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By Law Journal Editorial Board |February 19, 2018 at 01:00 PM Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided. In February 2014, the Supreme Court appointed an ad hoc committee to address the questions of whether attorneys should disclose to clients and report on the annual registration statement whether they carry professional liability insurance; whether such a client disclosure requirement would unfairly burden small firms and solo practitioners; whether such a disclosure requirement is even necessary if there is no mandate to maintain professional liability insurance; and whether mandatory insurance itself would unfairly burden small firms and solo practitioners. After extensive review and discussions of material contained in its 170-page report, the committee concluded that professional liability insurance should not be mandatory for New Jersey attorneys because it would be unworkable in the marketplace and unfairly punitive to small firms, solo practitioners and attorneys engaged in the part-time practice of law. Except for Oregon, other jurisdictions studying the question have determined mandatory malpractice coverage is neither practical nor necessary for attorneys to serve their clients competently. This conclusion has been echoed by the American Bar Association after study of the subject. The ad hoc committee also concluded that a mandatory insurance requirement might well place the decision as to who is able to practice law in the hands of private insurance carriers, few of which write policies in this state, and those who do have strict underwriting criteria and detailed application processes. Unlike Oregon, which has guaranteed coverage, New Jersey attorneys might be unable to obtain liability coverage for any number of reasons, many of which are unrelated to attorney claims history, competence and integrity, or practice in what are believed to be high-risk areas of the law. In 2003 the ABA charged one of its standing committees to consider if attorneys should be required to disclose whether they carry professional liability insurance coverage and, if so, the form of that disclosure. The ABA committee recommended a model court rule requiring lawyers to inform the highest court in their jurisdiction, or a designated entity, whether they have coverage. The thought was that consumers of legal services would then have access to this information and decide whether to hire a lawyer who does not maintain coverage. The ABA, however, rejected the recommendation that lawyers be required to disclose directly to clients whether they are covered by liability insurance. A minority of the committee contended that such a proposed registration rule does not truly help the public make fully informed decisions because it depends on prospective clients seeking out the information.

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