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Insurance law journal is crown jewel of new center
March 30, 1998

Hartford is traditionally known as the center of insurance, and now the University of Connecticut School of Law, located in the city, is becoming the academic center for insurance law.

The core of the newly opened Insurance Law Center is the Connecticut Insurance Law Journal, one of three journals at the law school. It is the world's only academic law review focused solely on insurance law. What's more, it is edited and produced by students.

"The journal is our most visible public face," says Tom Baker, the center's director and the Connecticut Mutual Professor of Law. "It goes out to people all over the country. It's unique that students have such a major role in a leading professional journal. We tell our students that we will give you opportunities for great research, in addition to education, and we'll let people know about it. The journal validates and establishes us as a national center."

The journal was established in 1994, with the first volume published in the spring of 1995. Professor Robert Googins, the former Connecticut insurance commissioner, worked with founding editor Jonathan M. Starble to secure funding and support for the new venture.

"We started the Insurance Law Journal because the Law School, being located in Hartford, has the unique opportunity to draw on its insurance resources. There is a high level of sophistication in insurance law in this area," says Starble, '92 and '95, who currently practices commercial litigation, including insurance law, with Rogin, Nassau, Caplan, Lassman and Hirtle of Hartford.

The journal is published twice a year, covering topics such as how tobacco-related litigation may impact the world's insurance industry, health care reform, and allowing motorists to choose to be legally uninsured.

"It was founded by a number of students who recognized a need for it and Connecticut was the natural choice," says Karen Staib, editor-in-chief for the current volume. "We're still in the early stages of our evolution, but are already making great strides."

The journal is one of several components that makes the UConn Law School the nation's premier school for training lawyers who specialize in insurance.

The Insurance Law Center, which had its formal opening in January, was established to formalize the University's offerings in insurance law. Created through a combination of public and private funding, the center offers more courses in insurance law than any other law school in the country.

The University last year adopted a master's degree in insurance law, which has received approval from the Board of Trustees and the American Association of Law Schools. The state Board of Governors will review the program this spring and the American Bar Association, which has completed a site evaluation, will vote on the program next month..

The one-year program, expected to begin enrolling students this fall, is named for the Phoenix Mutual Home Life Insurance Co., which produced more than $700,000 in endowment gifts and grants for the center. Many of the courses will be taught by those in the industry.

Googins, who has taught insurance law at the law school since 1964, was the founding director and the impetus behind the center.

"The law journal is one of the key components of the center. I think it's a boon to our master's degree program. It will be a vehicle not only for those in the program, but for all of our students," he says. "The journal is a very significant jewel in the crown of the center."

Staib says the center also will be of great importance to the future of the journal.

"This is the first year the insurance center has become structured, but it is already a huge resource for us, as are Professors Baker and Googins," she says. "The center and its components will strengthen the journal and help it grow. Having an LL.M. program will bring top people from law schools and from the industry. Most other schools have no more than an introductory course in insurance law."

Staib says about 50 students work on the journal, which will print its next issue in April with articles from an American Association of Law Schools symposium sponsored by the center last year.

"We'll be publishing top names in insurance because of the center's symposium," Staib says. "The more superior authors you have, the more it becomes recognized and a desirable place for authors to have their work published."

Authors have included numerous well known experts in academia and in the practical arena, such as William Young, a professor at Columbia Law School and one of the leading law insurance scholars since the 1950s.

Baker says the center and the journal take a broad view of insurance. He says insurance affects everyone.

"Insurance is a field where academic and practicing lawyers have much in common. There is less of a gap between law schools and law practice. The center offers something everyone can use. I hope we bring long-range, informed perspectives to bear on insurance risk and responsibility. In our world, insurance issues such as health insurance and motor vehicle insurance inevitably end up in the legal sphere.".

Renu Aldrich