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EC opposes mandatory insurance

The Executive Committee of the Virginia State Bar voted unanimously this afternoon, with President Manual A. Capsalis abstaining, to recommend rejection of a proposal for mandatory legal malpractice insurance in the state. 

Several members at first expressed reluctance to take a vote on the issue ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of the VSB Council, when a vote on the proposal is scheduled. The council is the VSB’s policy-making body. Any proposed change would have to be approved by the Supreme Court of Virginia. 

Irving M. Blank of
Richmond said, “I’m not sure that council needs any advice or recommendation from the executive committee” in light of thorough discussions of the issue at meetings and in bar publications.

But immediate past president Howard W. Martin Jr. of
Norfolk carried the day with the comment, “I don’t like the idea that we’re backing away from it or avoiding it.”

Michael C. Guanzon of
Danville said he was concerned about unintended consequences, such as the possibility that retired lawyers would avoid pro bono work rather than incur the expense of insurance.

The proposal attempts to respond to that concern by having the requirement apply only to attorneys “regularly engaged in the private practice of law involving clients (individuals or entities) drawn from the public.” Some of the 33 letters the VSB has received commenting on the proposed change – 28 of them opposed to the concept – questioned whether adding the word regularly made a significant difference.

By Alan Cooper

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