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.

Missing litigation and other deadlines remains one of the leading causes of claims against law firms.  Such claims become malpractice cases in which often the only disputed issues are causation and the amount of damages, since breach of the standard of care will likely be established per se by missing the deadline.  A strong, effective calendaring system is thus one of the single most essential tools for reducing the risk and expense of claims (and their impact on insurance rates).

An important component of any effective calendar system is using a designated Docketing Clerk to oversee and run this critical component of the firm’s risk management efforts.

The benefits of using a Docketing Clerk are many:

  • It helps centralize the system, providing more consistent, regular, and accurate calendaring, as well as consistency in providing regular ticklers/reminders;
  • It identifies the person responsible for the overall system, including tracking its correct use by everyone at the firm, that all critical calendaring data is being regularly entered and backed up, and that the latest version of the firm’s calendaring software is in use;
  • It provides an in-house expert in calendar issues and calendaring software, someone who gets regular training in the field to keep abreast of litigation and other deadlines, calendaring best practices, and calendaring technology;
  • It provides all attorneys and staff with a go-to person for any calendar-related questions;
  • It frees up time of attorneys and staff that would otherwise be spent in calendaring functions for which the Docketing Clerk is made responsible;
  • It provides the firm with a person to provide regular training to attorneys and staff on calendaring generally, on the firm’s own calendar policies and procedures, and someone who can provide regular recommendations for improving the firm’s system;
  • It is a positive risk management factor to E&O carriers evaluating the firm for malpractice coverage. Since missed deadlines so often lead to claims, carriers generally want to know details of a firm’s calendaring system. Using a Docketing Clerk to oversee and run the system is a positive indicator that the firm is serious about having the most effective system possible to reduce its risk of claims.  Strong risk management policies and procedures reduce the incidence of claims and, thus, have a positive effect on premiums.

A firm’s calendar system is critically important to reducing the risk of claims.  It is an extremely detail-oriented system, involving a large number of matters and every lawyer and many staff members.  Dates and deadlines are constantly changing.  It is inherently susceptible to errors that can morph into potentially serious claims.  Having a designated, trained Docketing Clerk can greatly strengthen the firm’s system by centralizing responsibility and creating an in-house expert and resource, thereby reducing exposure for the firm.

By Daniel W. Hager | Corporate Counsel | Ahern Insurance Brokerage

A recognized expert in lawyers’ malpractice prevention and legal ethics, Daniel has provided consultations and risk management services to law firms for more than 20 years. Before joining AHERN, Dan was a partner at AV-rated Roeca Haas Hager LLP, where he defended lawyers against malpractice and other claims for more than 25 years.

Screening proposed lateral attorneys for conflicts, claims, and other issues is critical for avoiding disqualifying conflicts of interest, potential insurance coverage issues, and for general due diligence in hiring.

The following is a checklist of recommended actions to take, as well as forms that can be used, in that process.

CHECKLIST

  • Have the candidate identify (without disclosing client confidences) all matters in which he/she had substantial involvement or gained confidential information during his or her career, or for at least the past five calendar years, including, the party represented, all affiliated and related parties, all adverse parties, and any other persons interested in the matter.
  • If any actual or potential conflicts of interest are identified, determine what actions are necessary to minimize or resolve such conflicts, including obtaining written waivers from current or past clients of the firm, taking precautions to ethically screen the lateral attorney – the moment employment commences – from any contact with any matters in which a conflict has been identified, or revoking the candidate’s offer of employment if conflicts cannot be resolved.
  • Ask the candidate’s current and previous law firm employers to send letters to their clients for whom the candidate has rendered significant services, and whose former representation by the candidate may create conflicts with the firm’s clients, requesting waivers of any actual or potential conflicts and providing their informed written consent to continuing representation by the firm.
  • Give the candidate a current list of the firm’s clients (excluding any client whose identity itself must remain confidential) to identify any client in which the candidate has an economic or business interest, including any investment or other ownership, possessory, security, or other financial interest.
  • Have the candidate complete a Lateral Attorney Questionnaire (link to download example copy is below), and resolve all issues raised by the questionnaire before the employment commences.
  • Have the candidate provide a list of all errors and omission insurance he/she has been covered by throughout his/her legal career (if more than 10 years, the last 10 years only), including insurer, policy number, policy period, limits, and whether it was a claim made or occurrence policy.
  • Have the candidate provide a list of all claims and occurrences which might reasonably be believed to pose a risk of a claim, including occurrences reported to an insurer in which the attorney has been involved in any way, or for which the attorney may be liable. The status of each such claim or occurrence and the name, address, and telephone number of who to contact to keep informed on the status of the case should also be provided.
  • Before resignation from current firm becomes effective, have the candidate report to his/her prior firm’s insurer all claims he/she knows of and all circumstances which are reasonably believed might give rise to a future claim, and provide a copy of that report to your firm (appropriately redacted to preserve confidences).
  • Request that the candidate purchase “tail coverage” or an extended reporting endorsement and to provide proof to your firm he/she has done so.
  • Inform the candidate in writing that your firm’s malpractice insurance will not provide him/her with any insurance protection, and that your firm will not defend or indemnify for any claim asserted after employment with the firm but arising from acts or omissions before employment commenced.
  • Investigate the candidate’s resume by verifying selected employment positions, bar memberships, and educational degrees.

Click here to download this article including example copies of the Cover Memo, Conflict of Interest Report and Lateral Attorney Questionnaire referenced in the article.

By Daniel W. Hager | Corporate Counsel | Ahern Insurance Brokerage

* No portion of this article is intended to constitute legal advice. Be sure to perform independent research and analysis.

AHERN Insurance Brokerage is honored to have received the STAG ONE™ Agency designation from our partner carrier, The Hartford.

AHERN’s own Summer Gorsica, AHERN Vice President, was recently selected to throw out the first pitch at a San Diego Padres game! The prestigious honor of throwing out the first pitch was a result of Summer and AHERN being designated as a STAG ONE™ Elite Insurance Agency by The Hartford.

STAG ONE™ is an exclusive Small Commercial Rewards & Recognition program designed by The Hartford to recognize their most highly-partnered Small Commercial agents.  Being designated as a STAG ONE™ agency goes beyond production numbers; it’s about Hartford’s strongest partnerships, trust, and development of long-term mutual beneficial initiatives.

Summer has been pivotal in building the AHERN/Hartford relationship and is a big reason for AHERN earning the prestigious STAG ONE™ designation. Summer represents what STAG ONE™ is about – a strong representative for The Hartford and the local insurance industry, and was therefore nominated and selected to throw out the first pitch at The Hartford’s STAG ONE™ Suite Night event. And…. she threw a perfect pitch!! Congratulations, Summer!

 

Summer Gorsica getting some pre-pitch pointers from the San Diego Padres team.

 


Summer Gorsica warming up her arm as Robert W. Smith, Acrisure Executive Vice President – West Region, looks on.

 

Pictured from Left to Right:
Robert W. Smith, Acrisure Executive Vice President – West Region; Gabriel E. Yu, AHERN Vice President; Summer J. Gorsica, AHERN Vice President; Tamara L. Bartels, AHERN Vice President