Your Opinion in Action: Mandatory Malpractice Insurance Discussion

Results of Attorney Survey and Feedback from December 2017

In December 2017, nearly 9,000 active and active exempt attorneys were invited to offer feedback to the state bar’s Board of Governors taskforce regarding whether attorneys licensed in Nevada should be required to carry professional liability (malpractice) insurance. A survey polled bar members for their opinions regarding this significant issue, and bar members were invited to submit long-form feedback to the board’s taskforce via email.

More than a thousand attorneys responded to the survey. The state bar sincerely thanks its members for taking the time to offer their input; your feedback has proved invaluable to the state bar’s taskforce. For more information on this potential program, see “Join the Discussion: Whether Malpractice Insurance Should be Mandatory for Nevada Attorneys,” in the December 2017 issue of Nevada Lawyer magazine.

Survey respondents had several qualities in common. The majority of responses came from attorneys working in private practice (51 percent), and the majority currently work in Nevada (86 percent). In addition, more than two-thirds of responses came from lawyers practicing in solo or small practice settings (70 percent).

Mandatory Malpractice Insurance: Survey Results

Half of the attorneys (50.2 percent) who responded to the December 2017 survey already carry professional liability insurance for their law practice, and most (72 percent) are in small practices with two to four total attorneys. The most commonly carried policy limits (40 percent) are $1 million per claim with a $1 million aggregate limit across all claims.

Respondents provided valuable feedback regarding their concerns about specific aspects of implementing a mandatory malpractice requirement. Of greatest concern to survey-takers (59 percent) was the impact the cost of such insurance would have on solo and small practices. Several respondents (58 percent) also expressed concern that mandatory insurance requirements would inhibit their ability to provide low-cost or free legal services if they are not employed at a firm or actively practicing law. Attorneys were also very concerned of the impact insurance premiums would have on high-risk practice areas (54 percent). The taskforce looked into ways to mitigate these concerns.

Two-thirds of respondents agreed that attorneys have a responsibility to protect their clients from financial loss that may be caused by their negligence (65 percent). Similarly, most attorneys (64 percent) agreed that malpractice insurance provides a method of financial recovery for clients injured by attorney negligence.

Respondents were divided on whether they believed that mandating that attorneys carry a minimum level of professional liability insurance would protect the public. Thirty-nine percent disagreed with that statement; 35 percent agreed.

Conversely, a clear majority (59 percent) of respondents shared the belief that attorneys who do not carry malpractice insurance negatively impact the professional reputation of the legal community as a whole.  Similarly, nearly a third (60 percent) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “Attorneys without insurance are no more likely to commit malpractice than those with insurance.” In addition, a similar majority (56 percent) disapproved of a proposal to mandate attorneys disclose to potential clients prior to representing them whether they carry malpractice insurance.Feedback received from respondents was invaluable. The taskforce used this information to revise its recommendations, which were submitted to the Board of Governors at its January 2018 meeting. The Board of Governors approved the taskforce’s recommendations and plans to file an administrative docket (ADKT) with the Nevada Supreme Court on this matter in the near future.