LawSure Insurance rebrand launch
Brian Hall is Managing Director and Head of Underwriting for the recently re-branded and re-named LawSure Insurance. He told Today’s Conveyancer why the re-brand was important and how LawSure can work with conveyancers.
Why did you feel the re-brand from Litigation Protection to LawSure Insurance was necessary?
"Well, the background to the company is that we were particularly active in insurances supporting litigation and that’s where the original name — Litigation Protection — came from. But around five years ago we decided we had a fantastic business platform in terms of approaching solicitors, setting out our role as independent brokers and helping them undertake their insurance business rather than them doing it insurer by insurer and case by case.
"As a result, the business evolved into a broader beast. But what we found was that when we were trying to describe what we did to solicitors at conferences we’d start a conversation — then they’d glance at the name on our stand and see the word ‘litigation’.
"’We don’t need litigation protection,’ they’d say and we’d have to start the whole conversation again, explaining we were much more than just that. But quite often we’d lost them by then.
"Change was needed and we felt LawSure Insurance did a much better job of describing who we were and what we did. LawSure was always the legal entity name anyway — it was LawSure Direct Limited — so there was logic in going with that. We discussed different options but in the end decided that LawSure resonated.
"And the conference down in Cardiff at the start of September, where we launched the new name and brand, vindicated that. Lots more people talked to us and we didn’t have a single conversation where people were confused as to what we do."
How will you promote LawSure over the next few months to let people know that you’ve changed your name?
"Well, we used Cardiff as a test to how it all worked — the new website and literature etc. — so now it’s a case of promoting the re-brand going forward through email marketing and other conferences. We have a conference in Leeds later this year and then a series of conferences scheduled for 2015.
"We’re also travelling around the country giving presentations to solicitors because we have an arrangement through which we can provide CPD training around the subject of insurance. If solicitors are interested, they can contact us — we’d be delighted to meet them. We’ve just done a trip up to Manchester against the background of the new brand and it was extremely well-received."
What are the advantages for conveyancers of organising insurance with an independent brokerage like LawSure?
"Our work with conveyancing solicitors is probably a little more than half of our total activity — we know the business exceptionally well.
"There is a huge amount of pressure on conveyancers at the moment and one of our key proposals to them is that, rather than having to be insurance experts themselves and have all the individual conversations with various different insurers and review the answers and all that goes with it, with one quick call or email to us we’ll do all that for them.
"Everything that we do is, from the point of view of the solicitor and client, entirely free — our remuneration is a percentage of the premium on completed cases. But the premiums quoted by the insurers are the same as they would quote direct to the solicitor. So in our minds it’s a case of: ‘why wouldn’t you organise insurance through us?’
"I was having a conversation with a partner in a big commercial firm the other day and she had got different quotations and reactions from the insurance market but had then struck a problem because the one quotation that she’d got that was reasonably competitive — well, the client didn’t like the firm involved, for entirely subjective reasons. She phoned to ask us for help and we delivered a competitive quotation from one of the big name insurers that the client was happy with. So the solicitor’s reaction was: ‘That’s great — from now on, I’ll just use you. I’ve spent half my week going back and fore between insurers. Why am I doing that? I’m a conveyancing solicitor.’
"I’m a bit of an insurance anorak, to be fair — I’ve been doing this a long time. And, as a company, we try to recruit people with a law degree background — that have, where possible, an LPC. They can understand the terminology and understand the lawyers’ problems. It’s important that we grasp the underlying issues. That understanding also enables us to drive market developments.
"And, of course, all of this helps protect a law firm’s professional indemnity position. At the moment I believe that just over 55% of professional indemnity claims by quantum come from conveyancing activity — working with experts who know insurance inside and out can help combat that."
You mention the current pressures on conveyancers — what do you regard them as?
"One of the things which we are increasingly finding is that the Solicitors Regulatory Authority is raising the bar for solicitors in the area of insurance — they seem to want them to be insurance experts as well as solicitors!
"More generally in the conveyancing market, with the huge reduction in transaction volumes a few years ago about a third of the people working in conveyancing were taken out of the system — now transactions are up but there’s a lag in being able to recruit people. So conveyancers have a huge volume of work and a massive price-driven pressure on the amount of time they can spend on that work. For some of the long established conveyancing solicitors it’s frustrating because they don’t have the same time to study solutions they once did.
"We are also seeing a lot of complicated cases driven by re-development of brownfield sites throwing up interesting challenges from a legal and an insurance perspective. There has been a big growth in contaminated land covers and a significant demand in right to light covers as new developments go up in already crowded areas. So that’s all change and new issues to get to grips with as well."
What changes are you witnessing in the legal insurance industry?
"I think solicitors are tending away from the self-issue arrangements — partly because of the changes the SRA appear to be putting on them but also because it leaves them with the obligation to see whether the circumstances of a particular case fit the acceptance criteria for the self-issue policy they’re looking at. We have a self-issue kit that answers a particular need but sits alongside our independent broking option of looking at the market alternatives on cases.
"And, of course, there are new types of insurance coming in all the time with a constant stream of different covers — things like the delegation of signing off of building regulations to double glazing firms, which is a new requirement. And for the last few years we have had the Party Wall Act that says that if someone has extended their property and relied on the support of a wall shared with a neighbouring property they should have got written permission from the neighbour first. When the first issues began to arise with properties where the Party Wall Act had not been complied with we couldn’t identify a suitable cover so we worked with insurers to develop an approach and a policy wording that’s now been introduced.
"And then there have been changes to the law relating to liability for chancel repair which requires some property owners to pay for repairs to the parish church! Insurers are now responding positively in cases in which a liability has been registered where historically any registration or mention in the title to the property would have tended to put them off providing cover.
"But the changes in law removing much of the risk of liability for chancel repair only apply where ownership of a property changes after October 2013. As a result we are also seeing enquiries from large landowners with estates their family have owned for generations concerned about potential liabilities for chancel repair.
"So, yes, the insurance market is evolving all the time."
Is the insurance sector respected in the conveyancing industry — do solicitors appreciate its importance?
"Occasionally I think there’s a view that insurers have tried to drive forward the insurance requirements for their own ends. That’s not the case — it’s the changes in law and the changes in practice that give rise to the need for more insurance.
"Then there’s an interesting perspective held by a few solicitors that actually there aren’t that many claims so the client will probably be all right and what’s the point of it all?
"That’s an odd take on it because, while it’s quite correct that not every transaction creates an insurance claim, when there is a problem it tends to be large and complicated and, from the client’s point of view, very stressful as it’s in connection with the biggest transaction of their lives. Of course, yes — with title insurances, for example, many of them remain a comfort blanket and are never called upon. But if the problems do ever crystallise it can amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds for the client — well, in those circumstances insurance is absolutely invaluable."
Do you have any plans for expansion?
"At the moment, we are looking to build on the business and to ensure that we get across to people the ‘why not?’ proposition of talking to us about their legal insurance requirements. As we go forward there are a number of other product areas that we’d like to move into. But first we want to be recognised as market leaders in the insurances we currently provide before we spread our wings any further."