Young lawyers call for negligence protection

Young solicitors want law firms to insure their assistants against costly negligence claims from senior members of staff.

The Young Solicitors Group (YSG) will debate the issue at an open forum on 31 January as a result of growing fears that principals are suing – or threatening to sue – assistants if a case goes wrong.

Jill Greenfield, a solicitor at Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, who is also chairman of the London YSG and an executive member of the national group, said that assistants could be sued for the excess on the firm’s insurance policy, or even the increase in the practice’s premium.

“People are contacting us anonymously because they are scared and are on the brink of being ruined,” she said. “It tends to happen where young solicitors are overburdened and given work above their level of expertise.”

Greenfield wants to see firms putting in place an insurance policy to protect its assistants from negligence claims.

The Law Society’s standards board is considering the introduction of a rule to prohibit firms from suing staff. However, the society stopped a similar rule from materialising last year, after former president Martin Mears warned it would be in breach of the Human Rights Act.

The YSG has also suggested that employers should insert a clause into contracts that would prevent them from suing assistants, although Greenfield admits this solution could also raise human rights issues.

She said: “I don’t know which firms are involved, but I think it is abominable that it is happening at all. It is damaging the profession. We can’t allow this to continue.”