A Statement of Competence for Insurance Solicitors

On 25 November 2019, the SRA introduced revised Standards and Regulations to replace the Hand Book that had previously set the detailed standards expected of solicitors. The new, shorter guidelines include a Revised Code of Conduct for Solicitors (the Code), contained within section 3. The emphasis is on the requirement for solicitors to be competent to undertake the work on which they are engaged; to ensure that they maintain their levels of competency; and ensure also that those under their supervision are also competent at all times.

Whilst the SRA requirement of solicitor competence sets the standard for all solicitors, insurers rightly expect the solicitors they instruct to be specialists, to understand the industry and their businesses and apply appropriate skills and knowledge when handling their work. Insurers want to instruct not just competent solicitors but highly skilled insurance solicitors.

The FOIL Competence Statement is a statement of insurance solicitor competence. It does not replace the SRA Code, which all solicitors are required to meet, and should be read with that document, but this statement interprets it and refines it to reflect the demands of insurance work and the requirements of insurer clients. A competent insurance solicitor will not just be competent on legal issues but will also have a relevant understanding of insurance law and the insurance industry, and more specialist knowledge relating to the commercial sector in which he or she works.

The insurance industry and the Law Society

The ABI, the CII and the Law Society have all reviewed the FOIL Statement of Competence and have given their support to the project.

  • Insurers expect their lawyers to work to the highest standards of excellence at all times and the FOIL Statement of Competence and Statements of Legal Knowledge are important benchmarks, both for established insurance lawyers and those seeking to specialise in these areas of insurance law. Our members should expect their lawyers to work to the FOIL standard.

    James Dalton Director at the ABI

  • The CII is very supportive of FOIL’s work to recognise and evidence its members’ insurance law expertise, as it is a key part of increasing professionalism across the sector which ultimately supports better customer outcomes.

    Ant Gould Director of Faculties at the CII

  • The FOIL Statement of Competence, mapping against and building on the framework of the SRA’s Competence Statement, is a positive step. This is an area that all solicitors will have to grapple with to meet the new continuing competence requirements and the FOIL approach is a welcome development.

    Catherine Dixon Former CEO of the Law Society

The Statement refers to ‘solicitors’ as it is based on the SRA document. However, as anticipated by the SRA Code it will have a much wider application within FOIL member firms. It is expected that all lawyers with care and conduct of client matters will meet the competencies appropriate to their work-type, whether they are a solicitor, a qualified lawyer, or alternatively qualified.

Unlike the earlier Hand Book, the revised SRA Code does not detail how competency is to be maintained: this is left for a matter of self-assessment but on the basis that the regulator may require an individual to prove competency. FOIL wants to support its member firms in providing training and information to all their lawyers, not only to meet and maintain the requirements of the Code but also to ensure that lawyers have such additional specialist knowledge as may be needed to meet the needs of insurer clients.

For these reasons we have designed the FOIL Standard, which comprises the FOIL Competence Statement plus a number of Statements of Legal Knowledge.

As well as supporting members’ with regulatory compliance, the Standard offers the opportunity for commercial differentiation and assists with training frameworks for up and coming insurance lawyers.

Where a separate FOIL statement of legal knowledge is also relevant, for solicitors and other lawyers with care and conduct of matters within a specialism, it should be read in conjunction with the Code.

Using the knowledge and expertise of our Sector Focus Teams, made up of acknowledged experts in their sector, FOIL has produced Statements of Legal Knowledge for 14 areas of insurance law as follows.

  • Statements of Legal Knowledge

    Professional Indemnity

    Costs

    Credit Hire

    Motor

    Construction

    Catastrophic Claims

    Clinical Negligence

    Disease

    Employers' Liability

    Property

    Public Sector

    Northern Ireland

    Fraud - First Party

    Fraud - Third Party

These represent the highest benchmarks of knowledge in each sector, and can be used to demonstrate competence within the regulatory framework, as well as excellence in more commercial settings. They also set the standards for up and coming lawyers aspiring to specialise in a particular sector. Lawyers will need access to FOIL material to help keep their knowledge up to date and we will issue more Statements of Legal Knowledge for other areas of insurance over the next few months as FOIL increases the range of specialisations covered by the Standard.

Responsibility for learning and development

The SRA requires all solicitors to comply with section 3 of the Code of Conduct, by taking responsibility for ensuring that they and those for whom they are responsible provide a proper standard of service to clients.

This requirement is echoed in the FOIL Standard which places the responsibility on members to identify and address learning and development needs as a personal one which every solicitor needs to undertake, taking into account their own area of work and their own knowledge and abilities. The responsibility for meeting the standards set out for each specialist sector rests with the individual – it is important that every lawyer is proactive, to meet the standards and to fulfil his or her own potential.

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