Ethics Series Part 3: Understanding Malpractice Insurance for Freelance Attorneys

ethicsUnderstanding legal malpractice insurance coverage is critical, especially for freelance attorneys who may rely upon a hiring law firm for coverage. Although malpractice insurance is not ethically required, the practical reality is that freelance attorneys are only protected from malpractice claims if they ensure their work is covered by malpractice insurance.

When working for a law firm, freelance attorneys may be tempted to scrimp on purchasing their own malpractice coverage believing that the hiring law firm’s policy will cover their work. But even when the law firm carries its own malpractice insurance, the partner hiring the freelance attorney may not understand the terms of the firm’s policy and may inadvertently skip the necessary steps to secure the appropriate coverage.

For a freelance attorney to be covered by a law firm’s policy, the law firm must first have a rider or endorsement to its malpractice insurance policy that permits the firm to add independent contractors to its policy coverage. Second, and most importantly, the law firm must notify its carrier each time a freelance attorney is hired. Further, if the freelance attorney is added to the firm’s policy, the freelance attorney must ensure that when the firm renews its coverage that his or her name remains as an additional insured. If a claim arises and the freelance attorney is not named as an additional insured at the time the claim is filed, the freelance attorney will not be covered by the firm’s malpractice insurance.

Hence, if a freelance attorney relies upon malpractice coverage from the contracting law firm, the freelance attorney should confirm that his or her name is added to the firm’s malpractice policy and that his or her name remains there in successive years if the freelance relationship continues. In the alternative, a freelance attorney can purchase his or her own malpractice coverage and not worry whether the law firm adequately notifies its malpractice carrier of the attorney’s work.

Finally, freelance attorneys who have their own malpractice insurance set themselves apart from the competition as contracting with them becomes easier and less cumbersome than working with other legal contractors who have not made this investment.

The fourth and last post in this ethics series will address how a law firm can bill its client for the work performed by a freelance attorney.

Effective February 3, 2014, Susan has moved her law practice to the Environmental Law Group and is no longer working as a freelance attorney. You can reach her at MFAN Bio | Email | LinkedIn | MFAN Posts

2 Responsesto “Ethics Series Part 3: Understanding Malpractice Insurance for Freelance Attorneys”

  1. Karin Ciano says:

    Great post Susan! It’s helpful to know how to follow up with a hiring firm to ensure you’re covered. A lot may depend on the firm; some firms may frequently work with outside attorneys and have policies in place to ensure coverage, while for others, it’s something that comes up only when needed. Having your own policy ensures that you’re protected if you ever need it.

  2. Susan Wiens says:

    Thanks for your comment, Karin. Unless you have your own malpractice insurance, it can be difficult to ensure that you are covered under another’s policy. And, for those who are planning to retire soon, be sure to talk to your insurer about a “tail” policy that covers you after you stop practicing law.


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