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Mandatory malpractice insurance debate resumes

The Virginia State Bar Council has agreed to conduct a thorough discussion at its Oct. 19 meeting on whether the VSB should require that all lawyers who represent the public carry malpractice insurance.

Darrel Tillar Mason, the chairman of a subcommittee studying the issue, came to council Thursday with a more modest proposal: requiring submission of a document verifying the fact and amount of malpractice insurance if a lawyer has it, as almost 90 percent of lawyers who represent the public say they do.

Mason said the information would help the subcommittee bridge a serious philosophical split between those who would require empirical proof of a problem before requiring anything mandatory and those who regard it as “almost sinful” not to have malpractice insurance as a matter of public protection.

But Thomas A. Edmonds, VSB executive director, contended that the information “will not be worth the angst or staff work” that such a requirement would generate.

He likened the debate to the one that occurred before the VSB adopted mandatory continuing legal education. Some members insisted on strong evidence that the proposal would improve the practice of law while others thought improved public perception and the likelihood of improvement were enough.

The decision ultimately is a philosophical one, he said, and by a show of hands, council members indicated that they want to explore the issue—without the intermediate step of insurance verification.

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