Insurance coverage for pro bono legal services

Information Sheet: Pro Bono Services and other resources

Lawyers often provide legal advice and services for free. The professional liability insurance policy (Part A) provides the following coverage for these services.

Lawyers in private practice

Lawyers in private practice pay the annual insurance fee and enjoy coverage for any claims arising out of their provision of legal services, including those provided on a pro bono basis.

Lawyers not in private practice

As lawyers not in private practice (retired, non-practising or in-house) do not pay the annual insurance fee, they are not protected by insurance for any claims arising out of their pro bono legal services, with one exception.

The policy provides professional liability insurance, without payment of the insurance fee, to lawyers in good standing for ‘sanctioned services’. There are pro bono services delivered to an individual through a pro bono legal services program provided both the program and the services are approved by the Law Society. Lawyers providing these services also avoid the usual financial consequences of a paid claim, if one arises.

This insurance supports the delivery of certain legal services, through a number of programs, to people who cannot afford a lawyer.

For details about how the coverage operates for lawyers providing general pro bono services, as well as sanctioned services, see the Information Sheet: Pro Bono Services.

Other terms and conditions in the policy may limit or preclude coverage, and lawyers will want to make separate inquiries in respect of any excess insurance their firm might carry.

If you would like the Insurer’s position on coverage in a particular set of circumstances, please send a detailed description of the circumstances, in writing, to one of the advance ruling advisors.

Approved services and programs for ‘sanctioned services’

For information on approved pro bono programs, consult the Access Pro Bono website.

Providing free advice to friends and family

You should be sensitive to the unique risks you attract if you agree to provide legal advice to friends or family – often for no charge. About to act for family and friends? (Resist — it’s just too risky) outlines those risks – including the lack of coverage when acting for family – and offers concrete practice tips to help you avoid them.

Related information

Lawyers Insurance Fund extends coverage for pro bono work in approved programs, November-December, 2001 Benchers' Bulletin
New report maps plan for pro bono in BC, May-June/July-August, 2002 Benchers' Bulletin
Insurance Issues 2002 No. 1