Joe Barnard, CPA

Will My Legal Malpractice Insurance Cover Work I Do On The Side?

If you’re already covered by legal malpractice insurance, you’re on the right track. Having professional liability insurance in place from the very beginning of your legal practice provides valuable protection for your reputation, your livelihood, and your assets. 

If you do legal work for more than a single firm, however, it’s important to ensure that all of the work you do is covered. Even after you purchase E&O insurance, holes in your coverage can leave you vulnerable to potentially catastrophic financial losses.

If any of the following situations apply to you, be sure to go over your policy with your agent or underwriter to make sure you’re protected.

You do pro bono work on the side

First, kudos to you for committing your hard work to making a positive difference in the world. Unfortunately, the adage, “no good deed goes unpunished” may eventually apply to you. 

If you make an error when representing someone for free, you can still be held liable for malpractice. If the pro bono work you’re dong is on behalf of the firm that employs you, then it’s likely that the firm’s policy covers that work.  If the work is on your own time, however, it’s important that you ask your employer firm (if any) whether their policy covers it.

If you own your own firm, then it’s possible that your current E&O policy covers your pro bono work, assuming the work you’re doing falls within your firm’s areas of practice. If you’re doing a different type of work for pro bono clients than you do for pay, however, it’s important to make sure that your policy includes all types of law you’re practicing—whether you’re getting paid for the work or not.

Some nonprofit organizations carry professional liability insurance for the volunteer attorneys who work with them, but you should never assume this to be the case; make sure to ask (or better yet, to see the policy for yourself).

You moonlight for extra income

If you’re employed by a law firm, then it’s unlikely that the firm’s policy will cover you for outside work that you do, since the firm would be the named insured. If you’re taking clients independently as well as through your firm, then you will likely need to purchase a separate policy for your work outside the firm.

You do work on contract or as “of counsel”

If you’ve been designated of counsel or are doing contract work for a firm for which you’re paid hourly, then it’s important to check the terms of the firm’s policy to determine whether you’re covered. Specifically, look at how the policy defines the “named insured” and “professional services.”

If you’re still unsure about your coverage after reading this language, consult with the insurance agent or underwriter. It’s possible that you will need to purchase your own professional liability insurance for this work.

Do you have questions about whether your malpractice insurance covers all of the legal work you do? Call 866-434-8557 and the experts at ProDefender can go over your current policy, help you identify any gaps, and if appropriate, match you with a policy that provides you complete coverage.


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