The Board of Governors of the State Bar of Georgia (BOG) voted overwhelmingly on Saturday to allow Georgia lawyers to practice without malpractice insurance. Although most lawyers are insured (approximately 70-75% of them according an estimate of the Professional Liability Insurance Committee), that still leaves as many as 10,000 uninsured lawyers practicing in Georgia. The BOG even rejected the recommendation of the Professional Liability Insurance Committee to require that lawyers disclose their insurance status to the State Bar and on its website so that legal consumers could easily find out if they are hiring an insured lawyer. In a final blow to the Committee’s efforts, the BOG voted to disband the committee, thereby ensuring that the issue of professional liability insurance will not arise again, at least for the foreseeable future.
In the aftermath of this vote, I have been repeatedly asked why lawyers would vote against an insurance requirement. After all, even the Committee concluded that non-lawyers almost always assume that lawyers are insured. The truth is, the reasons for the opposition varied, from infringing on the “freedom” of lawyers to be uninsured to concerns that the cost of insurance for younger lawyers starting out (approximately $100 or less per month) would impede their ability to practice. In the end, however, the reasons for opposition all had one thing in common–they placed the interests of the lawyers above those of the clients.
There was one point, however, on which everyone seemed to agree: malpractice insurance is a good idea for every lawyer in private practice. Perhaps this message got through to a handful of uninsured lawyers. Perhaps a few more will choose to take the ethical step of protecting their clients from the impact of their mistakes by carrying malpractice insurance.