Insurance note from the Legal Services Committee

We are in the midst of the annual insurance renewal season and all barristers have been considering the level of cover which they need and the terms on which that cover is provided. Some diligent practitioners have noticed that the standard terms of cover provided by the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund (BMIF) do not cover many activities which barristers regularly engage in, such as writing articles, giving advice for free to a friend, communicating with the press and advising “on matters of general legal principle” as a charity trustee. These matters are excluded from the BMIF’s standard definition of “Legal Services”.

It is therefore well worth being aware that the top-up cover which is referred to in the standard BMIF renewal form, and may be provided through one of three competing brokers, contains, as one of its standard terms, an extension of cover for these and other activities. This extension provides cover not for the sums insured in excess of the BMIF level of cover, but for the full amount of any claim arising under the extension (subject in some cases to a limit – often £500,000 or £1m – and potentially a deductible – typically £500). At least one of the brokers is prepared to offer this extension of cover as a freestanding extension to the BMIF cover without purchase of a top-up policy.

All barristers should consider not only whether the nature of their practice makes it advisable for them to purchase top-up insurance cover, but also whether the activities they carry it out make it appropriate for them to have extended cover for the matters discussed in this article (whether as part of a top-up policy or by way of a free-standing extension).

Clearly, the terms, limits and price of each policy need to be individually considered before deciding whether to purchase it. However, it is likely that the more barristers there are who express an interest in purchasing such cover, the more attractive it is likely to be for insurers to provide it, which should result in better terms and cheaper premiums.