On October 16, 2020, the Supreme Court of West Virginia suspended a lawyer for failing to report to the state bar whether he was covered by at least $100,000 in malpractice liability insurance. See Lawyer Disciplinary Bd. re Curnutte, No. 18-01-033 (W. Va. Oct. 16, 2020). Under West Virginia’s lawyer conduct standards, lawyers must report insurance coverage (or other assets available to protect clients from malpractice) each year to the state bar. The state bar, in turn, makes these annual reports available to the public.
Do Louisiana lawyers have a similar obligation to have or to report malpractice coverage? In short, no.
More than 15 years ago, the American Bar Association adopted a “Model Rule on Insurance Disclosure.” See ABA Model Rule on Insurance Disclosure (Aug. 10, 2004). The purpose of the model court rule was to provide potential clients with access to information in order to make “an informed decision about whether to hire a particular lawyer.” Id. This model rule requires each licensed lawyer to certify “whether the lawyer is currently covered by professional liability insurance,” and “whether the lawyer intends to maintain insurance during the period of time the lawyer is engaged in the private practice of law.” The rule exempts any lawyer employed as “a full-time government lawyer” or employed “by an organizational client.” Id.
Since 2004, at least 27 states have adopted some sort of insurance disclosure requirement by mandating disclosure either on bar-registration statements or to clients directly. Several states have outright rejected the ABA model rule. Notably, two states require its lawyers to carry legal malpractice insurance (Idaho and Oregon). See ABA Standing Committee on Client Protection, State Implementation of ABA Model Court Rule on Insurance Disclosure (updated October 2019).
Although Louisiana lawyers are not required to carry or to report malpractice insurance, it is readily available. The Louisiana State Bar Association’s endorsed insurance program is administered by Gilsbar (incidentally, the name “Gilsbar” is an acronym that stands for Group Insurance Louisiana State BAR). For more information on this program, visit the LSBA webite. See LSBA-Endorsed Insurance.