Chubb Insurance has refused to cover a blog under a law firm’s malpractice coverage.

Heather Havenstein of Computerworld reports on what James Paone, a partner at Lomurro, Davison, Eastman and Munoz in Freehold, N.J., told her:

We were in the process of beginning to set up a blog, having internal discussions about what areas of law would be the subjects. We wanted to cover the first base, which is [Chubb’s] coverage. Our insurance carrier said [a blog] is not a risk they were interested in insuring. The entire discussion stopped.

Paone also told Havenstein his law firm is setting up a meeting with Chubb Insurance ‘so we can understand what their rationale is for saying they weren’t interested in covering that kind of risk.’

It’ll be interesting what Chubb tells Paone. I have not heard of any cases where a law firm has been sued or been the subject of a malpractice claim from publishing a blog. What does Chubb know that the rest of the world does not?

I got a call from a New Jersey reporter on Chubb’s denial to cover. I told her it sounded like a typical insurance company. ‘Exclude coverage for anything you can get away with and talk of high risks that aren’t real so as to increase premiums and/or to sell new types of coverage.’

Dennis Kennedy, an expert in tech law, told Haverstein that he had not heard of anything like that before. Wonder why? Perhaps, as Dennis says “…people aren’t that familiar with the technology and think it is somehow completely new and different. Really blogs are just a form of Web pages. What you’re doing is not different than if you are speaking in public or writing an op-ed piece.”

Gee, let’s all call Chub and ask if we can do seminars, write an op-ed piece, or God forbid, use the telephone for business development work. All very scary and high risk activities.

Updated discussion on Chubb denying coverage to bloggers:
Bill Gratsch: The idea that a law firm’s weblog is somehow completely different from its e-newsletter or its company website shows a lack of understanding of web technology.
Carolyn Elefant: My concern with Chubb’s suggestion that blogging may give rise to malpractice liability is that it opens the door for the bar associations to regulate lawyer blogging, setting standards for disclaimers and even reviewing postings.
J. Craig Williams in comments at Carolyn Elefant’s post: If malpractice carriers regulate blogs, then they’ll also have to regulate law firm newsletters, articles that lawyers publish, radio and TV programs where lawyers appear, lawyer quotes in newspapers, magazines and elsewhere and, heaven forbid, law review articles. Where will it end?
Chuck Newton: …[I]f this is true, then why is it exactly that Chubb is writing insurance on any lawyer that talks to the press, appears on TV, advertises, talks shop at cocktail parties, sends out a newsletter, or shares war stories at the courthouse? You cannot say that these other examples are preposterous because they amount to the same thing.
Andrew Bluestone at New York Attorney Malpractice Blog: Will there be a new question on legal malpractice insurance appllications, asking whether you have a web site, a blog site, whether you write, whether you lecture? Keep tuned.
Eric Turkewitz: Before You Blog, Check With Your Insurance Carrier. Does this mean their insured won’t also be able to write an article? Put up a web site? Give a CLE lecture? If you have Chubb as your carrier, you may want to tell them to take a powder before they tell you. And tell them why they have lost your business.
Eric Goldman: I suspect this is one of those early overreactions to theoretical risks by an insurance carrier, and the insurance industry will wise up after a number of years of better understanding the (low) malpractice risk profile of blogging.
Allison Shields: …[L]awyers have been giving seminars, writing articles and posting information on their websites. They’ve been sending client newsletters containing ‘case updates’ or ‘decisions of interest.’

To my knowledge, none of the above activities have been considered inherently risky by malpractice carriers. Why single out blogging? Is it the sheer volume of content? Blogging is no more risky than sending a newsletter, providing seminars or writing articles.

In today’s marketplace, failing to keep clients and referral sources informed and failing to build expertise and credibility can be deadly to a law practice. Not only that, but bloggers provide a lot of legal information at no cost, and have greatly contributed to the education of both the legal community and the general public. First, the lawmakers make the rules for ‘advertising’ a law practice more restrictive, ostensibly to prevent the public from being misled. Now, the malpractice carriers are preventing lawyers from providing timely information to the public about legal topics.

Brett Trout: Here are some other things that Chubb Insurance should absolutely not allow their insureds to do:

  • No speaking at seminars;
  • No newsletters, either print or email;
  • No interviews with newspapers, magazines or other periodicals;
  • No Web site;
  • No talking with a prospective client on the telephone;
  • No meeting with a client before an attorney-client fee agreement is signed;
  • Absolutely no podcasts;
  • Nothing else that clients or prospective clients may find beneficial or informative.

Related posts:
Chubb Insurance responds to denial of coverage for blogs
Lawyers respond to Chubb Insurance’s position on law firm blogs
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