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a/e ProNet Celebrates 30th Anniversary

At our 30th anniversary dinner in Chicago, IL last Thursday night, a/e ProNet members gathered to honor our organization and the improvements our members have affected for 3 decades.  Our members reflected on why a/e ProNet was created, how far we have come, and where we are going.  We were lucky to hear a speech by Tom Coghlan, one of a/e ProNet’s five founding members, who laid out the vision that has driven a/e ProNet to hold such a significant position in the design professionals insurance marketplace.  Tom gave credit for the impetus that has led us here to the late Dave Lakamp, who’s efforts to reshape this industry continue to guide the industry still today, through our organization and the work of our members.

Here is what Tom had to say:

In 1987, a group of 5 brokers met at Lockton Brokers in Kansas City. Dave LaKamp(may he rest in peace), Grover “Brad” Simpson, Dave Shipley( may he rest in peace), Greg Kumm and I. Prior to this initial meeting Greg and I were encouraged by Lorna Parsons of Schinnerer to introduce ourselves to each other because we were all complaining about the market conditions, at the time, and the impact that was having on design professionals. The timing of this was during what had been dubbed by the media as “The Liability Crisis” that impacted virtually all aspects of society, in general and design professionals in particular. Some of you in the insurance industry then(the Mid-1980’s) will remember soaring Professional Liability Premiums, imposed Deductible increase seven for firms without losses, limited choices among insurers in the marketplace, and an inability to satisfy contractually agreed to Limits of Liability due to the lack of reinsurance and the overall angst our design professional clients were experiencing.

We discussed the following questions, among others:
Would design professionals in private practice benefit from the formation of a new network of insurance professionals, independent from the Professional Liability insurers, dedicated to providing risk and practice management initiatives, programs and services?
Could we leverage our collective knowledge, experience and individual advocacy for our design clients and improve the availability and afford ability of Professional Liability coverage?

It was decided that yes-establishing this new independent network would benefit our clients and protect them from the inconsistent and erratic behavior of the insurance industry writ large.

a/e ProNet was formed in 1988 and began to build out its membership, by invitation only, with like-minded and capable insurance brokers throughout the country. Today, we have 37 broker members and 10 associate members who are practicing attorneys who provide counsel and defense to our design professional clients. We represent some $300,000,000 in annual Professional Liability Premium in the aggregate and some 16,000 design clients. Truly a testament to a great success story of our members delivering value to our design clients!

In my opinion and experience, Dave LaKamp was the primary visionary and driver of our success. Dave LaKamp was a pioneer in the development of the discipline of design practice risk and practice management. Dave connected the “dots” among all stakeholders:

• the insurance brokerage, insurance and reinsurance communities
• the practicing design professionals
• the professional organizations including the AlA, NSPE, ACEC, both locally and nationally
• owner groups, both public and private
• and the legal defense community

I believe Dave was the most articulate, innovative and effective advocate for design practice risk management in the insurance industry during the last few decades of the 20th century. Dave was an iconoclast who’s talent and vision matched the moment. He strongly advocated an empowerment of design professionals when insurers and attorneys, and even the AlA, through their standard documents, were encouraging design professionals to attempt to limit their scope and avoid responsibilities when rendering services the project owners.

Dave believed this was a slippery slope of diminishing the value of the design professional, which would leave them with reduced standing in the design/construction process, reduced revenue for services rendered, while at the same time, ultimate legal responsibility with less control of a successful project outcome. Dave believed design professionals should negotiate as full a scope of services as possible to protect the project owner, while at the same time provide design professionals with the authority and knowledge as to what was occurring on the project in real time.

Dave was instrumental in showing Professional Liability insurers that providing pre-claim assistance to design professionals would reinforce and preserve the design professional’s relationship with the project owner, reduce the design professional’s liability and ultimately benefit the insurers. In the day- that was a pretty good trick. Well done, Dave.

Dave was also effective in encouraging the Professional Liability insurers to recognize they really didn’t need all of the legacy and newly introduced Exclusions contained in their policies. These include, but are not limited to, Exclusions for design/build, timeliness of services, cost estimating and the newly introduced absolute pollution and asbestos Exclusions. Each of these Exclusions have been eliminated from the typical coverage offerings to design practices. He believed if design professionals shied away from and stepped back from offering meaningful and valued services to the project owner others would fill the void. Ava Abramowitz, when she was at the AlA and involved in the standard document revision process used the term “assertive practice.” Not reckless. Not aggressive. Just a call for design professionals to reclaim their historical role.

Dave believed design professionals should be shoulder to shoulder with project owners as highly respected professionals enabling project owners to achieve their objectives, rather than be in the line of fire when the inevitable difficulties would surface during the course of developing the project. He believed design professionals should be relied upon to professionally respond to those
circumstances- not be blamed for them. Let’s call it turning a pigs ear into a silk purse. Once again, good job, Dave.

Dave believed professional Liability insurers should be proactive in managing risk rather than just passively defending and indemnifying claimants when warranted.

Dave LaKamp:
• didn’t accept the status quo
• had a vision of how things could be better for the design professionals he served as an insurance broker and adviser, and
• shared his knowledge, experience and talents with others to improve the discipline of design practice risk and practice management.

Today, a/e ProNet has a prominent position in the Professional Liability market place evidenced by all the insurers who choose to be here – and pay for the opportunity.  a/e Pro Net has the respect of all of the stakeholders I mentioned earlier. They rely on us to help them manage their risks. a/e ProNet has a continuing opportunity to shape the future of practicing design professionals’ financial well being.

I hope you found my story of the foundation of ale ProNet of interest so that you too would be inspired to think of ways you can contribute some things of value to your profession for those who will follow in your footsteps.