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California attorneys’ objections to new proposal understandable

It’s imminent.

What is just around the near-calendar bend is a State Bar of California study focused on the prospect of mandatory malpractice insurance for all of the state’s practicing attorneys.

That is a huge population. Indeed, California’s 250,000-plus lawyers comprise a deep pool of legal practitioners unrivaled in any other state. Legions of those advocates are unquestionably chafing right now over the distinct likelihood that their practicing costs are about to go up.

They’re already high, of course, given annual dues, continuing educational requirements and other compliance-linked exactions. If California’s Supreme Court acts upon the report owed it by bar authorities by the end of the month, the costs of being a California attorney will jump further, and to an appreciable degree.

Here’s what the court might do: mandate that every attorney pay for errors and omission insurance each year. In adjoining Oregon, where legal malpractice insurance is required, the reported average cost for each attorney is $3,300 annually.

Insurance proponents say that having insurance in place better protects the public. Critics – and there are many – flatly refute that, countering that insufficient information exists to justify the requirement. Moreover, they note, Californians would actually be more likely than ever to forgo securing legal counsel that they need, given the jacked-up prices that attorneys would need to charge to compensate for their malpractice premiums.

Many people argue that the public is already adequately safeguarded against lawyerly misconduct. A State Bar rule requires attorneys to inform clients in writing if they don’t carry malpractice insurance.

California lawyers already operate under legal rules and regulations that are as strict as any others imposed across the country. Many of them understandably view a newly added malpractice coverage duty as an excessive and unnecessary add-on.

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