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Recognising the significant impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the profession, on 15 April 2020 Queensland Law Society Council announced a $9 million support package which included a $5 million subsidy for practices insured with Lexon in the 2020/21 year.

The effect of the subsidy is to deliver a ‘one-off’ 20% reduction in base levy rates compared to 2019/20 – meaning the 2020/21 subsidised rates are now the lowest since the adoption of the model based on gross fee income (GFI) in 2007/08.

The ability to provide a subsidy in these challenging times was in no small part due to the careful and prudent management of insurance reserves held to meet future claims and the profession’s strong commitment to risk management which has lowered overall claim values in recent years.

In addition to the financial aid mentioned above, Lexon has been responding to the numerous new risk issues that have arisen out of COVID-19 with no fewer than 11 risk releases since early March 2020 covering areas that include conveyancing, wills, enduring powers of attorney, solicitors’ certificates, commercial negotiations, leasing, verification of identity and cyber remote working risks, to name a few. We know that you are finding this information of value as we have received the greatest number of weekly ‘hits’ ever to our website during this period.

Top-up insurance now available

QLS Council has arranged with Lexon to again make top-up insurance available to QLS members who would like the additional comfort of professional indemnity cover beyond the existing $2 million per claim provided to all insured practitioners.

This option is available at very competitive rates and practitioners have the choice of increasing cover under the Lexon policy to either $5 million or $10 million per claim. Details can be found with your renewal documentation.

Areas of law practised in Queensland

The graphic below depicts the comparative size of the areas of law (by GFI) practised by Lexon insureds over the period from 2016 to 2019.

Lexon graph
The comparative size of practice areas from 2016 to 2019

Personal injuries work remains the largest area of activity – consistently at or about 19%. Some interesting trends are starting to emerge in other areas, with residential conveyancing continuing to diminish – dropping almost 1% from last year to 10.6% – and commercial conveyancing remaining at long-term lows. This reflects the more subdued property market.

On the other hand, we have seen an increased trend of activity in litigation. Going forward, the data we collect will continue to reflect the ever-changing economic conditions.

Lexon-insured practices generated around $2.3 billion of GFI in 2019, having grown over 4% year on year. We expect there will be a substantial retreat from this growth rate going forward due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am always interested in receiving feedback, so if you have any issues or concerns, please feel free to drop me a line at michael.young@lexoninsurance.com.au.

June Hot Topic

Introduction of general cyber deterrent excess from 1 July 2020

The profession’s claims experience has been materially improved by the outstanding and internationally recognised risk management work our insured practices have undertaken since late 2007.

The emergence of cyber claims and the significant proportion of our portfolio (by value) that they now comprise means we need to take further steps to keep the profession’s claims experience as low as possible. Cyber criminals have been increasing their efforts to take advantage of you and your clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A cyber-related deterrent excess (an additional amount equal to twice the standard excess up to a maximum of an additional $40,000) has been in place for conveyancing matters since December 2017. It applies when we receive a claim which could have been prevented if some simple prescribed steps had been undertaken by a practice.

From 1 July 2020, Lexon will be extending this concept across all practice areas.

Final terms of this general cyber deterrent excess will be published on Lexon’s website, but key aspects address the following:

  • Where an amount of more than $10,000 has been transferred to the wrong bank account by you and those wrong bank account details were contained in an electronic communication (including email, fax, social media, text, instant messaging, chat app) and your practice did not first contact the apparent sender by previously verified contact details (a telephone number) to confirm the authenticity of the communication.
  • Where an amount of more than $10,000 has been transferred to the wrong bank account by someone else (for example, your client) and you failed at the initiation of the instructions to alert the client and any other relevant transferring parties in writing that they should not act on any communication from you requesting a transfer of funds without first making contact by previously verified contact details (a telephone number) to confirm the authenticity of the communication.

Lexon has already developed tools to assist practices in complying with these requirements.

IT system checks

With work from home the new norm during COVID-19, we recommend taking IT advice now about your systems and devices. Our Cyber Consultant, Cameron McCollum, has prepared Lexon’s Cyber Security – IT Systems LastCheck and 8 Steps to Enhance your Cyber Security while working remotely, both of which list items to take advice on.

The LastCheck is based upon Cameron’s extensive analysis of the cyber claims we have seen. Whilst these system-related issues are not currently part of the new deterrent excess regime, they may reduce the risk of having to rely on the measures above by preventing your practice being penetrated in the first place.

Did you know?

  • Lexon works closely with Queensland Law Society, Law Foundation Queensland and Solicitor Assist to ensure that practitioners who find themselves at risk of claim events are provided with practical support to see them through times of crisis.

    On a number of occasions Lexon, at its own cost, has arranged for independent assistance for practices through our free HelpNow Program where (by way of example) a practitioner may have been unexpectedly incapacitated or otherwise is unable to manage potential claim events. If you find yourself in such a situation, please contact us to see what help may be available to you.

    If you are a sole principal practice and would like to have access to the HelpNow program in the event of an emergency, please make sure you have in place an enduring power of attorney with a financial power or, if an ILP, an attorney for the entity. Otherwise, Lexon is unable to deploy its HelpNow program unless and until a receiver is first appointed to the practice.
  • Acquiring another practice or taking on a principal or legal staff from another practice may activate the ‘Prior Practice Rule’. This can affect how your levies are calculated and could mean you assume responsibility for the acquired entity’s claims performance. You can find out what to look out for and ways to minimise this risk – like using the Acquisition Endorsement – in an information sheet available on the Lexon website (lexoninsurance.com.au).

This story was originally published in Proctor June 2020.

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