Joe Barnard, CPA

Do You Have Gaps in Your Legal Malpractice Insurance?

It’s great to have professional liability insurance that covers your day-to-day work, and if you’re settled at a firm that provides coverage, you may feel like you’re safe and protected.

Nowadays, however, attorneys’ careers are more portable and flexible than ever. Maybe you did a few years of contract work before you joined a firm; maybe you still do some pro bono or other extra work on the side. 

As your practice changes over time, your coverage needs change, too. Do you know if you’re covered now for all the work you do or have done?

The Early Years

In your first few years of practice, you may not realize the importance of carrying professional liability insurance, especially if you’re doing sporadic contract work rather than practicing full time. Many legal malpractice claims don’t arise until years after the original services were provided, so these first years can loom over the rest of your career like a ticking time bomb. For this reason, having professional liability insurance in place from the very beginning of your legal practice is the best way to protect your reputation, livelihood, and assets.

It’s also important to ensure that your coverage continues seamlessly throughout your career. E&O insurance operates on a “claims made” basis, meaning that a policy you had in place at the beginning of your career won’t cover a claim that arises after you switch insurers, even when that claim results from work you did while covered by your previous insurer.

Retroactive coverage helps to ensure that work you did earlier in your career is covered by your current E&O policy, regardless of changes in your insurance policy or provider.

Expanding Your Horizons

As your practice grows and changes, you may take on new kinds of work in different areas of the law. If you do so, make sure they’re covered under your existing professional liability policy. Some areas of practice have a higher liability risk than others, so it’s important that your insurer is aware of all of your areas of practice.

Side Gigs

If you do additional work outside your firm (pro bono, contract, or of counsel), make sure that everything you are doing is covered. Possible coverage options can include your firm’s policy or a policy held by a non-profit organization you’re working with; otherwise, you should investigate adding coverage through an independent personal policy.

Making the Leap to Solo Practice

If you leave your firm to go solo, your employer’s tail coverage may cover only the firm and not you personally for claims made after you leave. When you obtain coverage for your new venture, make sure it reaches back to cover claims made against you in your previous practice.

Leaving the Profession 

When you leave the practice of law, whether to retire or make a career change, your liability for your prior practice doesn’t end. Be sure to have tail coverage to protect you against claims that may come up after you leave the active practice of law. This coverage is also referred to as an “extended reporting period.” If any claims are made after your policy reporting period ends, you’ll still be covered.

If you plan to consult, act as “of counsel” to a firm, or otherwise continue to lightly practice after your retirement, check with your insurer to ensure you are covered no matter what.

Get Customized Professional Liability Coverage 

A comprehensive legal professional liability insurance policy can provide you with peace of mind through all the stages of your legal career. ProDefender has affordable, understandable policies for every attorney. Click the link below to contact us and get started on finding the coverage that’s perfect for you.


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