answer the same way: yes, there are a lot of claims filed against lawyers.

I recently had a discussion with a legal malpractice claims analyst, and he commented that the insured’s question or concerns today should not be “if I get sued, but rather “when I get sued and how many times.” I think that sums it up: lawyers being sued is not uncommon, and it does happen with frequency.

I believe that the reason most people don’t hear about lawyers being sued that often is that most lawyers don’t want to talk about it. It is not a pleasant experience to have your work questioned or accused of making a costly mistake. I understand that.

If you do find yourself in the position where someone is alleging that you made a mistake on their case or you find on your own that you made a mistake, don’t make it worse by ignoring it or hoping it goes away. It never does, and refusing to acknowledge it will only make it worse.

There is no scarlet letter, no stoning, and no public humiliation for reporting a claim. Chances are, several of your colleagues have gone through the same thing. Call your carrier, the hot line, or your broker. Get the issue reported immediately so you can get the right people involved early on. You will be glad that you did.

What Are Reasonable Policy Limits and Deductibles For My Coverage?

One of the harder questions that lawyers face when purchasing or renewing a legal malpractice insurance policy is: what policy limits and policy deductibles should I choose, and are those limits sufficient? 

No one wants to buy more coverage than they need or have a deductible that never gets satisfied. Unfortunately, there just isn’t a stock answer. Since every law firm is different, the policy limits and deductible chosen should be based on the individual characteristics of the firm. Never choose limits and deductibles based on what your friend or the law firm down the street has. Take some time to consider the matter. No one knows your practice any better than you do. 

Consider the type of law or cases your firm handles. What is the value of the cases you handle? What is the largest case value that you handle? What is the smallest? Is there an “average” value? How many lawyers are in your firm? What is the economy like? Lawyers seem to get sued more often in a bad economy than in a good one. These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself before deciding on your limits and deductible. 

Once you have gathered the relevant information and thought about it, you’ll be in a much better position to decide, and I think you’ll find the decision becomes a little easier. Not easy, but a little easier.

What Makes A “Good” Lawyers Legal Malpractice Insurance Program?

You as lawyers have several choices when it comes to legal malpractice insurance.  My guess is all brokers selling this type of coverage will tell you that their policy or program is a good one.  But what exactly makes up a good program? 

Let me tell you what I think makes up a good program and distinguishes it from other insurance program or policies in the marketplace:

 1. A malpractice helpline or hotline for insureds.  This is important as it provides an outlet for the insureds to discuss the disciplinary or claim issue with one of their colleagues.

2. A library of risk management tools.  For example, sample copies of engagement letters, disengagement letters, samples of conflicts of interest checks and examples of docket control systems.  This can be web site based or hard copies

3. Risk Management classes and or videos that may or may not provide CLE credit

4. Comprehensive policy form that provides: full prior acts coverage, career coverage, broad definition of professional services, unlimited tail coverage endorsement and a free retirement tail when appropriate.  

5. An involved and experienced broker. Does your broker look like me, act like me, talk like me?  If not they should.  A broker is your connection to the carrier.  Likewise the broker is the carrier’s connection to you.  Education, dedication and commitment is a must. LPL is not a one size fits all, not even a one carrier fits all kind of product.

When searching for or reviewing your legal malpractice insurance program, you may not be able to secure everything I just mentioned but a good program will have most of them.

There Is No One-Size-Fits-All Legal Malpractice Policy

Many carriers trying to be innovative or distinguish themselves in the Legal Malpractice marketplace try to add certain coverages to the policy hoping to get your business.  While any additional coverage is a good thing, sometimes the advertising and marketing of the additional coverages can cause confusion about the type and extent of the additional coverages offered.  

Some of the additional or ancillary coverages that carriers in the Legal Malpractice marketplace are marketing/providing are: Cyber Coverage, D&O Coverage, Fidelity Coverage and even some BOP coverage or business owners.  Again, the additional coverages are not bad to have but they should not be thought of as complete coverage for that type of exposure.  All of these ancillary coverages are just that – ancillary. Don’t be fooled in thinking that the ancillary coverage is all you need for those exposures.  The ancillary coverage will provide minimal coverage in terms of depth and limits.  

For a more comprehensive coverage with broad depth and adequate limits, you should consider a standalone or separate policy for each of the exposures that exist in your firm.  Although buying separate policies for cyber, business owners, and crime coverage will add to your outlay of cash it should provide adequate protection for you and the firm in the event of a claim or loss.  Notice I did not mention D&O coverage, if you sit on a non profit or for profit board you definitely need to check with that entity and confirm that they do have an inforce policy that protects you in your position as board member.  

Don’t depend on your Legal Malpractice policy to act as a cover all policy.  It’s not!  It’s great to have supplemental and ancillary coverages in the legal malpractice policy but it is a mistake to believe these types of coverage will provide the coverage needed in a claim situation.  Investigate standalone policies. 

Are You Looking For Conflicts Of Interest?

attorney consulting with client

I was recently at a malpractice program given by a carrier we use and they were talking about where their claims are coming from.  One of the top 3 causes they presented was conflict of interest.  I can’t say that this shocked me but I was a little bit surprised this was in the top 3!  

Back in the 90’s conflicts of interest was a huge risk management topic and was on everyone’s radar.  For the past several years however the topic seemed to cool when discussing legal malpractice, so to hear it was in the top 3 did catch my attention.  It should also catch your attention too!  

Conflicts of interest are easy to get caught up in if you’re not careful.  They come in many different disguises right?  Representing both parties in the same case be it divorce or accident, representing a new client against a former client, having an ownership interest in your client, managing and or directing a clients business.  The list can go on and on.  

Be careful to not get caught up in the friends and family plan either.  You may have had this happen to you when a family member might say “My wife and I want a quick divorce, here is what we agreed to. Can you draw up the paperwork and we’ll both sign and be done?” or a similar situation where you are asked to help save your friends money by representing both sides in any transaction.  Friends and Family can and do sue.

So just a heads up to stay vigilant with COI checks so you don’t become part of the top 3. 

An Often Overlooked Risk Management Tip – Read Your Policy

male reading an insurance policy

I have an easy and surprisingly somewhat overlooked risk management tip for you. Read your policy. When was the last time you read yours?

I’m always a little bit surprised that when I speak to prospects and clients alike, how many of them tell me they never or very rarely ever read their policy. Look, I know that we are all busy because our reading stack is very high. And after going through the application and quoting, no one is thinking about finishing the process by reading the policy.

Reading your policy is essential to the process and should supplement any risk management technique you utilize in your offices. The policy tells you who’s insured, what’s insured, what you’re supposed to do when and if you do get sued, your coverage limits, your deductible, and how much it actually costs. These are just to name a few.

The policy is also going to tell you what’s not covered, referred to as exclusions in the policy. And perhaps this is even more important than knowing what is covered.

So, don’t ignore my comments and do nothing. Take a moment and read it. You don’t need to become an expert in legal malpractice insurance. Just an informed consumer. A little knowledge in this matter will go a long way in your risk management efforts to avoid legal malpractice.

Social Engineering Aimed at Law Firms

“Amateurs hack systems, professionals hack people.” – Bruce Schneier

What is social engineering? 

Social engineering occurs when somebody acts like something that they’re not to get information from you so they can better themselves. We’ve heard a lot of stories that involve law firms and wire transfer fraud.

Common Social Engineering Schemes Aimed At Attorneys

There was a firm in North Carolina and they received a phone call, supposedly, from the bank saying, “We noticed some interesting activity on your account. I just want to verify we’re talking to the right person, what’s your username and password?” That firm gave the person on the phone their bank username and password. The bank said, “We’re gonna send you a code. We just want to make sure that you are who you are – let us know what the code is and then we’re going to talk about the issues with your account.” So instead, unbeknownst to the law firm, the people on the phone actually signed into their bank, initiated a wire transfer, and sent them the code needed for the wire transfer. So the law firm received the code and provided it to the people on the phone, they put it in, and then they went on to just have a fake conversation about what was wrong with their account. At the end, they said it just turned out to be an internal error and everything was fine. And 30 minutes later, the firm finds out that there was a wire transfer that they didn’t know about that they didn’t authorize. And in fact, it ended up being the person on the phone that allowed it all to happen.

This is a very common thing that we’ve been hearing more and more lately and it is a very common social engineering scheme aimed at attorneys.

Another one is, they’ll call you and appear like they are from a nonprofit, and they’ll try to, again, get some sort of wire transfer normally.

And then the final one that’s really, really common is they’ll send emails to you as your client. So it’s actually quite easy to appear to send an email as somebody else. It’s called email spoofing. An eight year old could do it, it’s so easy. They’ll send emails to you as your client, and they’ll say, “Hey, are you at the office? Can we send a wire out today? I’m busy, just go ahead and do it and email me when it’s done.” Anytime you get anything like that from your clients, you will need to put something in place where there’s some sort of two factor authentication. Something as simple as if they email you, you have to talk to them on the phone before proceeding. Having processes in place to combat social engineering is, again, part of that knowledge that needs to happen.

Social engineering is definitely an issue, and attorneys are one of the main people that they’ll go after because you have access to such important information.

Is This Really Happening?

I can tell you that, obviously, there have been claims, and whether they’re funds, transfer funds, transfers, or just hacks into the system to try to get information such as social security numbers, ein numbers, birth date health records of clients, it’s happening all the time, and it happens everywhere. The smaller law firms that don’t have a ton of money to spend on high priced security systems out there, they’re considered low hanging fruit or as I said, the easy targets for cyber criminals so be careful.

In the past five years, banks have spent about $90 billion on guarding against social engineering. They’re making it a lot harder to get into their information.

Use These Tips When Filling Out Your Renewal Application

Every year, most insured lawyers are asked by their carrier to complete a renewal application. Now, I can hear the collective moans coming from the offices before we even send out the renewal application. I’ll be the first to admit that the applications can be long and contain confusing questions. But keep in mind, this is the only time the carrier can get a complete picture of your firm, you need to take advantage of this. 

You need to let the carrier know what your practice is, how your practice is doing, and what you are doing to reduce risk in your office. You do this by answering all of the questions on the application completely. Unanswered questions or incomplete details only cause more questions and increase the back and forth between client and carrier. Take the time to read each question. Don’t assume you know what the carrier is asking for. 

There is one question on the application that I think causes concern, or at least causes me concern. And that is the area of practice grid. That’s the chart on the application that you are asked to put a percentage in, in the areas of where your firm is playing. Now, some carriers will ask for that percentage to be listed as a percentage of your time spent. Other carriers will ask for that percentage to be listed as a percentage of the revenue of the firm. Answering that question one way or the other will create a substantially different picture of your firm and definitely have an effect on the premium that you pay. 

So please, again, make sure that you’re reading each question and answering those questions completely. You’ll be glad that you did.