Maria Capocci, trainee solicitor at Clyde & Co
The contentious work conducted in the insurance sector can be split into two categories: coverage and defence.
Fee-earners will consider whether claims notified by the insured are covered under the particular policy. Fee-earners and trainees conduct various investigations on the claim and prepare reports to insurers regarding the position on liability and recommended reserves. Fee-earners may also be required to draft declinature letters where they are certain that the claim can be declined as it falls outside the terms of the insurance policy.
Trainees may be involved in a range of coverage-related tasks. For example, when the papers are received from the insurer, trainees put together a bundle and a chronology so that the details of the claim and its notification can be considered. Trainees may also have the opportunity to carry out legal and factual research and draft notes in relation to the likely position on liability and quantum. There may be opportunities for trainees to be involved in drafting reports to insurers and letters to the insured communicating the position taken under the policy.
Defence work involves dispute resolution, which is what most non-lawyers first think of when imagining what lawyers do. This involves assisting with determining a civil dispute between parties. This can involve a number of sub-disciplines:
- Litigation – this is where one party sues another in a national court. This could be a claim for damages for a breach of contract or tortious acts (this is common in professional negligence insurance work); or an order to get someone to stop doing something or comply in a specific way (an injunction); or to perform a contract (specific performance). The parties will present their case – often prepared by a solicitor and presented by a barrister – to a judge who makes a binding decision on the claim.
- Arbitration – this is akin to a private court. The parties will appoint an arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators to hear their claim and make a binding decision. This process is private, confidential and sometimes more cost-effective. This can be used for international disputes.
- Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) – this involves different, consensual (non-binding) methods to resolve disputes. For example, ADR includes simple negotiations through mediation – where a neutral third party attempts to broker a deal between the parties. Parties will use this alongside litigation and arbitration. It is more beneficial for parties to settle using ADR, due to the costs associated with litigation and arbitration.
Day-to-day fee-earners will typically manage the file (especially if it is going to a court trial), be the key point of contact for both the insurers and the insured, draft reports to insurers which typically include advice on the next steps to be taken and delegate work to trainees.
Trainees in insurance seats can benefit from a wide range of work from the outset. When instructions are first received, trainees will be tasked with preparing e-bundles of the relevant documentation received on the matter and may be asked to create a detailed timeline of events. Trainees may be asked to draft various documents including witness statements, letters of response and attendance notes. If the claim is issued at court, trainees will be offered the opportunity to be involved in preparing the statements of case and may be asked to track subsequent court deadlines, which is essential in managing the matter.
Skills required in the job
Successful insurance sector-focused solicitors and trainees usually demonstrate some or all of the following characteristics:
- An analytical mind – to resolve a dispute you must be able to identify what the real issues are. This includes being able to analyse what each party’s motivations, strengths and weaknesses are.
- Attention to detail – this is an essential skill because the tiniest details can be critical to proving a point that may be material to your client’s case.
- Commercial awareness – although this may be an obvious point, the insurance market is largely influenced by the current political and economic situation. The market reacts to new risks quickly and therefore keeping up to date on what is happening at Lloyds and the insurance market as a whole is fundamental to understanding your clients’ needs.
- Communication – you will be required to balance the interests of both the insurer and the insured. Each party will have different interests and it is important that you communicate the appropriate information to each.
- Organisation – even at a trainee level you will be required to work on multiple claims simultaneously. Meeting procedural deadlines can be challenging if you have competing deadlines for different claims. Working methodically and in an organised manner will help to alleviate the stress associated with these deadlines.
- A sense of humour – which helps with the stress!
Areas of personal development
- Practical application of the law – this is largely built up from research. Many of the queries put to trainees require a practical application of both substantive law and case law to the facts of each dispute. You will learn how to apply principles from case law in a way that offers innovative solutions to the firm’s clients.
- Improved knowledge of substantive legal procedures – includes understanding the pre-action protocols, how to apply the relevant sections of the Civil Procedure Rules and knowledge and practice of applying Practice Directions introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Case studies of the firm’s work in this area
Clyde & Co is renowned for its capabilities in insurance law, and is ranked by The Legal 500 as Tier 1 for Professional disputes work. Some examples of the firm’s work are:
- Defending a multinational law firm in a malpractice claim brought by the firm’s former client, an international digital company.
- Advising insurers on the coverage of a claim made by an insured. The insured had multiple malpractice claims, relating to fraud, brought by the parties acting on the other side of various property transactions.
- Coverage advice to insurers on a US$350m construction failure in North America.
Clyde & Co