AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION
STANDING COMMITTEE ON
LAWYERS' PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY
INFORMATIONAL REPORT TO THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES
The Standing Committee on Lawyers' Professional Liability (ABA LPL) seeks to: identify
the causes of malpractice claims; provide resources to the legal profession and the
insurance industry on developments in the legal malpractice field; design and
encourage the implementation of malpractice prevention programs; educate the
insurance industry and the legal profession about the relationship between the
operational aspects of law practice and the underwriting of legal malpractice insurance;
and encourage a responsible approach to increasing the availability of malpractice
insurance at the state and local bar level.
The Committee sponsors two National Legal Malpractice Conferences each year. The
Fall 2009 Conference in Chicago, IL had 382 registrants, including insurance company
representatives, ethics experts, and defense and plaintiff counsel. Conference sessions
included: discussion of major court sanctions; a mediation demonstration; fee-
agreement tips; discussion of specific lawyer activities most likely to lead to malpractice
claims; the ethics, benefits and dangers of “unbundled” legal services; how corporate
bankruptcies can present a risk to the former counsel; and liability and coverage issues
presented by the new law firm practice configurations. The Spring 2010 National Legal
Malpractice Conference will be held at the JW Marriott Pennsylvania Ave. on April 14-
The Committee placed two of its sessions from the Spring 2009 National Legal
Malpractice Conference with the ABA CLE Department as MP3 downloads. The two
sessions are on “When and How to Use Jury Consultants, Focus Groups, and Mock
Trials” and “Defending Cases with Complicated Coverage Issues.” The Committee also
served as a resource for the December 2009 ABA Journal series of ten articles on
ethical and malpractice pitfalls and for the Financier Worldwide magazine on
“Professional Liability in a Distressed Market.” The Committee also conducts the Levit
Essay Competition to recognize innovative writing in professional liability. The Contest
is only open to Young Lawyer and Law Student Division members and offers a cash
prize of $5,000 which is provided by the San Francisco firm of Long & Levit LLC.
The Committee continues to monitor the legal malpractice insurance market. A
subcommittee monitors the general availability of professional liability insurance.
Additionally, the Committee conducts its annual meeting of state bar liability
chairpersons in conjunction with each Spring National Legal Malpractice Conference.
The Committee is sponsoring a first-time roundtable discussion of law school initiatives
on teaching legal malpractice at its Spring 2010 National Legal Malpractice Conference.
The Committee is also working in conjunction with the ABA Center on Pro Bono to
produce materials on the availability of legal malpractice insurance for pro bono work.
Many lawyers have questions about legal malpractice insurance: how it works, where it
can be purchased, and how they can be sure they receive the coverage they need at a
commercially feasible cost. Therefore, the Committee sponsors the Legal Malpractice
Insurance Hotline, a telephone-based technical assistance service. Callers receive
information on where they can obtain legal malpractice insurance for their particular
needs; what they need to know before they choose a legal malpractice insurance
company; what to be aware of when they read a legal malpractice insurance policy; and
how to incorporate basic risk management techniques into their practices.
The Committee offers an annually updated directory entitled “Selecting Legal
Malpractice Insurance,” which includes information on insurers on a state-by-state
basis, articles on various aspects of legal malpractice insurance, an analysis of key
components of insurance policies, and a checklist for selecting legal malpractice
policies. Current budget constraints prevent printing of this publication; the Committee’s
website contains an electronic version of this information at
The Committee conducts the only national data collection study of the incidence of legal
malpractice claims. The Committee continues to market its most recent study Profile of
Legal Malpractice Claims: 2004-2007. This report is widely disseminated within the
insurance industry and the profession and serves as a resource for discussion of
marketplace trends and for design of loss prevention programs. Complimentary copies
were distributed to study participants, state bar liability chairpersons, state bar law
practice management advisors, and law school law practice management professors.
The Lawyers’ Professional Liability Consortium (LPLC) is a project sponsored by the
Committee that brings together leaders in the legal malpractice field, including lawyers,
law firms, insurance company executives, underwriters, brokers, and agents. As of this
report date the LPLC had the following subscribers: 78 individual and 119 organizational
entities. Individual subscribers receive a non-transferable benefit of free attendance at
each of the two conferences and organizational members receive a benefit of two
attendees per each conference from the same corporate or law firm entity.
The Committee continues its eMembership feature for subscribers to the LPLC. This
subscription site features newsflash items, a compendium of professional liability
knowledge and insurance-specific information, links and two electronic newsletters – the
monthly LPL eAdvisory and the LPL eAdvisory NewsFlash. Currently there are 24 e-
member subscribers in addition to those who receive information because of their
individual or organizational membership.
Edith R. Matthai, Chair