2017/18 Annual Report

24 September, 2018
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From the Chair

LPLC has successfully completed its 32nd continuous year insuring Australian legal practitioners. In 2017/18 LPLC insured more than 16,700 solicitors and 2,100 barristers.

Insurance through the Legal Practitioners’ Liability Fund is a fundamental pillar of the regulatory framework for legal practitioners under the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014 (Vic). The fund ensures the continued availability of affordably priced compulsory insurance for Victorian law practices and many national law firms.

No other profession has access to professional indemnity insurance of the breadth and quality delivered through LPLC’s stable and secure statutory scheme. Our model not only serves the long-term interests of the legal profession, but also their clients as consumers of legal services by providing access to an insurance fund enabling meaningful redress for professional negligence claims against practitioners.

The reporting year has seen the fund consolidate its financial strength. This has been achieved through strong governance and oversight, prudent underwriting, diligent claims management and a disciplined fund investment strategy. We are well positioned to maintain stable insurance premiums for practitioners as the commercial insurance market starts to swing through a ‘hardening’ cycle in the coming years.

The number of practising lawyers continues to grow at pace. Legal practice also continues to change rapidly in response to disruptive external forces and the expanding digitisation of the society in which we live and work. Traditional law firm structures are adapting to these challenges and ‘NewLaw’ business models are well and truly now established in the legal landscape. LPLC’s insurance scheme has always embraced changes in legal practice and facilitated practitioners moving into new areas of legal practice and delivering legal services to clients in new ways. We will continue to do so.

2017/18 was also a year of change for LPLC with the retirement of Miranda Milne, our CEO of 21 years. During her tenure as CEO Miranda steered LPLC out of the aftermath of the recession of the 1990s and oversaw the transformation in LPLC’s business as largely state-based firms became national firms and subsequently part of even larger global law firm structures. Aside from our sound financial position, Miranda’s legacy to LPLC is undoubtedly her passion for developing and promoting management of professional risk as a recognised discipline within law firm structures and the pioneering work she led in this area for small and large firms alike. A well-attended celebration of Miranda’s career was held in November 2017, and once again I publicly thank Miranda for her wonderful commitment and dedication to LPLC and to the profession.

Justin Toohey took up the position as CEO from 1 January 2018 and is leading a refreshed leadership team embarking on several new initiatives and approaches to the delivery of LPLC’s claims and risk management services for the profession. Cyber risks have emerged during the reporting year as significant risks, particularly in relation to data security and email fraud in connection with electronic funds transfers. LPLC has initiated and continues to roll out a multi-faceted risk management campaign addressing these risks within the profession.

On a sad note, we acknowledge the passing of a former long-standing and deeply respected Committee member, Mary Radisich who died in June 2018. Mary served on the Committee as the representative of consumer interests from 1999 to 2014 and was a wonderful contributor to LPLC and the profession in that time ensuring LPLC was ever-conscious of our broader public purpose.

In addition to her work with LPLC, Mary had a remarkable professional career as a nurse, advocate of women’s rights, local government councillor, inaugural manager of the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria, financial counsellor, and voluntary worker for many disadvantaged people and community groups. Mary’s strong sense of social justice permeated her whole life.

It is very much part of our ethos to work with and for the benefit of our insured members. Ultimately, the success of the insurance scheme depends on a continuing partnership with the profession to minimise the incidence of claims and support practitioners to better serve their clients.

I thank my fellow Committee members for their support and work. I also recognise and thank the Committee’s dedicated staff for their contribution to LPLC’s ongoing success.

John Corcoran AM
Chair

From the CEO

I am pleased to present my first annual report as CEO of LPLC.

LPLC’s core work is to manage the day-to-day liability exposures of 19,000 barristers and solicitors across 6,500 law practices, but our bigger purpose is working hand-in-glove with practitioners and other industry stakeholders to maintain public confidence in the profession by proactively resolving liability claims and preserving client relationships whenever that can be achieved.

LPLC plays an important role in the life of the legal profession, protecting the interests of legal practitioners and the consumers of legal services with our statutory professional indemnity insurance scheme.

The past year has been a period of significant transition for LPLC with the retirement of our longstanding and highly respected CEO, Miranda Milne. Our business is in good shape and I thank Miranda, the Chair and all Committee members for their support.

Miranda’s final report last year noted that LPLC’s longevity and success has been built on a foundation of excellent people working in, and for, the organisation over long periods. That continuity of service has enabled the profession to gain significant trust in what we do. There is no better exemplar of that than Miranda whose unwavering belief in LPLC’s statutory model combined with her legal acumen, ethical compass and capacity to maintain excellent relationships with insured practitioners and service providers has been central to LPLC maintaining a high public standing.

With change comes opportunity and the transition has enabled Committee members, our executive leadership team and staff to review and reset LPLC’s strategic plan for 2018 and beyond. Serving the profession’s needs in an adaptive way to meet changing demographics, changing technology, new laws and evolving client demands is a key strategic objective and guides how we work in all areas of our business.

Aside from this strategic reset, key operational achievements over the past 12 months include:

  • finalisation of 536 claims and notifications (488 solicitor and 48 barrister) including nine matters which were required to be taken to trial and verdict, all of which were successful
  • aggregate reserve releases across earlier underwriting years of $7.28 million as matters were resolved
  • continuation of the trend over recent years of reducing the number of claim files referred to external panel solicitors for resolution – more matters are being resolved in-house, helping to contain claims costs
  • maintenance of our desired target asset allocation in line with LPLC’s risk preference and achieving a return on investment of 7.97 per cent
  • commencement of our ‘Contact and Connect’ program of visits to law practices who have not engaged with any of our risk programs over recent years
  • a new cyber-risk campaign warning practitioners about the growing threat of business email compromise leading to the theft of client funds by fraudulently altered payment directions in email communications
  • commencement of LPLC’s engagement with the Law Institute, Leo Cussen Institute and College of Law in delivering the risk management module of the Practice Management Course approved by the Legal Services Board for new principals of law firms – augmenting the Building Solid Foundations workshops initiated by LPLC two years ago for practitioners opening new firms
  • extensive and ongoing engagement with law firms and with PEXA as the Land Registry’s timetable for the phased implementation of electronic conveyancing transactions gradually eliminates paper-based lodgement and registration
  • recruitment of our new Head of Claims, Jodie Potts, who commenced employment with LPLC in January 2018.

Premiums for solicitors measured on a ‘per practitioner’ basis remain stable, with a modest inflation-adjusted increase this year. This compares favourably with the experience of many firms this year whose top-up premiums in the commercial market have increased dramatically.

Premiums for barristers continue to fall both in nominal and real terms and were reduced by a further 10 per cent across the board this year in recognition of barristers’ good claims experience. In nominal terms, premiums today are less than half those charged by commercial market insurers prior to barristers joining the LPLC scheme in 2005.

I want to flag some of the challenges lying ahead in different areas of our business.

In relation to premiums, increasing casualisation of the workforce and a rise in the number of short term contract lawyers engaged within firms is presenting a challenge to LPLC’s traditional method of premium assessment for those firms where premiums are still assessed under the traditional headcount model for employee practitioners. Use of a single premium assessment date for the number of employees working in a firm can lead to premium anomalies between firms. The Committee is ever-conscious of the need for the premium burden to be spread equitably and transparently across differently structured firms and will continue to explore all options to ensure this occurs.

On the claims front, it is clear there is work ahead of us to make inroads into the incidence of property and conveyancing claims. The number and cost of these claims has been significantly above the long-term annual average for three of the past five underwriting years.

Reducing conveyancing claims is a major strategic focus for 2018/19 and beyond. These exposures continue to arise from routine errors and omissions in pre-contract advice, mistakes in the preparation of contracts and vendor statements, and failures to adequately investigate title and make relevant property enquiries prior to settlement. There are multiple underlying reasons for this elevated incidence of claims but high on the list is the commoditisation of conveyancing work at the expense of tailored advice in the conveyancing space. Much of this may be driven by price competition with registered conveyancers but it also relates to shortcomings with practitioner work systems and the supervision of junior staff and paralegals within firms.

Another challenge is ensuring our risk management advice and resources for the profession are reaching the widest possible audience and continuing to command practitioner attention. LPLC’s risk messages and alerts now compete for attention in a crowded digital marketplace with many practitioners suffering from information overload at the same time as being under pressure from clients to do more for less and to do it faster. Different generations of practitioners also absorb content in different ways, requiring risk messages and risk management advice to be delivered in a more agile manner and through multiple channels. Our communication strategy is addressing these challenges.

I extend thanks to the Chair, Committee members, executive leadership team, staff and all our outsourced service providers for their contribution to LPLC’s work this year.

Justin Toohey
Chief Executive Officer

Claims – Solicitors

LPLC’s claims management philosophy is for early notification by practitioners, with prompt assessment of potential exposures once notified and pro-active management to resolve claims expeditiously and cost effectively.

Many notifications to LPLC are precautionary. In quite a number of these situations, the underlying problem is resolved by the practitioner with some advice from LPLC and no claim eventuates.

Approximately 60 per cent of matters notified to LPLC are actual claims where a client seeks compensation. Half these matters are inexpensively resolved or do not proceed. The other half constitute matters that cannot be resolved between the parties through private negotiations or where the service of proceedings by a claimant is the practitioner’s first awareness of any claim being made. The vast majority of litigated claims are resolved within 12 months of the commencement of litigation, leaving the more complex (often multi-party) larger claims which can take longer to resolve and need formal pleadings and interlocutory processes to help with assessment of liability and damages questions.

Cost of paid and unpaid claims per underwriting year 2013–2018 ($m)

Number of open and closed files per underwriting year 2013–2018

Percentage number of claims by area of practice 2017/18

Percentage cost of claims by area of practice 2017/18

A minority of claims are intractable disputes where the claim is assessed to have no merit and is defended in the interests of the insured firm or practitioner.

During the reporting period, claims solicitors finalised 488 claims and notifications from solicitors across the current and earlier underwriting years.

Many of these matters were handled in-house by LPLC’s experienced claims team, with litigated matters referred to external panel solicitors. During the year 126 solicitors’ claims were out-sourced to panel solicitors.

There were 479 claims and notifications received from solicitors during 2017/18 with incurred estimates of $39.61 million. This is similar to 2016/17.

Areas of unusually high claims experience in 2017/18 were:

  • property and conveyancing – defective vendor statements; drafting errors in contracts of sale; erroneous stamp duty advice; inadequate advice about property restrictions; and inadequate advice contract terms
  • mortgage – many claims arising from inadequately secured private lending arrangements; a resurgence in Amadio cases involving third party surety providers; and solicitors failing to detect forged mortgage transactions – mortgage claims often follow a credit-rationing cycle and are triggered by defaults consequent upon a borrower’s inability to refinance loans
  • commercial law – drafting errors in commercial agreements; missing time limits for responses to construction payment claims; invalid personal property security registrations; and disputes arising in relation to sale of business and joint venture transactions
  • commercial litigation – poorly conducted litigation resulting in personal costs orders against practitioners; problems with settlement agreements (revisited settlements and inappropriate releases); and claims by dissatisfied litigants.

During the reporting period there was also a noticeable increase in the number of claims and notifications arising from cyber-related incidents, most notably business email compromise where practitioner and/or client email accounts were hacked by fraudsters who then despatched bogus email instructions altering payment directions for settlement funds from property, estate, family law or litigation.

The current year claims costs were partly ameliorated by $5.86 million in reserve releases from earlier underwriting years as claims were resolved within reserve estimates.

Claims – Barristers

The LPLC model for barristers is one of simplicity and equity.

  • A simple administrative framework with a brief online declaration on renewal.
  • A premium pool which reflects the claims experience of Victorian barristers.
  • Reduced premiums for lower fee earners and barristers deriving more than 90 per cent of their fee income from criminal advocacy.
  • Claims handling by experienced lawyers.

Premiums for barristers continue to fall both in nominal and real terms. Premiums for 2017/18 were maintained at the same level as 2016/17 and during the year the decision was taken to reduce them by 10 per cent for 2018/19 in recognition of the sustained good claims experience of this cohort.

Forty-five claims and notifications were received from barristers during the 2017/18 reporting year with an incurred estimate of $2.27 million. Twenty-one matters were notifications and 24 were claims.

The cost of claims in 2017/18 is slightly higher than recent years, but this is largely attributable to a single matter. In a relatively small pool there is always a risk of increased volatility due to only one or two bigger claims.

Cost of paid and unpaid claims per underwriting year 2013–2018 ($m)

Number of open and closed files per underwriting year 2013–2018

Percentage number of claims and notifications by area of practice 2017/18

Percentage cost of claims and notifications by area of practice 2017/18

Barristers’ claims are predominantly managed in-house by LPLC’s experienced claims solicitors and in 2017/18 only seven litigated matters were referred to external panel solicitors.

The major themes in matters notified by barristers this year were:

  • missing limitation periods for the commencement of causes of action
  • revisited settlement of commercial or property disputes attributable to misunderstandings between clients and practitioners about the negotiated terms; allegations that settlements were for inadequate amounts; or shortcomings with terms drawn by counsel which resulted in further dispute between the parties
  • applications for costs (usually brought under the Civil Procedure Act 2010 (Vic)) against practitioners arising from deficient pleadings or from allegations by successful litigants that counsel for the opposing party commenced proceedings or persisted in running defences with no realistic prospects
    of success
  • litigants dissatisfied with the manner counsel conducted their underlying case.

One matter against counsel proceeded to trial during the reporting period, with judgment in the matter still awaited.

Risk management

To assist practitioners avoid risks and minimise their exposure to claims the LPLC Risk Management Team provided the profession with a range of educational resources and forums as well as mitigating strategies on claims prevention.

Summary of 2017/18

Seminars and speaking engagements

LPLC seminars

Events – 50 Attendees – 1,877

Victorian Bar Readers’ Course

Sessions – 2 Attendees – 90

External speaking engagements

75

Publications

Newsletters and articles 18
New videos 8
Publications New – 15 Revised – 10
Blogs 36
Social media posts 109

Website

Unique LPLC website pages viewed 26,369

Communications with firms and practitioners

Hotline enquiries 208
New established firms contacted 409 emails 306 via phone
Practitioner telephone and email enquiries 1,537
Risk management-associated firm visits 135 firm visits
Claims follow-up project 135 closed claims reviewed 17 firms followed up

Seminars and speaking engagements

Locations of LPLC seminars held in 2017/18

LPLC Boardroom Series

Attendees – 262 | Sessions – 10
These topical 60 to 90-minute seminars covered section 32 statements, work intake and file management, and how to use your people as a risk management asset.

Building Solid Foundations workshops

Attendees – 114 | Sessions – 15
Tailored for practitioners setting up new firms, these small group workshops gave practitioners access to an experienced manager to ask questions, share information and learn the fundamentals for establishing a legal practice. Topics covered included management systems for law practices, the LPLC insurance policy as well as planning and strategy.

2017 Risk Management Intensive

Attendees – 641 | Sessions – 3
This flagship seminar series was well attended again on all three days. The sessions presented by both LPLC and external speakers covered how to thrive in the changing legal landscape, the importance of a firm business strategy, settlement negotiations skills, new tools to combat cyber-risk, the value of your reputation, conveyancing and mistakesin wills.

2017 Legal Business Essentials

Attendees – 69 | Sessions – 5
The half-day workshops, a repetition of the successful series run in the previous three years, assists practitioners build and manage a successful legal practice. The topics included estimating costs effectively, how to strengthen relationships, managing work intake and developing your people.

2017 Regional costs workshops

Attendees – 73 | Sessions – 3
The workshops, held in Ballarat, Benalla and Warragul and presented by Liz Harris of Harris Cost Lawyers, were designed to help practitioners identify the risks and manage their clients’ expectations more effectively.

2017 Metro Series

Attendees – 199 | Sessions – 4
Held in Oakleigh, Ivanhoe, Ringwood and Moonee Ponds, the topics presented were wills claims and why they occur, when to pay money from trust accounts and how to avoid claims in conveyancing.

2018 Regional Risk Management Tour

Attendees – 519 | Sessions – 10
This year Justin Toohey, CEO, Jodie Potts, Head of Claims and Alex Macmillan, Claims Solicitor made the presentations around regional Victoria. The topics covered were mistakes in preparing wills and distributing estates, when to pay moneys from trust accounts and claims-prone areas in conveyancing.

The Victorian Bar Readers’ Course

Attendees – 90 | Sessions – 2
The Bar Readers’ Course, which is run twice annually, assists with a successful transition to life at the Bar. The presentations, made this reporting period by Justin Toohey, CEO, Jodie Potts, Head of Claims and Bronwyn Hine, Claims Solicitor, covered how LPLC services the profession, the professional indemnity insurance and policy, barristers’ claims and key LPLC contacts.

Other speaking engagements

Engagements – 75
LPLC experts delivered presentations on wide-ranging topics from the conflicts issues, conveyancing claims and cyber security risks to professional responsibility in court and settlement negotiations. The locations and events included The College of Law, Leo Cussen Institute, Law Institute of Victoria, law firms as well as other legal forums, conferences and interest groups.

Publications

LPLC website

Unique page views – 26,369
Practitioners again visited the website to access claims and risk management information as well as renew their insurance online.

Besides the homepage, the most viewed pages were:

  • GST FAQs – farm land
  • The blog what’s the difference between a default notice and a rescission notice?
  • Policies and premiums
  • GST FAQs – vacant land

The most popular email campaigns were:

  • 2017 Risk Management Intensive
  • September 2017 In Check newsletter issue 76
  • October 2017 Boardroom Series

The most popular downloads were:

  • A guide for beneficiaries
  • A guide for executors
  • Claim free conveyancing
  • Working Together brochure
  • Application for Cover

Risk video bites

New videos – 8

The topics presented included cyber security, delegation and supervision, personal injury litigation, conveyancing, family law financial agreements and personal costs orders.

Practice risk guides

Revised guides – 8

LPLC’s revised practice risk guides identify and explain key risks for specific areas of practice including superannuation, personal injury litigation, family law and conveyancing.

Client brochures

New brochures – 2

LPLC published two brochures to explain to clients about costs estimates and cyber security risks.

File note

File note – 1

LPLC published a proforma file note to assist practitioners when meeting to advise about a guarantee.

Checklists

New checklists – 5 | Revised checklists – 2

The new checklists published during 2017/18 covered GST, electronic transactions, conveyancing resources and receiving a file from another firm.

Bulletins

New bulletins – 2

The bulletins LPLC published alerted practitioners about the security warning for PEXA users and the new GST withholding regime applying to some settlements from 1 July 2018.

In Check newsletter

Newsletters – 4

LPLC’s quarterly online newsletter covered topics including cyber security, GST, PEXA and changes to the Administration and Probate Act 1958 (Vic) and the Corporations Act 2001 (Cwlth).

Law Institute Journal

Articles – 11 standard articles | Feature articles – 1 | Profile piece – 1 | Support piece – 1

In addition to the 11 risk management articles LPLC publishes in the Victorian Law Institute Journal, a profile piece about LPLC’s new CEO, a feature article about minimising risk and a support piece about insurance cover for cyber-attacks were published in 2017/18.

Blogs

Blog posts – 36

LPLC’s weekly blog discussed current or recurring risk management themes on a wide range of issues including conflicts of interest, cyber security, conveyancing, the vulnerability of financial agreements and the importance of clear communications with clients and colleagues.

Snapshots

Snapshots – 3

Snapshots provide data and the main causes of claims in a specific area of law as well as risk management strategies at a glance. Areas covered in the reporting period were family law, personal injury litigation, and wills and estates.

Poster

Cyber security poster – 1

A poster alerting practitioners to how cyber fraudsters are targeting lawyers as they transfer money was published on the LPLC website as well as a hard copy being sent to practitioners with their insurance renewal letters.

Social media

Linked In posts – 21 | Twitter posts – 48 | Facebook posts – 40

LPLC commenced using social media channels of LinkedIn and Twitter in 2017 and Facebook in 2018 to announce new publications and events.

Direct communication with firms

LPLC hotlines

GST – 192 | PPSA – 15 | Water – 1

LPLC’s three hotline services on goods and services tax, personal property securities and water continued to provide practitioners with advice on these complex issues.

Contact and connect visits

61 firm visits

This is a new on-going program started in February involving visits to firms that have had little contact with our risk management program in the last five years. The aims of the program are to hear from firms about what is working for them, what they think their risks are and to raise LPLC’s profile with them so they consider reaching out to us if they have a problem.

Conveyancing best practice program

6 firm visits | 17 contracts of sale and section | 32 statements assessed

The new Conveyancing Best Practice Program assists firms identify improvements in the preparation of contracts of sale and section 32 statements.

Risk assistance program

25 firm visits and 25 reports written

LPLC visited firms of all sizes to assist them with their risk management strategies. Two whole-of-firm risk training sessions were held to support this program.

Other firm visits

23 firms visited or met face to face

These firms do not rate as a significant risk but are visited on request or for various reasons such as health issues of the sole practitioner. In most instances a letter or short form report is sent to these firms.

Large/mid-tier firm visits

20 visits

LPLC visits these firms to discuss recent claims, emerging issues and risk management strategies.

New firm contact

409 emails

New firms received a welcome email containing essential links and contact details.

Telephone contact with new firms

306 calls

Principals of new firms received an introductory telephone call.

Phone and email enquiries

1,527 enquiries

Enquiries are via telephone or email from practitioners on client-related matters as well as practice management issues were answered.

Claims follow-up

135 claims reviewed | 17 discussions with firms

To assist LPLC understand the underlying causes of claims as well as help firms avoid similar claims in the future, this new project involved reviewing closed claims and speaking to relevant firms.

Other activities

Supervision practices

LPLC has been discussing with the Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner (VLSB+C) the need for clearer guidelines and education about practitioners’ responsibilities to adequately supervise their staff both for the purposes of supervised legal practice certification and generally.

Meeting with LIV and VLSB+C

LPLC attended six bi-monthly meetings with the Law Institute of Victoria and VLSB+C. These meetings provide a forum of discussing issues of mutual concern, activities or projects each organisation is undertaking and opportunities for collaboration.

Investments

LPLC’s primary investment purpose is to achieve long term real growth in the investment portfolio to ensure sufficient funds are available to meet liabilities when they fall due, and to maintain competitive and stable premiums and an appropriate solvency level.

The fund seeks to achieve a return of CPI + three per cent over a rolling five-year period.

The Legal Practitioners’ Liability Fund continued as a balanced fund with an average allocation of 60 per cent to growth assets and 40 per cent to defensive assets. Within its growth portfolio, LPLC maintains a diverse portfolio of investments.

Investment return for the reporting period was 7.97 per cent, exceeding budget expectations and in line with the fund’s average return over the last five years of 7.75 per cent.

Australian and international equities recorded strong returns during the reporting year. Equities were weighted in favour of international investments, with a lower exposure to Australian equities. There was an exposure to hedged and unhedged funds within international equities to address currency fluctuation risk.

During the reporting year investments were also made into two new funds – the GQG Global Equity Fund and the Palisade Diversified Infrastructure Fund. The infrastructure investment has come after a long waiting period to enter our chosen fund.

LPLC retained its investment in unlisted wholesale commercial property, which has provided diversity in the growth portfolio. This investment has, over time, provided steady returns through fluctuations in markets for equities.

Willis Towers Watson Australia Pty Ltd were investment advisers to the Committee.

Funds were held with the following managers.

Asset allocation as at 30 June 2018

Average investment returns over the last five years (%)

Australian Equities

  • Vanguard Australian Shares Index Fund.

International Equities

  • MFS (Massachusetts Financial Services) Investment Fund.
  • Real Index Global Share Fund.
  • Schroder Emerging Markets Fund.
  • Schroder Real Return Fund.
  • Vanguard International Shares Index Fund.
  • GQG Global Equity Fund.

Property

  • Dexus Wholesale Property Fund.

Infrastructure

  • Palisade Diversified Infrastructure Fund.

Cash

  • Cash was invested by way of term deposits with Westpac, NAB and the Commonwealth Bank.
  • Vanguard Australian Government Bond Index Fund.

Legal Practitioners’ Liability Committee

John Corcoran AM
Chairman
John Corcoran AM is Principal at the law practice of Russell Kennedy and was Chair of that firm for 10 years until 30 June 2017. He is a member of the board of Mercy Health.

He has been a board member of the Legal Services Board as well as the International Bar Association. John is also a past President of the Law Institute of Victoria and was President of the Law Council of Australia in 2009.

His experience as a commercial lawyer is in the areas of commercial property, retirement and aged care, as well as sale and purchase of business, and securities.

Patricia Kelly
Committee Member

Tricia has extensive experience in the financial services industry. She worked for Suncorp/AAMI where her roles included Executive General Manager Strategy & Business Development Personal Insurance and General Manager AAMI New South Wales. Prior to that she was a Director and Executive General Manager Life & Superannuation of Norwich Union Life Australia.

Tricia is a past president and honorary life member of the Insurance Institute of Victoria and a former Director of the Australian Insurance Institute. She is currently a non-executive Director of Ansvar Insurance and of RACV Limited and subsidiary companies.

Helen Thornton
Committee Member

Helen is a Chartered Accountant with over 30 years’ experience across a wide range of industries including financial services. Helen has extensive experience in governance, audit and risk management and she has held senior leadership roles at Deloittes, KPMG, BHP Ltd and BlueScope Steel Ltd, where she was responsible for the global risk management and insurance program.

Helen has over 18 years’ experience as a non-executive director and is an experienced Chair of Audit and Risk Committees. She is currently on the boards of ISPT Pty Ltd, Treasury Corporation of Victoria, Yarra Valley Water, Ansvar Insurance, Austin Health and is retiring from the Zoos Victoria board on 30 June 2018. Helen is an independent member of the Risk & Audit Committees of the Departments of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Health and Human Services and Education and Training.

Catriona Lowe
Committee Member

Catriona is a lawyer with extensive experience in the consumer sector including directorships at the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. Catriona is also Co-Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Consumer Consultative Committee. Catriona is a former Chair of the Consumers’ Federation of Australia and former Co-CEO of the Consumer Action Law Centre.

Catriona’s skills and expertise include policy analysis and corporate governance, strategic legal practice management and consumer and competition law as well as dispute resolution and regulation.

John Cain
Committee Member

John has extensive legal experience in both the public and private sectors. He was the Managing Partner at Herbert Geer from 2011 to 2014 and the consultant overseeing the merger of that firm with Thomson Lawyers to create Thomson Geer. During John’s five years as Victorian Government Solicitor starting in 2006, he oversaw the restructuring of that office as well as the creation of a whole of government legal services panel. While in that position John also represented the Victorian Government and its departments and agencies at the 2009 Bushfire Royal Commission. Prior to these roles John was the CEO at the Law Institute of Victoria (2002-2006) and Managing Partner at Maurice Blackburn from 1991 to 2002.

John is the Chair of the Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT University, an advisory board member in the School of Business and Law, Victoria University and an advisory board member of the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre.

Adrian Finanzio SC
Committee Member

Adrian signed the Victorian Bar Roll in 1998, was appointed Silk in 2012 and is a leading Victorian barrister practising in the areas of planning and environment, local government, and major projects. He brings to LPLC a broad range of skills arising from the various committees on which he serves, including Barristers Chambers Limited, the Bar Readers Course Committee (as Vice Chair) and the Victorian Planning and Environment Law Association (as Vice President) and as a past member of the Victorian Bar Council.

Organisational structure

Governance

LPLC:

  • manages and conducts the affairs of and is responsible for the organisation and business of LPLC
  • provides professional indemnity insurance for law practices
  • determines the terms of and submits policies of professional indemnity insurance for legal practitioners in Victoria for approval by the Victorian Legal Services Board
  • oversees investment of the Legal Practitioners’ Liability Fund
  • develops policy relating to national practice issues and professional indemnity insurance
  • oversees implementation of effective risk management for legal practitioners.

The Audit and Risk Committee comprised of Helen Thornton (Chair), Patricia Kelly and Adrian Finanzio SC.

The Audit and Risk Committee oversees:

  • financial reporting
  • internal risk and control procedures
  • actuarial and reserving functions
  • corporate governance and compliance
  • conduct of audits, both internal and external
  • finances and budgeting procedures.

The Investment Committee comprised of John Cain (Chair), John Corcoran AM, Catriona Lowe and Miranda Milne (until 31/12/17).

The Investment Committee:

  • makes recommendations to LPLC as to benchmarks, asset classes and asset allocation
  • monitors the fund’s investment strategies
  • makes recommendations to the Committee as to the appointment of fund managers and investment advisers.

The Remuneration and Appointments Committee comprised of Patricia Kelly (Chair), John Corcoran AM and Helen Thornton.

The Remuneration and Appointments Committee considers matters pertaining to appointments and remuneration.

Committee meetings Audit and Risk Committee Investment Committee Remuneration and Appointments Committee
Eligible Attended Eligible Attended Eligible Attended Eligible Attended
John Corcoran AM 10 10 4 4 5 5
Patricia Kelly 10 9 4 4 5 5
Helen Thornton 10 10 4 4 1 1
Catriona Lowe 10 9 4 3
John Cain 10 9 4 4
Adrian Finanzio SC 10 8 4 3
Miranda Milne 7 7 2 2

LPLC staff

Justin Toohey
Chief Executive Officer

Justin was appointed as Chief Executive Officer from 1 January 2018. He was Deputy CEO at LPLC from 2005 with primary responsibility as Head of Claims. Prior to joining LPLC, Justin’s career spanned five years in a senior executive position with the Institute of Architects’ professional indemnity scheme and 15 years in private legal practice including time as a partner with Tress Cocks & Maddox specialising in professional indemnity litigation acting as a panel solicitor to LPLC.


Jodie Potts
Head of Claims

Prior to joining LPLC in January 2018 Jodie was a partner in the professional indemnity team of Moray & Agnew, Melbourne, having joined that firm in 2006 from Herbert Geer & Rundle. Jodie is an experienced insurance litigator who has worked for Australian and international insurers across a range of businesses (professional indemnity, directors’ and officers’ liability, management liability, financial lines, employment practices liability and construction risks). Jodie has strong property and commercial dispute resolution experience.


Alex Macmillan
Claims Solicitor

After 17 years in private practice, specialising in insurance litigation, Alex Macmillan joined LPLC on secondment as a partner from Lander & Rogers. She subsequently joined the Committee staff permanently in 1994.


Bronwyn Hine
Claims Solicitor

In the 10 years prior to joining LPLC, Bronwyn worked in private practice in Victoria and South Australia as a professional indemnity solicitor. She joined LPLC in 2006 from the Melbourne office of then specialist insurance firm Moray & Agnew. Bronwyn also spent five years at a Law Claims panel firm in South Australia.


Prue Campton
Claims Solicitor

Prue specialised in commercial litigation with Allens for 24 years prior to joining LPLC in 2014. She also practised as a general common law and insurance litigator with Ashurst.


Josh Clutterbuck
Claims Solicitor

Josh joined LPLC in October 2013 after 11 years of experience as a Victorian solicitor in private practice. Prior to commencing as a claims solicitor, Josh worked in the General Insurance group at Lander & Rogers as a senior associate defending personal injury claims, liability claims generally and class actions.


Heather Hibberd
Chief Risk Manager

Heather practised as a solicitor for eight years in insurance litigation at Minter Ellison specialising in professional indemnity litigation before joining LPLC on secondment in 1999. She became a permanent member of staff in 2001.


Matthew Rose
Risk Manager

Matthew joined LPLC in 2010 after working in risk management roles with the London offices of global law firms Clifford Chance and Mayer Brown. Previously, Matthew practised as a senior associate in Minter Ellison’s commercial litigation group.


Phillip Nolan
Risk Manager

Phillip joined LPLC in February 2013 and was formerly a principal at SBA Law. He is a member of the Property Law Committee and a member of the Dispute Resolution Committee at the LIV. He is a Senior Fellow of the University of Melbourne where he lectures in property law to postgraduates in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning. On 18 November 2011 Phil received the Law Institute of Victoria Certificate of Service Award.


Stephen Bubb
Risk Manager

Stephen joined LPLC as a risk manager in January 2016 after 18 months at the Law Institute of Victoria and over 30 years in private practice. He has 20 years of practical experience as a legal practice manager and a focus on practice management issues.


Martin Dohnt
Chief Financial Officer

Martin joined LPLC as Chief Financial Officer in 2013 and manages the accounting, finance and payroll functions. Prior to commencing at LPLC, Martin has worked in the financial services industry for over 20 years. During this time he held senior finance management positions at Defence Force Credit Union and ASG Friendly Society.


Bernadette Mallia
Corporate Services Manager

After working in the property/leasing department of several city law firms, Bernadette joined LPLC in 1988. In addition to supervising the annual renewal of insurance and overseeing the maintenance of the LPLC database, Bernadette is the reference point for insured practitioners, LPLC service providers and other stakeholders.

Supplementary information

Legislation administered by the Committee

The Legal Practice Act 1996 – 1 July 2005 to 11 December 2005.

The Legal Profession Act 2004 – 12 December 2005 to 30 June 2015.

The Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014 (Vic) – 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2018.

Whistleblowers policy statement

LPLC is committed to the objectives of the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2001 (Vic) (WP Act). LPLC recognises the value of transparency and accountability and will support the making of any disclosures pursuant to the guidelines set out in the WP Act, but subject to section 112 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014 (Vic).

Compliance with the Building Act 1993 (Vic)

LPLC does not own any buildings and consequently is exempt from notifying its compliance with the building and maintenance provisions of the Building Act 1993 (Vic).

Categories of documents held by LPLC

  • Applications by legal practitioners for insurance.
  • Assessment notices.
  • Notifications by legal practitioners of claims or circumstances likely to give rise to claims.
  • Board papers and minutes for LPLC and LPLC sub committees.
  • Management records.
  • Administration records.
  • Accounting records.
  • Library material.

Freedom of information

LPLC has received one request pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) for the reporting period.

Publications

LPLC continues to publish relevant information on its website www.lplc.com.au.

Occupational health and safety

LPLC continued its commitment to OH&S compliance during the reporting period. Four staff members are trained as first aid officers. All issues relating to safe work place practices are considered and reported at staff meetings. There were no reported OH&S related incidents in the reporting year.

Workforce data

The Committee undertakes an annual performance appraisal and salary review of the CEO. Department managers conduct an annual performance review of their respective direct reports.

Staff members are able to raise issues privately with the CEO and Corporate Services Manager at any time. Alternatively, matters can be raised with the Committee.

2016/17

Position Male Female Total
Chief Executive Officer 1 1
Chief Financial Officer 1 1
Claims Manager 2 3 5
Risk Manager 3 1 4
Corporate Services Manager 1 1
Communications Manager 1 1
Premiums Manager 1 1
Digital Content and Reporting Manager 1 1
Receptionist/PA/Administration 6 6
Total 6 15 21

2017/18

Position Male Female Total
Chief Executive Officer 1 (from 01/01/18) 1 (until 31/12/17) 1
Chief Financial Officer 1 1
Head of Claims 1(until 31/12/17) 1 (from 22/01/18) 1
Claims Manager 1 3 4
Risk Manager 3 1 4
Corporate Services Manager 1 1
Communications Manager 1 1
Premiums Manager 1 1
Digital Content and Reporting Manager 1 1
Receptionist/PA/Administration 6 (until 05/06/18)
5 (from 06/06/18)
6
Total 6 15 21

Environmental issues

In July 2009, LPLC registered with Sustainability Victoria to develop an environmental management plan (EMP). This plan assists LPLC to manage the environmental impact from its day to day business activities.

LPLC staff attended a series of workshops held through Sustainability Victoria’s Resource Smart Government program.

Each area of LPLC’s business was assessed to see where energy was used, resources consumed and how this could be reduced. The task of monitoring this EMP has been allocated to a team within the office.

The plan covers the 2017/18 reporting year.

Energy consumption

LPLC will continue with its energy saving initiatives such as using natural light in offices where possible, shutting down computers and printers after hours and only having lights on in the parts of the office where necessary. LPLC again made a commitment to purchase no less than 20 per cent green power for office requirements.

Total energy usage was approximately 58,480 kWh compared to 59,220 kWh in 2016/17 and the energy used per unit of office area 82.95 compared to 83.40 in 2016/17. kWh of energy used per FTE was 3483.

The 2018/19 target is to reduce energy usage by at least 10 per cent.

Waste generation

LPLC continues to monitor the levels of waste generated by its operations and staff. Building management continue to provide a commingled recycling service which has assisted greatly in reducing waste generated by LPLC sent to landfill.

LPLC continues to reduce waste generation through recycling of all computer components, CDs, DVDs, used printer cartridges, old dictating equipment, old mobile phones, old landline phones and any other computer peripherals by using a not for profit recycling service, Byte Back.

LPLC continued to recycle close to 90 per cent of its waste for the reporting period.

Paper consumption

The policies adopted by LPLC in purchasing only printers that are capable of double sided copying, defaulting all communal printers to double sided and using electronic documents instead of paper whenever possible are still policies which are very much adhered to.

A very high percentage of LPLC’s paper and cardboard waste is recycled through a secure paper recycling contractor. LPLC recycled approximately 1.47 tonnes of paper in the reporting period which contributed to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of more than 1.9 tonnes of carbon over 2017/18.

Units of paper used per FTE (A4 reams/FTE) was 23.53 which was an increase from the previous year due to more printing being produced in-house.

The target for the 2018/19 year is to reduce the paper consumption by at least 10 per cent compared to 2017/18, taking into account the increase in producing risk management material in-house.

Transport

LPLC does not operate a fleet of vehicles for business use and has a travel policy which includes the purchase of carbon credits for all air travel undertaken.

Competition policy

Until 11 December 2005 section 227A of the Legal Practice Act provided:

‘For the purposes of the Trade Practices Act 1974 of the Commonwealth and Competition Code, the entering into and performance of a contract of professional indemnity insurance by a person or firm and the Liability Committee under sections 224, 225, 226 or 227 is authorised by this Act.’

From 12 December 2005 until 30 June 2015 section 3.5.5 of the Legal Profession Act 2004 provides:

‘For the purposes of the Trade Practices Act 1974 of the Commonwealth and Competition Code, the entering into and performance of a contract of professional indemnity insurance by a law practice and the Liability Committee under this Part is authorised by this Act.’

From 1 July 2015 section 119 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014 (Vic) provides:

‘For the purposes of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 of the Commonwealth and Competition Code, the entering into and performance of a contract of professional indemnity insurance by a law practice and the Liability Committee is authorised by this Act’.

Consultants

Consultants each year provide specialist advice to assist with decision making and risk management programs. During 2017/18 total consultancy expenditure as defined by the Financial Management Act 1994 (Vic) was approximately $233,782.

Taylor Fry – Actuaries

Taylor Fry is LPLC’s actuary. The expenditure for the reporting period was $120,804.

Cumpston Sarjeant – Actuaries

LPLC also obtains actuarial advice from Cumpston Sarjeant. The consulting fee paid to this firm for the reporting period was $46,418. Cumpston Sarjeant has been retained for the 2018/19 reporting period.

Kiandra IT

Kiandra IT was LPLC’s website development and digital strategy consultant. The expenditure for the reporting period was $52,711.

Corvus Group

LPLC obtained human resources advice from Corvus Group and the consulting fee for the reporting period was $14,263.

Legal Practitioners’ Liability Committee Financial Management Compliance Attestation Statement

I, John Corcoran AM, on behalf of the Responsible Body, certify that the Legal Practitioners’ Liability Committee has complied with the applicable Standing Directions of the Minister for Finance under the Financial Management Act 1994 and Instructions.

 

Contact details

Legal Practitioners’ Liability Committee
Level 31, 570 Bourke Street
MELBOURNE VIC 3000
DX 431
ABN: 45 838 419 536
Telephone: (03) 9672 3800
Facsimile: (03) 9670 5538
Website: www.lplc.com.au