In Australia, the clients of lawyers have the ability to sue when their lawyer misses a court imposed deadline or does not inform the client on important decisions that can hurt the case – this is why most law firms generally require a number of specialist insurance policies including malpractice insurance, liability insurance or professional indemnity insurance for lawyers.
Law Practices in Australia
In Victoria law practices are required to obtain professional indemnity insurance. This specific insurance must cover civil liability and must be held with LPLC. All the principals and employee of the law practice should be covered by the civil liability insurance.
The terms of contracts and all other arrangements for professional indemnity insurance are approved by the Board. Currently the Board has approved the LPLC insurances for the practising certificate for the period 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015.
Certain law practice firms may be exempt by the Board from this requirement in special circumstances.
For instance, interstate law practices such as lawyers in Newcastle NSW have been granted exemption until 30 June 2015.
Barristers, as sole practitioners, are included in within the definition of “law practice” and therefore must also obtain professional indemnity insurance in Victoria.
However, a barrister may be exempt by the Board from the requirement to have professional indemnity insurance in certain circumstances. For instance, Interstate barristers have been granted exemption from this requirement for the practising year 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015.
The benefit of a barrister insurance policy is that it is extremely similar to that of a bookkeeper or accountant so it’s generally cheaper. So whether it’s a barrister in Sydney or a bookkeeper Adelaide, the insurance policy is going to be pretty much the same!
Community legal centres
Community legal centres are also required to have professional indemnity insurance in Victoria. Their insurance should cover the civil liability of each person who is or is an employee, volunteer or contractor of the community legal centre. The community legal centres must hold professional indemnity insurance with VMIA or NACLC.
The terms and conditions are currently approved by the Board for the practising year 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015. If the community legal centre holds a different professional indemnity insurance policy than the approved VMIA and NACLC policies, it must apply for approval to the Board prior to commencing legal practice in Victoria. Community legal centres can also be exempted by the Board from compliance with the requirements for professional indemnity insurance, in certain conditions.
Foreign Lawyers (Australian-registered)
Australian-registered foreign lawyers who hold a legal practice in Victoria are also required to obtain Board approved professional indemnity insurance offered by the LPLC. Those foreign lawyers who are already covered by the pre-approved LPLC policy do not have to go again through the approval process.
Foreign lawyers may also ask the Board for approval for of an insurance policy acquired through a different insurer than the LPLC if the terms and conditions are similaras the LPLC policy. No foreign lawyers are exempt by the Board from professional indemnity insurance requirements.
In case of the corporate legal practitioners, they are not required by the Act to maintain professional indemnity insurance. However, those corporate legal practitioners who provide pro bono legal services must be covered by professional indemnity insurance.
The Board may grant exemptions from the requirements for professional indemnity insurance under section 3.5.7 of the Act. Each of the three sub sections contains a separate ground for Board’s exemption.
All exemption applications to the Board must be in writing, set out the law practice’s grounds for exemption and specify the sub section under which it seeks exemption. Of course, whether it meets the class exemption criteria it is up to the law practice to determine.
The video below outlines more about insurance, taxation and legal issues facing expats living in Australia: