US super-investor William Berkley has become the first major new entrant into solicitors’ professional indemnity (PI) insurance since law firms have been able to buy their insurance on the open market.

Berkley’s New York Stock Exchange-listed company WR Berkley has set up a European casualty insurer, WR Berkley (Europe), based in London with a strong focus on PI.

The company has only been active for a number of weeks, but has already won Bird & Bird, Hammonds, Lawrence Graham, Osborne Clarke, RadcliffesLeBrasseur, Richards Butler and Thompsons as clients.

Two solicitors’ indemnity underwriters from ACE Global Markets, Peter Glanfield and Stuart Wright, have quit their posts to start up the solicitors’ business at WR Berkley (Europe).

Most of the law firms on the new company’s books had their business underwritten by the pair while they were at ACE.

ACE is still co-insuring most of the law firm clients of WR Berkley (Europe). It is common for major law firms to have more than one insurer, especially when the threat of a major claim forces them to buy a large amount of cover.

Glanfield said the new European business is a standalone subsidiary of WR Berkley Corporation. The US operation owns 80 per cent of WR Berkley (Europe), with the other 20 per cent owned by Lloyd’s syndicate Kiln, which itself counts William Berkley as an investor.