A Q&A with Maria Philippides and Craig Woolley of South Africa “Law Firm of the Year” Norton Rose Fulbright.
What achievements in the last year do you think led to Norton Rose Fulbright being named a “Law Firm of the Year” for insurance law?
Norton Rose Fulbright has a national footprint, with offices in Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town and lawyers that specialize in all aspects of insurance law, who represent most of the major insurers and brokers in SA. As a result of our profile in the market, we have presented training on insurance to attorneys in SA at the request of the Law Society of South Africa and have undertaken training of judges in Uganda on insurance law.
Can you tell me about one or two of your landmark cases? What were the outcome(s) and any notable moments in the case(s)?
We recently won arbitration on behalf of AIG against a large cell phone company. The arbitrator rejected their claim for defense costs under the policy on the basis of non-disclosure, which also put an end to any prospect of the insured seeking an indemnity down the line for the primary claim of 276 million euros. The matter was challenging in that it involved a bespoke policy wording, developed in London, with a unique set of provisions relating to the disclosure requirements of the insured.
What are some of the most redeeming qualities of your law firm?
Collegiality and teamwork coupled with centers of excellence.
How do you think that the rise in extreme weather might impact the insurance market?
We have seen extreme weather and storm-related damage in areas of South Africa not usually associated with these weather patterns. There is no doubt that markets will harden as a result of tougher (and more expensive) reinsurance conditions. Relationships between insurers and reinsurers may take strain as reinsurers insist on higher premiums and more stringent underwriting criteria. Ultimately, the consumers will pay notwithstanding that they have little control over the weather.
In what ways has the rise in technology changed the insurance market, and how do you think it might continue to change it?
Technology is making the market more competitive. New products are being brought into the market, and those that don’t keep up will fall behind. It remains to be seen whether the smaller insurers will be able to spend on technology to the same extent as the big players in the market, and they will have to compensate in some way to stay competitive.
Where do you see your firm in the next five years? Do you have any plans for the foreseeable future?
We see ourselves as being the best insurance law firm in Africa. Our plans include expanding our range of jurisdictions in which we work and to work with our other offices globally to find new work streams.