About the PLFThe Oregon State Bar Board of Governors created the Professional Liability Fund in 1977 pursuant to state statute (ORS 9.080) and with approval of the membership. The PLF first began operation on July 1, 1978, and has been the mandatory provider of primary malpractice coverage for Oregon lawyers since that date.
The PLF provides coverage of $300,000 per claim/$300,000 aggregate to every attorney engaged in the private practice of law in Oregon. This coverage includes defense costs and, in addition, there is a $50,000 claims expense allowance. In 2020, the basic assessment for this coverage is $3,300 for each attorney; the assessment has remained the same for two consecutive years.
The PLF's philosophy is that a program of this type must be mandatory for all lawyers in private practice in the state, as purely voluntary participation could result in adverse selection and a concentration of only the "bad" risks, leading to financial instability. Over time, the cost of coverage provided by the PLF has proved to be less than the cost of comparable commercial coverage.
Of the roughly 14,730 active members of the Oregon State Bar who live in Oregon, approximately 7,200 are in private practice and participate in the PLF. The remaining Bar members claim exemption from the PLF as corporate counsel, government lawyers, law professors, etc. These numbers fluctuate slightly throughout the year.
Protecting Oregon Lawyers
The coverage provided by the PLF is on a "claims made" basis rather than an "occurrence" basis. The PLF also provides automatic extended reporting or "tail" coverage at no cost to attorneys who discontinue practicing law in Oregon.
The PLF has enjoyed support from the membership and very good success with the handling of its claims. Based on recent data, roughly 67% of claim files are closed without payment of any settlement or judgment, while 33% involve some payment to a claimant. The average claim payment (including claims for which no payment was made) is approximately $9,600. Roughly 40% of claim files are closed without payment of any claims expense, while 60% involve some claims expense. The average claims expense paid on a claim (including claims with no claims expense) is approximately $11,400.
In order to keep malpractice claims as low as possible, the PLF offers an extensive array of loss prevention programs, including (1) legal education seminars, publications, and practice aids that alert lawyers to malpractice traps, (2) a practice management attorney program that helps lawyers improve office systems and procedures, and (3) a personal assistance program that helps lawyers practice more effectively (Oregon Attorney Assistance Program).
Services We Provide
Beginning in 1991, the PLF has also offered optional excess coverage on an underwritten basis to Oregon law firms. Coverage is available up to aggregate limits of $10 million. Excess coverage is also available from commercial insurers. Roughly half of the lawyers in private practice carry some excess coverage.