In the Claims Department at Lawyers Mutual, we like to talk about how our deep roots and experience allow us to provide an unmatched level of service. We tout the fact that most of the significant legal malpractice appellate opinions in North Carolina were Lawyers Mutual cases argued by Lawyers Mutual defense counsel over the last 35 years. We often point to our longstanding involvement with and commitment to organizations like the Advocates for Justice, the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, the North Carolina Bar Association and its various sections and so many other lawyer associations and organizations throughout the state. We can be proud of our past and the service we have provided to our insured lawyers. However, successes and accomplishments of the past mean nothing if a company fails to stay relevant and current for its customers. Just ask the shareholders and management of Blockbuster Video. At one time, Blockbuster was the king of video rental. When Blockbuster refused to adjust its business model to stay current with movie-by-mail service and later movie online service, the company failed. If we want to be here today and tomorrow, we can’t make the same mistake.
So what are we doing in Claims to stay relevant and current for our insureds?
CLAIMS TRENDS AND STATUTORY AND CASE LAW DEVELOPMENTS.
As the largest malpractice carrier in North Carolina, we have the unique ability to use our enterprise resource planning software system to capture legal malpractice claims data that shows us trends in malpractice claims. This allows us to give our insureds a heads-up when a certain area of practice becomes more vulnerable to claims. We also stay on top of statutory and case law developments that affect our insureds’ practices. We make them aware of these changes and offer suggestions and solutions to avoid pitfalls and traps created by the changes. We have provided our insureds with alerts on issues ranging from changes to the medical malpractice pleading requirements to modifications in estate planning brought about by the new portability rules in the estate tax laws.
Those lawyers who were practicing when Lawyers Mutual was founded can remember the days of typewriters and carbon paper copies. Our greatest technology fear was running out of white-out. Today, lawyers must guard against much more substantial and invasive technological threats. Cyber criminals have made lawyers and law firms a primary target for money and confidential client information. We work hard to stay on top of those threats and notify our insureds as soon as possible through emergency alerts. We are working with our Client Services Department to provide timely and informative seminars and resources to our insureds. We are also training our claims attorneys to understand how cyber crime works and what can be done to guard against attacks.
North Carolina, like most states, has an aging lawyer population. When you combine increased life expectancy with the baby boomer phenomenon, you end up with a substantial increase in the number of senior lawyers practicing in our state. This presents a unique set of issues for these lawyers and the firms in which they work. Senior lawyers are at higher risk for disability and cognitive impairment. We decided that we needed to be prepared to respond to this situation, so our claims attorneys worked with Client Services and outside counsel to create the HELP Team to provide assistance to our insureds in emergency situations resulting from the death or disability of a lawyer or other event that prevents one of our insureds from continuing their practice. This is just one more way that we are assisting our insureds in response to the demographic changes that are occurring in the profession.
Our goal has always been to provide the highest level of service possible for our insureds. In 1978, that might have meant picking up a rotary dial phone to take an insured’s call and then promptly typing and sending out a letter. Today, it could mean sending out an e-mail alert to a targeted group of insureds or leveraging our database to provide helpful risk management advice to our insureds. And while we may use technology to our advantage, we will never stray from the personal, one-on-one service that we have always offered to our insureds.