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Ethics of Insurance Defense Under ROR: Model Rule 1.7, Conflicts, and Insured's Right to Independent Counsel

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Recorded event now available

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This CLE webinar will offer objective legal analysis and subjective, practical suggestions about how to resolve ethical dilemmas which need to be addressed when a liability insurer agrees to defend its policyholder under a reservation of rights but proceeds to appoint defense counsel and direct the defense. The panelist will share how policyholders, insurers, and panel counsel determine whether a reservation of rights creates a disqualifying conflict of interest for panel counsel, the possible consequences if a conflict is deemed to exist, and alternative solutions.


Even with law from all 50 states, insurers and policyholders frequently disagree about what facts give rise to a conflict of interest within the context of the tripartite relationship when a liability insurer agrees to defend its policyholder under a reservation of rights.

Some of the questions to be answered are: Does a reservation of rights trigger panel counsel’s duty of undivided loyalty (Rule 1.7), duty of disclosure (Rule 1.4), duty of confidentiality (Rule 1.6), and limitations on compensation from insurers (Rule 1.8)? When is the tripartite relationship harmonious and when it is dissonant, and why? Who has the power in this situation? Who has what burdens to whom? When and how must solutions be found?

Listen as Stephen L. Thomas examines the language of the Rules, liability insurance law, and practical non-litigation solutions for panel counsel to comply with the Rules, for reserving insurers to fulfill contractual and regulatory obligations, for policyholders to enforce their rights, and for counsel for injured victims to facilitate prompt settlements.



  1. The rules empower policyholders to withhold consent to representation: “Just say ‘no’”
  2. Six conjunctive prongs of model rule 1.7
  3. The legal test: does a reservation of rights creates a disqualifying conflict of interest?
  4. The uniformity of insurance industry conduct
  5. How policyholders may develop admissible evidence through the duty of disclosure
  6. When may panel counsel ethically represent policyholders
  7. Strategies for policyholders, plaintiffs, insurers, and panel counsel
  8. Insurer defenses


Mr. Thomas will discuss these and other issues:

  • Who has what power in this situation?
  • When should all participants assess potential and actual conflicts of interest?
  • What is the correct legal standard for determining if a reservation of right creates a disqualifying conflict of interest?
  • What are policyholder practical, non-litigation remedies if an unresolved disqualifying conflict of interest exists?
  • How should panel counsel respond to ethical challenges?
  • How should the insurer respond to a request for independent counsel?


Thomas, Stephen L.
Stephen L. Thomas


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