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DAS female solicitors give their perspective on ATE insurance


This year marks the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 that paved the way for women to enter into the legal profession.

With this in mind, and with this week’s AvMA Annual Clinical Negligence Conference (ACNC) almost upon us, we thought we’d get some female perspectives on ATE insurance and the role it plays in supporting access to justice.

1) How important is ATE insurance in 2019?

Linda Millband: “It’s incredibly important for clinical negligence cases. Without it we would not be able to fund the medical reports required to assess whether a case has reasonable prospects of success. And crucially, if the report is unsupportive, the cost of the premium is written off. This allows us to work on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis – the most important factor in respect of the client’s funding.”

Every partner firm is different and every client is different – imposing a ‘one size fits all’ approach just doesn’t work.

Fran Clothier

Fran Clothier: “ATE insurance is a vital part of the overall funding package offered to injured claimants, for the majority of whom the costs risk of proceeding uninsured would be too high, leaving them with no option for recourse.”

2) What is the ATE market doing right?

LM: “The ATE market is contracting and some of the big players have gone into liquidation, seemingly where they tried to cut premiums too much. Although competitive pricing is important, it has become obvious, since LASPO, that if insurers try to reduce premiums too much, their business model will not be viable.

“The providers still in the market are getting it right by providing a better product, at a higher price – a sustainable model.”

FC: “It continues to provide essential access to justice for claimants. Despite an ever-changing market, the best insurers have kept abreast of the changes and responded with propositions that meet the evolving needs of solicitors and their clients. With the introduction of the MOJ portal, LASPO, and now The Civil Liabilities Act approaching, this has been no mean feat!”

3) What could it do better?

LM: “There could be more transparency on how the premiums are calculated so that everyone, including the defendants, could understand this element. This might result in fewer premium disputes upon detailed assessment.”

ATE is incredibly important for clinical negligence cases. Without it we would not be able to fund the medical reports required to assess whether a case has reasonable prospects of success.

Linda Millband

FC: “Something I have learnt to appreciate during my 14 years at DAS is that every partner firm is different and every client is different – imposing a ‘one size fits all’ approach just doesn’t work.

“Insurers must understand firms better and work with them closely to really access the benefits that a strategic, cohesive partnership can offer. A market-leading ATE insurer will also be curious about all areas of the law and consider how ATE can help more people get access to justice.

“There is also potential to be unlocked by embracing a more creative approach with a view to expanding the areas of law considered viable for ATE insurance.”

4) The advantages of ATE with regards to medical negligence?

LM: “Put simply, without ATE funding it is unlikely that 90% of cases would be pursued.”

FC: “Where ATE insurance comes into its own with clinical negligence is by offering day one cover, thereby supporting the crucial investigation stage. With clinical negligence cases, a high proportion of fees are incurred at the outset while liability and causation are investigated, and these can be covered by the policy which provides everyone with peace of mind.

“And with partial recovery of the premium in these cases, insurers have the option to adopt a different approach to pricing which can result in a more favourable outcome for the claimant.

5) ‘The First 100 Years’ anniversary of women in law is a real landmark. But what still needs to change?

LM: “Enormous progress has been made by women in the law. However, more needs to be done in respect of flexible working so women are able to have a good work-life balance and pursue a successful career as well as having a family.

“Equally, flexible working and childcare is not an issue solely relevant to women – men should also be encouraged to work in a way which allows them to contribute more to family life.”

FC: “I have definitely noticed female legal leaders becoming more visible in the media. Nevertheless, I feel we need to see even more if we are to get a fairer gender balance in the industry. Seeing these images and reading these articles challenges bias, and seeing the success of females not only acts as an inspiration, but challenges stereotypes, and that’s really important.

“And while we’re on the subject, we certainly mustn’t forget ‘The First 100 Years’, a history project charting the journey of women in the profession since 1919. Their project is intended to celebrate, inform and inspire future generations of women in the profession – you can find out more at the First Hundred Years website.