Job Watch: Professional indemnity/negligence

As the number of claims continues to rise, the demand for legal expertise in professional indemnity and negligence cases is clearly also on the up.

“The professional indemnity market has weathered the dip in the economy well and we are seeing 20% more vacancies than this time last year,” highlights Anthony Wiggins at recruitment consultancy Pro-Legal. “Smaller practices, in the main, are picking up more work as people become more aware of their rights and the litigious mindset is reinforced by TV adverts suggesting claims are made for any slight indiscretion.”

“This is an area where demand has remained steady, although in the past 12 months demand has increased in the construction negligence claims sector,” comments Ailish Hogan, associate director at Taylor Root. “Firms are looking for lawyers with solid experience of defending high-value, complex claims while continuing to distribute low- or high-volume claims to teams of non-solicitors.Increasingly, firms will consider candidates with general disputes experience who are keen to move into this area.”

While Wiggins admits there has been less demand for lawyers specialised in professional indemnity matters, there are certain other attributes that can set you apart from the crowd.

“As well as having the technical knowledge, clients are now also looking at candidates who network well and build revenue, as well as being fed work,” he notes.

And what about the level of experience?

“Broadly, firms are looking for candidates with at least 3-4 years’ PQE – most firms have an excellent pool of talent at 0-2 years’ PQE as this has been a popular area into which to qualify in the past few years,” says Hogan.

As for in-house options, the opportunities are also looking bright, according to Laura Field of Shilton Sharpe Quarry.

“We’ve seen pretty consistent demand for lawyers with expertise in professional indemnity, financial institutions and directors and officers liability insurance, and in particular for lawyers who have spent time in-house with a leading insurer in a claims-handling role,” she comments.

“We’ve also seen increased demand for candidates with brokers’ errors and omissions experience,” notes Ann Marie Martakis at Taylor Root. “Candidates with experience advising on coverage issues and handling coverage disputes are also sought after.”

For lawyers looking to get into this area, Wiggins highlights the importance of deciding early whether you wish to focus on the defendant or claimant side.

“Defendant work is considered by many to offer the best-quality work,” argues Wiggins. “It’s also likely that you’ll have to work in a large law firm as there are only a relatively small number of firms that work on the defendant side. Claimant work is practised by many firms and offers a much higher chance of securing a position.”