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Insurance and reinsurance law: area of practice

This is very much an area for self-starters, says Mandip Sagoo, partner at Mayer Brown International LLP.
Since insurance companies insure things all over the world, opportunities for travel sometimes arise.

Insurance solicitors provide advice to insurance companies in the event of a claim being notified under an insurance policy and also assist in the defence of claims brought against insured professionals.

There are different areas of insurance specialism but the main areas are: professional indemnity; product liability; political risk; financial institutions; and directors and officers insurance. In a typical case, the solicitor receives instructions from the insurer and then advises on whether or not the notified claim is, in principle, covered by the insurance. The solicitor might then move to act in defence of the insured party in respect of the claim that has been brought against them.

Alternatively, where it is determined that a notified claim may not be covered under the insurance, the solicitor may also be called on to represent insurers in a coverage dispute with the insured party. For the most part, the work done in this team is of a contentious nature.

Solicitors may deal with a larger volume of medium or smaller cases, or have one or two very active cases that take up all of their time. Most cases are handled by a team of one partner, an associate and a trainee. If there is a larger than typical volume of documents or work involved, the team may include a senior and junior associate as well as paralegals.

Anything can be insured. That means from one day to the next, from one hour to the next, you could be dealing with very different subject matter in each case. That is not to say there is not some repetition – similar issues will arise in many cases and, with experience, you become alive to the potential arguments and how best to respond. From time to time, new areas of insurance will crop up; more recently, for example, we have been getting involved in cyber liability insurance, which is designed to cover the consequences of data loss arising from, for example, a breach of an insured party’s network.

Do insurance solicitors have opportunities to travel with work? 

The work is mostly office based but solicitors often go to clients’ premises for meetings or interviews and also to court, mediations or arbitrations. Since insurance companies insure things all over the world, however, opportunities for travel do sometimes arise; for example, in the context of political risk insurance, which is designed to cover the risk of a change in circumstances in jurisdictions where there may be concerns about the stability or reliability of a particular government. Working hours are driven by the needs of the job but a reasonable day’s work would find you in the office from around 9.00 am to 7.00 pm. Weekend working and all-night stints are not a regular part of the job in this group, but there may be some occasions when it is required.

Is insurance and reinsurance law recession-proof?

Some of our busiest times have been during the recession. Insurance is a product that people buy to transfer risk – as such, the insurance market tends to get busier when there is an economic downturn because people/businesses are looking for ways to recover their losses, whether from their insurance providers or by pursuing claims against third parties who themselves have the benefit of insurance

What skills does an insurance and reinsurance law solicitor need to do the job?

  • A good work ethic and an analytical mind..
  • Negotiation skills, taking clients’ commercial needs into account..
  • Commercial awareness, as solicitors represent their insurer clients not just in a legal capacity but as part of their brand.
  • The ability to deal with competing priorities.

What is it like doing a trainee solicitor's job in insurance and reinsurance law?

We see trainees as an incredibly valuable resource and a genuine part of the team. A trainee in the group can expect to be involved in document management, review and analysis, drafting (for example of correspondence or advice) and may also be asked to carry out research, which may feed into technical or strategic points we may be considering pursuing. Trainees can also expect to attend meetings and be asked to make notes. This is very much an area for self-starters.

Types of law practised

  • Contract.
  • Insurance.
  • Tort.

Mandip Sagoo is a partner in the insurance and reinsurance department of Mayer Brown International LLP. He graduated with a degree in law with French from the University of Birmingham in 1999.