AHERN is excited to present the first edition (January-April) of our webinar series calendar for 2020!

These webinar programs are valid for one (1) Professional Development Credit towards the SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) SHRM-CP/SHRM-SCP designations and meets the HR Certification Institute’s (HRCI) criteria for recertification credit pre-approval. Please note that these webinars do not qualify for MCLE credit.

We encourage you to take advantage of these free and informative webinars.

Click on the below invitations to register.




Legislative and judicial activities during the week of December 16, 2019 produced significant developments with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). On December 18, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a ruling in Texas v. United States finding the ACA’s individual mandate to be unconstitutional, and on December 19, Congress passed a spending bill that contains the full repeal of three ACA taxes. These developments will have a disparate effect on employers.

Repealed Taxes  

The spending deal approved by Congress and later signed by President Trump provides government funding and addresses numerous policy initiatives. One part of the spending package contains the repeal of three ACA taxes: the Cadillac tax, the medical device tax, and the health insurance tax. While the repeals are unsurprising, they signal a considerable loss of funding intended to help pay for health coverage expansion under the ACA.

Cadillac Tax

Designed to discourage high-cost employer-sponsored health plans, the Cadillac tax imposes a 40% excise tax on coverage in excess of certain premium thresholds. Largely unpopular, implementation of the Cadillac tax was delayed several times, with its most recent implementation date scheduled for 2022. As a result of the passage of the spending bill, the Cadillac tax will be repealed as of January 1, 2020, without ever having taken effect.

Medical Device Tax

The medical device tax is a 2.3% excise tax on the gross sales of medical devices, such as pacemakers, x-ray machines, and other hospital equipment. The tax took effect in 2013 and was shortly thereafter suspended by Congress. The tax has not been in effect since 2016 and will be repealed as of January 1, 2020.

Health Insurance Tax

The health insurance tax applies to health insurers that offer individual and group medical insurance policies, as well as public programs like Medicaid and Medicare. Though the tax applies directly to insurers, most carriers build the amount of the tax into insurance policy premiums, effectively passing the cost on to employers and individuals. Because of this adverse impact on premiums, the tax was twice suspended in 2017 and 2019. Unlike the Cadillac and medical device taxes, repeal of the health insurance tax will not take effect until 2021. Consequently, insurance premiums for 2020 will continue to reflect the cost of this tax.

Appellate Court Decision

In the case of Texas v. United States, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the district court’s 2018 ruling that the ACA’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. The plaintiffs argued that because the individual mandate penalty was reduced to $0, it is no longer a tax as originally characterized by the U.S. Supreme Court and therefore violates the Constitution.

The appellate court declined to rule on other issues previously raised by the district court, including the question of whether the individual mandate can be severed from the rest of the ACA or whether the entirety of the law will be invalid without it. Instead, the appellate court sent the case back to the district court to determine if any other provisions of the ACA should be struck down along with the individual mandate.

What this Means for Employers

Employers may experience some relief from the repeal of the ACA taxes. Sponsors of insured health plans can anticipate potentially lower premiums beginning in 2021 due to the absence of the built-in cost of the health insurance tax, and sponsors of high-value coverage can continue to offer rich plans free from imposition of an excise tax into 2022.

However, the impact of the court decision in Texas v. United States will take longer to become clear. Though the ruling does deem the individual mandate unconstitutional, all other aspects of the ACA remain in full effect pending further analysis – including the employer shared responsibility provisions and reporting obligations under Internal Revenue Code Sections 6055 and 6056. Additionally, the defendants in the case have signaled that they are prepared to take the unfavorable ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would dramatically lengthen this judicial process.

Importantly, the court’s ruling on the constitutionality of the ACA’s individual mandate has no impact on similar laws enacted by some states, such as California and Massachusetts. Employers (and individuals) in these states should be mindful of the requirements that will continue to be imposed under such laws.

Click here to download this Benefits Bulletin.

AHERN Insurance Brokerage is honored to announce that we have been appointed as one of only three brokers nationwide to have access to a new program created specifically for Debt Collection lawyers, CollectProtect.

The CollectProtect program provides customized enhancements specifically for the distinct professional risks that Debt Collection lawyers face.


Key Enhancements of the policy include:

Expanded Definition of Damages
CollectProtect incorporates fines and penalties coverage for the FDCPA/FRCA to the full limit of the policy, and a $500K sublimit for TCPA. Damages includes pre-and-post judgement interest, punitive and exemplary damages.

Pre-approved Defense Counsel
Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker is pre-approved as defense counsel.

Mutual Selection of Defense Counsel
In tandem with the pre-approved Defense Counsel provision, CollectProtect makes overall selection of counsel mutual.

Optional Coverages for Eligible Firms include:
* Client/Project Specific Coverage
* Self-Representation & Bordereau Reporting

Program Eligibility – Key Guidelines:
* Law Firms with at least 50% AOP in Collections
* Law Firms with 5-150 attorneys

Limits up to $5,000,000 Per Claim / $5,000,000 Annual aggregate are available, with a minimum retention of $25,000. This program is underwritten by a non-admitted carrier rated “A” (Excellent) by A.M. Best.


For additional information about the CollectProtect program, please click here or contact:

Shawn M. Royle | Chief Executive Officer
T: (858) 514-7123 | E: sroyle@aherninsurance.com

Did you know that AHERN Insurance Brokerage offers an exclusive Lawyers Professional Liability program just for SDCBA Members through AXA XL? This successful program has been in existence since 2004 with over 400 San Diego firms selecting coverage with AXA XL.

* SDCBA Members can save up to 20% on this exclusive program *

See video below of SDCBA Member Stephen Grebing of Wingert, Grebing, Brubaker & Juskie, LLP sharing how the SDCBA’s exclusive member benefit provided by AHERN Insurance Brokerage saved his firm over $15,000 a year, on top of other SDCBA member benefits and savings.

Please click here for more information or apply online today!

AHERN is proud to sponsor The Bar Association of San Francisco’s Women’s Impact Network – No Glass Ceiling 2.0 Conference on November 21, 2019.

The BASF Women’s Conference affords participants an opportunity to hear from and engage with leaders in the legal profession and the business world about ways to make an impact and redefine the culture for people of all genders.

November 21, 2019: 3:00 pm – 8:00 pm
MCLE Credits – 3 H, of which 1 hour is in Elimination of Bias

Please click here for more information.

 

     

AHERN is proud to sponsor The Bar Association of San Francisco’s 2019 Cannabis Conference on October 30th, 2019!

This half-day event gives practitioners the opportunity to learn about the current legal and regulatory developments affecting the Cannabis industry.

The BASF Cannabis Conference provides attorneys an opportunity to enhance their practical skills in the rapidly-evolving cannabis space; offers attorneys the chance to learn about the cannabis industry and movement; and provides attorneys the chance to build connections and a strong bar for San Francisco.

October 30, 2019: 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
MCLE Credits – 3 H, of which 1 Hour is in Recognition & Elimination of Bias in the Legal Profession and Society

Please click here for more information.

 

     

We are proud to announce that AHERN is featured in Attorney at Law Magazine’s Vendor Spotlight this month!

Please click here to read the article, “AHERN Insurance Brokerage: Unique Expertise.”

The federal prohibition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act creates thorny ethical issues for attorneys representing clients in the cannabis industry in the twenty-nine states that have legalized medical marijuana and the eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana. The Rhode Island Ethics Advisory Panel Op. 2017-01 recently joined other states in concluding that attorneys may ethically advise clients on all matters related to a particular state’s medical marijuana law, as long as attorneys also advise clients regarding the federal law. Although there is a growing consensus among courts and ethics committees that attorneys representing clients in the marijuana industry are not in violation of the applicable state rules of professional conduct, these rules and opinions do not protect lawyers who assist clients in the operation of marijuana-related businesses in ways which might contravene federal laws. Actively assisting clients in the marijuana industry may be illegal under federal law, and therefore has the potential to result in criminal liability for violation of the Controlled Substances Act, aiding and abetting criminal conduct (18 U.S.C. § 2), or money laundering (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956, 1957). While the Cole Memorandum provides some protection against federal prosecution for legal marijuana businesses that adhere to their state’s regulatory framework, it does not provide legal protection for service providers to the industry, including attorneys. Indeed, the Cole Memorandum expressly states that state law does not provide a legal defense to a violation of federal law, including a civil or criminal violation of the Controlled Substances Act.

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This Risk Management Tip is brought to you by AXA XL and Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP, leaders in risk management.

AXA XL is the #1 global commercial property and casualty insurer with combined GWP of 17.6 billion in 2017. AXA and its principal insurance subsidiaries have the following insurer financial strength ratings as of December 2018: A+ A.M. Best, AA- Standard & Poor’s, AA- Fitch and, A1 Moody’s.

Gayle has been a business litigator for decades.  She recognizes litigation was not the best fit for her personality, but she did it well and was a fine lawyer.  It provided a solid income for her family, which she had cherished – even though her work pulled her away and played a role in her divorce.

The conflicting demands of trying to be the best mother and the best litigator took its toll on Gayle.  Recently, whenever the phone rang, or an email or text arrived, she started feeling dread: more work to be done or maybe a criticism of her work.  She felt less able to keep up, more ineffective, and less productive.  She felt more cynical, isolated, forgetful, and less able to concentrate.  Every problem – at work or home – felt serious, even if it was not.  She felt exhausted constantly and had trouble sleeping.  She dreaded going to work, and never felt recovered after a weekend or a rare vacation.  While she had always felt like a successful, accomplished person, she had begun to feel she was failing, professionally and personally.

Most frighteningly for her, the anxiety attacks she first experienced in law school had returned with increasing frequency and severity – so terrifying that thoughts of suicide had even crossed her mind.

In addition to Gayle’s symptoms of burnout, other symptoms include: ongoing stress and crises; feelings of isolation and helplessness; irritability; excessive feelings of responsibility, inadequacy, and self-doubt; obsessive thoughts; guilt about missed personal activities; inability to balance heavy work and family responsibilities; reluctance to say no; sweating, heart palpitations, and feelings of panic; and self-medicating with alcohol and other substances.

The Cost

While Gayle felt alone in her despair, she was not.  As in other high stress fields, burnout is a serious problem in the legal profession, not only in terms of individual lawyers’ misery, but in the resulting harm to their firms and, sometimes, clients.

For lawyers, untreated burnout can lead to – or go hand in hand with – physical and emotional problems like depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse.  Compared to other professions, lawyers suffer very high rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicide.

Burnout also creates real problems for law firms.  Lawyers suffering burnout are unhappy, less engaged, less productive, and at greater risk for making errors that could result in malpractice claims or Bar complaints.  Firms also risk losing good lawyers too soon, costing substantial amounts to hire, train, and make new lawyers part of the team.

The Causes

Lawyers’ inherent personality traits, along with the adversarial, high pressure nature of the work, create a perfect incubator for burnout.  Lawyers tend to be perfectionists, setting impossible to meet standards for themselves and the sense that nothing is ever good enough.  Lawyers are also trained to be on the constant lookout for problems and to be responsible for taking care of clients.  This inherent pessimism over what might go wrong creates a sense that problems are everywhere, the true urgency of which becomes exaggerated.  Lawyers also often fail to seek out help when needed, not wanting to appear weak.  They also face constant deadlines set by the courts, other parties, and clients, over which they have very little control.

Law firms, in turn, rarely foster an atmosphere where a lawyer experiencing burnout would feel comfortable exposing – and getting help for – what could be perceived as weakness.  Law firms are competitive places, with increasing demands for greater productivity at lower cost, and with limited, highly competitive opportunities for advancement.  New technologies also add pressure on lawyers, who feel constantly tethered to their work and client demands.

Prevention and Treatment

Lawyers and their firms can work together to promote a healthier approach for lawyers and, in turn, greater success for firms.  Individual lawyers (and firms, through wellness programs and thoughtful institutional changes to discourage a workaholic culture) should strive for: healthy diet; sufficient sleep; meditation; regular exercise, including yoga and walking; learning to say no, to set realistic work boundaries, and to protect time fully away from the demands of work, including regular vacations; dropping difficult clients; learning to express one’s feelings and concerns to someone who listens and cares; pursuing personal interests that bring satisfaction; and better protecting a healthy work/life balance generally.  In serious cases, lawyers can ask to take a leave of absence, change jobs, or even change careers.

Arizona lawyers have very helpful resources available through the State Bar’s Member Assistance Program, including its Peer Support Network, Support Groups, and Crisis Hotline.

Burnout is a serious occupational hazard for lawyers.  But, with the help of their firms, lawyers can strive to avoid feeling trapped and hopeless by taking the right steps to regain a healthy, balanced life.

(Article originally published in Attorney at Law Magazine – Phoenix Edition, Volume 11, Number 5).

*No portion of this article is intended to constitute legal advice. Be sure to perform independent research and analysis. Any views expressed are those of the author only.

By Daniel W. Hager | Corporate Counsel, AHERN Insurance Brokerage

Daniel W. Hager is Corporate Counsel to AHERN Insurance Brokerage and has spent his career practicing in the fields of lawyers’ professional liability, risk management, and legal ethics.