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In this edition we look at:

  • the most common 'types' of claims we see at Law Mutual and what you might do to avoid them
  • what might constitute a 'circumstance' under your Certificate of Insurance
  • remind you to get your applications and payments for insurance for 2016/2017 to us in time to ensure your PC is issued by 1 July

Types of claim

Given the amount of literature written on them and the number of times they have been covered in risk management seminars, it is somewhat surprising that 'missed limitation periods' and 'conflicts of interest' are a major underlying allegation in 21% and 18% respectively of claims received by Law Mutual*.

Limitation Periods

Without going into chapter and verse, it is essential that a law practice maintain an effective diary or update system that calls out any limitation dates well before they are reached. Any such system should be subject to regular reviews to ensure it is operating properly in your practice.

Of course, the system is only as good as the information that you put into it, so it is also essential that you remain up to date on any statutory limitation periods and any deadlines imposed by Courts or other parties to a transaction or action.

You should take particular care when taking over an existing file from another practitioner that you consider any limitation periods that might apply not just to the subject matter of the file itself but to the other practitioner’s actions.

Likewise, if you are handing a file over to another practitioner or back to a client, you should ensure they are aware of any relevant limitation periods.

Conflict of Interest

All practitioners should be well versed as to what is required of them by the Professional Conduct Rules when they perceive of a possible conflict of interest.

What some practitioners appear to forget is:

  • don’t try and sort out the problem yourself; you should do nothing further until you and your client have fully considered the position
  • conflicts don’t only arise when you are taking on new instructions or new clients; they are likely to occur during the course of a matter or with respect to existing clients. Be alert for possible conflicts at all times

What constitutes a 'circumstance'?

While the relevant Law Mutual Master Policy clearly defines what a claim is (that must be notified to Law Mutual as soon as practicable), it is sometimes more difficult to determine what are facts or circumstances that might give rise to a claim.

This was recently discussed in the November edition of the Zurich UK publication solicitors@risk. Although the UK policy wording is different to Law Mutual’s, it gives some practical guidance as follows:

“A circumstance…basically arises where you become aware of an occurrence or problem, which may give rise to a third party claim, but no formal or actual claim has been made to you.”

It goes on to say:

“Circumstances should be distinguished from other disputes (such as complaints or fee disputes) that will not give rise to a claim.”

The article urges practitioners to notify insurers of any relevant situation, even if you are unsure whether it amounts to a ‘circumstance’.

And we agree with the article when it states:

“Insurers view notification of circumstances…as a sign of a firm that adheres to good risk management practices…”

With thanks to the editor of solicitors@risk - November 2015 edition


Applications for the 2016/2017 Insurance Arrangements

In the not too distant future Law Practices will be receiving communications from Law Mutual setting out the process for the 2016/2017 Insurance Arrangements. Please note that each Practice will need to have its Application form to us by 31 March 2016 and pay its invoice by no later than 15 May 2016. Don’t miss these deadlines or the renewal of your Practising Certificate may be at risk!


You can find us at

Contact Law Mutual (WA)

Street Address: Level 4, 160 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000
Postal Address: PO Box Z5345, Perth WA 6831

Telephone:  (08) 9481 3111   |  Facsimile:  (08) 9481 3166