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Information for New Law Practices

Information For New Law Practices

All legal practitioners practising as principals of a law practice (unsupervised) in New South Wales are required to hold or be covered by Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) pursuant to section 45 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW). Insurable solicitors in the Australian Capital Territory are required to hold an approved professional indemnity policy under section 311 of the Legal Profession Act 2006 (ACT).

Lawcover is responsible for arranging PII on behalf of NSW solicitors and is an approved professional indemnity insurer for ACT solicitors. Lawcover PII provides law practices with cover up to $2 million each claim under a PII policy underwritten by Lawcover Insurance. PII policies are issued to law practices, not individual solicitors. All new law practices in NSW and ACT must take out a PII policy.

Lawcover determines the premium, issues your PII policy, manages claims and provides practice support services. The Lawcover PII policy sets out the extent of cover and contains certain conditions and exclusions. A sample 2019/20 PII policy can be viewed here.

How to set up a new law practice in NSW

  • If you are establishing a new law practice in NSW, you must first contact the Law Society of NSW Registry on (02) 9926 0156 or registry@lawsociety.com.au to register your information.
  • In NSW, all principals of a law practice must hold a practising certificate issued to a Principal of a law practice (unsupervised).
  • Once you have completed all the Registry’s requirements and your new law practice has been registered, the Registry will advise Lawcover of your new practice’s details, including its commencement date.
  • Lawcover will then send you an information pack, which contains full details of how to arrange your PII, including a password allowing you to log in to our website and complete your law practice’s insurance application. If you are ready to do this now please click here.

How to set up a new law practice in the ACT

  • If you are establishing a new law practice in the ACT, you must first contact the ACT Law Society to register your information.

You can then contact our Insurance Services team at insuranceservices@lawcover.com.au or 1800 650 748 in order to arrange for an information pack to be sent to you. This pack contains full details of how to arrange your PII, including a password allowing you to log in to our website and complete your law practice’s insurance application. If you are ready to do this now, please click here.

Law practices with a prior practice

The Lawcover PII policy covers the former principals and employees of any prior practice that has been succeeded by a new law practice applying for insurance.

If your law practice acquires or takes on the majority of principals, legal staff, client files, assets or liabilities of a law practice, or holds itself out as a successor to another law practice, then Lawcover will likely consider that the other law practice is a prior practice of your law practice.

Factors Lawcover will consider in determining what constitutes a prior practice are contained in the PII policy. If a new law practice has a prior practice, it:

  • Will result in the PII policy responding to claims arising from legal services undertaken by the prior practice.
  • May affect its future premium calculations by taking into account the prior practice’s premium and claims history.

The effects of this are:

  • If the prior practice has been operating for more than five full financial years, the new practice may be entitled to a no claims discount, subject to claims history.
  • If the prior practice has claims, a claims loading may be applied to the new practice’s premium.
  • Continuity of cover under the PII policy will be maintained for all the former principals and employees of the prior practice.

Please see “Considerations when acquiring an existing law practice” below.

You may not have to pay an additional premium if your new practice succeeds a prior practice which has already paid its premium for that insurance year.

What is a new law practice?

A new law practice requires a new insurance policy and needs to pay a premium. A new law practice is one that is not a reconstitution of an existing practice, as determined by Lawcover.

If the new law practice is not a continuation of an existing practice that has paid its premium (see “Law Practices with a Prior Practice”), then it is a new law practice. The insurance year is effective from 1 July to 30 June in each year. New law practices commencing after 1 July are charged a premium based on their estimated gross fee income (GFI) for the period from commencement to 30 June.

Once the law practice has paid its premium, Lawcover will inform the relevant Law Society, which will then issue practising certificates to the principals and solicitors.

No claims discount

Even if you do not have a prior practice you may, on a discretionary basis, be granted a no claims discount. Lawcover may grant you a no claims discount if:

  • You have continuously been in practice as a principal for five full financial years; and
  • You and all other principals within the law practice(s) in which you were or are still a principal did not have any claims or notify any circumstances that, due to the potential for a claim, required a claims provision to be made by Lawcover or any previous PII provider.

Considerations when acquiring an existing law practice

If you are considering whether to acquire the majority of client files, legal staff or principals of an existing law practice, the claims experience of that law practice will very likely become the claims history of your law practice upon acquisition. So before acquiring a law practice, or before bringing a new solicitor into your law practice, enquire into the professional standing and performance of that law practice or solicitor.

Lawcover provides a helpful guide to assist principals in conducting due diligence when considering whether to merge with or acquire a law practice. The “Due Diligence Guide for Principals” is accessible here.