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VSB Council to consider mandatory insurance rule

The Virginia State Bar will seek comments on a proposal for mandatory legal malpractice insurance for attorneys who represent clients drawn from the public.

The VSB executive committee and council will get the proposal as an informational item at their meetings next week and is expected to vote on the proposal at its June 19 annual meeting. Comments on it are due by May 23.

Under the proposal, an attorney would have to purchase a policy on the open market with a minimum coverage of $100,000 per claim with a claim expense allowance of at least $50,000 outside the policy limits.

“While higher levels of per claim coverage would be desirable in most instances, as would an aggregate limit reflecting some multiplier of the pre claim limit, the Committee’s focus was on making the transition from uninsured to uninsured as economical as possible,” said Darrel Tillar Mason, the Richmond lawyer who chairs the Special Committee on Legal Malpractice Insurance.

The committee submitted the proposal to council this week without a recommendation on its adoption. That’s consistent with what Mason has said is a split on the committee over a “data driven” or “principle driven” view of the issue. Evidence of a serious problem for lawyers or their clients is slim, she acknowledges, but some lawyers believe that insurance against their own negligence is part of their fiduciary duty to their clients.

The committee has studied the issue for more than two years, and the VSB Council surprised many observers in October what it opted to continue the effort rather than to abandon it.

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