This post will explain the use and purpose of a certificate of insurance, in connection with a legal malpractice insurance policy.

What is a Certificate of Insurance?

A certificate of insurance (COI), serves as proof of coverage for the entity or person listed as the insured.

When Does An Attorney Need a Certificate of Insurance? 

There are three situations in which an attorney has to provide a COI:
1. When required by a court to be added to one of its panels, and thus be eligible to receive referrals;
2. When required by the state in which the attorney practices, i.e., New Jersey requires any attorney who has formed an LLC, PC, or other entity, to obtain malpractice insurance, and file a COI with the NJ Supreme Court, confirming that the entity is covered;
3. When a client or prospective client wants to confirm that the attorney is covered, before retaining the attorney. In that case, it may verbally request that the attorney provide a COI, or require it as part of the engagement agreement between the parties.

How Does an Attorney Obtain a Certificate of Insurance?

If you need a COI for the either of the first two situations, simply request it from the insurance agency that placed your policy. Their staff can fill it out in a few minutes, and email it to you.

Coverage Issues an Attorney May Face in Seeking a Certificate of Insurance 

A problem will arise with the third situation, if the client requires that the attorney’s policy and COI name the client as an additional insured. There are several instances in which this might occur, i.e., when an attorney enters a contractual relationship with a title insurance company or one of its agents, to close real estate transactions on its behalf, in return for a portion of the title insurance premium. 

Naming a client as an additional insured is routinely done with general liability insurance – i.e., a landowner who hires a contractor to build a structure, will require it to obtain general liability coverage, naming the landowner as an additional insured on the policy, and provide a COI to this effect – but it can’t be done with legal malpractice insurance (or any other type of professional liability insurance), due to the wording of the insuring agreement. 

Industry standard, is that the insuring agreement states that the insurer will “pay on behalf of an Insured, all amounts… that an Insured becomes legally obligated to pay…based on an alleged negligent act, error or omission in the Insured’s rendering or failing to render legal services…”Further, “Insured” is defined as “any lawyer…listed in the application”, or who “becomes a partner…or employee of the Named Insured”….

Only a lawyer can render legal services, so only a lawyer who qualifies as an insured, as defined, can be covered by a legal malpractice insurance policy, i.e., the insurer ‘will pay on behalf of’ that attorney and the attorney’s firm only.  


Your malpractice insurance policy will cover you and your firm, for legal services that you provide, if you incur a malpractice claim, but if your client is named as a co-defendant, i.e., for alleged negligence in retaining you to provide legal services, then your policy won’t defend or indemnify it, due to the language of the insuring agreement. 

The client may be covered by its general liability policy for such a claim, or if not, it may be able to have that policy endorsed to provide such coverage. It should discuss this with its insurance agent.

Your agent or broker can provide you with a COI that names your client as a certificate holder, which will prove that you have a legal malpractice insurance policy, but it won’t it give the client any rights under your policy.


Certificates of Insurance Do Not Create Policy Coverage Obligations | Tennessee Insurance Litigation Blog

Additional Insureds and Certificates of Insurance | New Jersey Insurance Coverage Litigation

Detecting Fraudulent Certificates of Insurance | New Jersey Insurance Coverage Litigation