2024 Solicitors PI Renewal
1st April 2024 Solicitors PI Renewal
The 1st April 2024 Solicitors Renewal ‘season’ is up and running. Although a clear majority of lawyers still renew their professional indemnity insurance with effect from 1st October, 1st April is now an important renewal timetable and the SRA-qualifying insurers are fully engaged. So if your firm renews its cover in April, what can you expect and how might that affect your renewal?
In the ten months since April 2023, there has been a clear increase in capacity, with the arrival first of Fortegra Europe and more recently of Alchemy, as SRA-qualifying insurers. And it may not end there, with other entrants thought to be close to joining. The arrival of these two markets is having an impact, and we are seeing a clear softening of rates, but that is unlikely to be felt evenly across the profession. Put simply, all qualifying insurers want to insure the most attractive law firms, those with the lowest risk profile, which means that those legal practices with more challenging profiles may not feel the effects of that capacity increase.
Qualifying insurers’ underwriting appetites vary considerably; whilst some like to underwrite niche law firms that focus exclusively on one area of legal practice, such as Shipping or Matrimonial work, the majority will write general practice law firms, although their appetites for high-risk work such as Conveyancing or Wills & Probate – and the percentages of total fees that they will accept – vary quite considerably. Similarly, the number of partners/directors in a given firm will directly affect whether a particular insurer will consider offering terms for your practice. So it’s essential that your broker is fully understanding of what different insurers are looking for, and can set out a clear broking strategy for your firm’s renewal. And there are insurers, most notably Zurich Insurance, that is effectively closed to new business altogether.
Red Flags for April 2024 Solicitors Renewal
All underwriters are trying to avoid writing new business where they perceive there to be a heightened risk of a claim. Here are our thoughts on what they will be looking out for most keenly;
- Conveyancing: This continues to be one of the biggest causes of claims against law firms and underwriters will be looking to avoid firms with inadequate supervision arrangements or weak internal systems and procedures. Among their biggest concerns are Identity fraud, Buyer Funded Development work, Escalating Ground Rent work or Multiple Dwelling Relief work.
- Probate & Estate Administration: For firms undertaking Probate and Estate Administration work, insurers want to avoid those that appear to ‘dabble’ in this area of law, and don’t have the necessary experience and risk management procedures. Of particular risk are Probate disputes among beneficiaries, issues relating to a client’s Mental Capacity, and errors by a firm in drafting, estate administration and tax.
- Financial Weakness: Insurers are particularly wary of law firms experiencing financial distress and unclear succession arrangements, where there is a heightened risk of a firm putting its policy into run-off but then failing to pay its run-off premium.
- Cyber: As claims from Cyber-related losses rise in frequency and size, underwriters are looking to avoid firms with inadequate IT security arrangements. Many insurers want a full Cyber Questionnaire completed and will seek to avoid those firms that can’t demonstrate robust IT security arrangements, or adjust their premiums if they perceive any weakness and a heightened risk of a loss.
So What Next?
- Ensure that your proposal form and any supplementary questionnaires are fully completed without gaps, and that all of the financial data ties up between forms. Any supplementary information provided to give a clearer response to any questions, should be clearly referenced to the applicable question. Presentation matters!
- Include in any internal audit reports, quality assurance results or regulatory assessments, that evidences the practice’s progress is reducing risk.
- Provide up to date (dated within 30 days ideally) qualifying insurer claim summaries from all insurers for the past six policy years, at least.
- Engage with your broker so that you have a clear understanding and are in agreement with their proposed broking strategy for your practice’s renewal, and agree a timetable for completing the renewal.
- If your broker has not already started the renewal process, call them. Start now!
Article provided by Andrew Kenyon, Director, Cox Mahon
About Cox Mahon
Cox Mahon Ltd is an independent, FCA-regulated and owner-led insurance broker specializing in PI for the legal profession. From offices in Shrewsbury and London, we have 20 years of experience placing PI insurance for law firms of all shapes and sizes, from sole practitioners to multi-partner firms, including advising on the PI implications of mergers, acquisitions and closures. And through long-term relationships with underwriters, we maintain the widest possible market access. If you’d value a fresh look at your firm’s arrangements, please call us; we’d love to hear from you.