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Possible disclosure rule for uninsured lawyers

Lawyers who do not carry professional liability insurance will have to disclose to their clients, in writing, that they are uninsured if a proposal by a State Bar task force is approved by the Supreme Court.

Former bar President Jim Towery told the board of governors last month that the group he chairs likely will propose a Rule of Court to require lawyers in private practice to disclose to the State Bar whether they carry malpractice insurance. In addition, Towery said the task force will propose a Rule of Professional Conduct that will require uninsured lawyers to disclose that information in writing to new and existing clients.

The Supreme Court would have to approve both rules.

Towery said he expects both proposals to go out for a 90-day public comment in February or March.

Since 2000, there has been no disclosure requirement in California. In August 2004, the ABA House of Dele-gates approved a disclosure requirement to state licensing authorities. The Towery task force is an outgrowth of the ABA move.

Towery said 15 states have adopted a disclosure requirement and another seven, including California, are considering the idea. Statistics are not readily available, but a demographic survey of bar members in 2001 indicated that about 18 percent are uninsured.

“California has a justifiably proud history of being a leader in public protection,” Towery said. “We are continuing that fine tradition.”

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