Rest insured, we’ve got your back…
The practice of law surrounding insurance is majorly important both to individuals and the commercial sector. It primarily includes the regulation of the business of insurance, regulation of the content of insurance policies and claim handling.
What does insurance law involve?
You can trace the roots of insurance law beyond the 12th and 13th century. The growth of industry came hand in hand with the rise of the maritime industry and trade, and it’s for this reason that London is the centre of the insurance market. This area of law has so far been less affected by the financial crisis than anticipated.
Insurance law work can be directly linked to external events and phenomena, for example claims put forward as a result of war, piracy, terrorism attacks or financial crises. Cases will stem from a whole manner of matters – both contentious and non-contentious – and also cover international cases.
An insurance lawyer will discern whether or not their clients are liable for damages for claims or eligible for in relation to the warranties stipulated in the relevant contracts. They will collect evidence from a range of sources in order to build a sound picture of what has happened and advise their client or employer accordingly. They will also negotiate and draft insurance policies, cover regulatory aspects such as Duty of Disclosure (the policyholder’s duty to provide pre-contract information) and investigate damages for late payments, or for personal injury claims.
Within an insurance company, they can also deal with reinsurance disputes (when a company buys insurance from another or multiple insurance).
In the case of individuals, they may work on behalf of the policyholder in an insurance claim dispute.
The type of clients you might encounter as an insurance lawyer working in England or Wales are:
- The commercial sector
- Insurance buyers
- London market end international insurance and reinsurance companies
- Lloyd’s syndicates
- Specialist insurance and reinsurance providers.
What makes a good insurance lawyer?
A real investigative edge is needed in order to put together a picture of what exactly happened in claims. Depending on the case you could be called to interview a number of people from different backgrounds and professions, making strong communication skills and adaptability key.
Empathy and a knack for handling sensitive situations is required, particularly when it comes to areas such as personal injury claims. Cases can be very complex, and an ability to understand a client’s situation whilst staying true to the facts and the commanding reason is essential.
Strong knowledge and understanding of contract law is necessary – policy drafting and assessing potential breaches of warranty is integral to this area of law. Those working in the commercial sector, in particular, will need to possess an in-depth understanding of financial risk in these markets.
James Wickes is a partner in Insurance law at RPC. If you’re wondering what he does on a day-to-day basis, wonder no more, as he runs us through a day in his working life…
What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office?
I always start my day with a coffee, a quick chat with the team and a review of the news. I have six websites I always read before I start work: the FT, Insurance Day, Bloomberg, the Lawyer, Legal Week and LinkedIn. I also receive legal updates from Lexology that I check each morning. This keeps me up-to-date with current affairs and enables me to spot trends for clients.
I spend some time looking at the key financial information for my practice, i.e. WIP, capacity levels in the team, bills that need to be chased and bills that need to be raised. Once I have done these things, I am ready to crack on with the day’s work.
How do you handle and organise/prioritise your workload?
I manage my diary very carefully and build in time slots for preparing for meetings or working on a particular matter. Without doing this, it would be easy to bounce from meeting to meeting without being fully prepared.
I will identify any urgent client matters that need to be dealt with that day and prioritise them first thing in the morning. Here at RPC, providing excellent client service is our top priority, so it is crucial for us to ensure our client’s urgent demands are met as quickly as possible. I will then manage my time around the specific requirements of my cases and a variety of non- chargeable activities.
What sort of daily responsibilities does a partner have in insurance law? How does it differ from an associate role?
The biggest difference is that I am constantly making decisions. A typical morning might involve making a recommendation on a course of action to one or more clients; deciding whether to agree a client’s secondment request; and deciding whether to promote an associate. Another day might involve engaging in a settlement negotiation on behalf of a client; interviewing a potential new recruit; and working on a pitch to a new client. I find this aspect of being a partner both exciting and challenging.
Being an insurance partner also requires a significant amount of business development activity. This ranges from client/market presentations; producing articles/blogs; assisting clients with new product development; and, most importantly, socialising and getting to know my clients and understanding their challenges. The London Insurance Market is probably the most sociable sector to work in and personal relationships are still absolutely critical to the way business gets done, including in the resolution of disputes. Maintaining a network of relationships can be time-consuming, but it is crucial to being a successful insurance partner.
Can you give us an idea of the sort of projects you manage from day to day? Which aspect of insurance law is dealt with most frequently?
I advise London market non-marine insurers/reinsurers on complex and high-value coverage disputes, in particular involving professional indemnity, directors’ & officers’ liability, warranty & indemnity, and crime insurance.
I also defend claims against financial professionals, including directors, insurance brokers, financial advisers, trustees, tax advisers, wealth managers and investment/asset/fund managers. As a firm, we advise insurers/reinsurers in various classes of commercial insurance/ reinsurance, including: international property, energy, marine, cyber, financial institutions, professional indemnity, warranty & indemnity, crime / fidelity, political risks and trade credit, kidnap & ransom, general liability, product liability, product recall, war and terrorism, construction, accident & health and contingency.
What sort of clients do you generally deal with on a day-to-day basis?
Large commercial insurers/reinsurers, including: AIG, Axis, Brit, Chubb, Liberty, Markel, QBE, Zurich and others.