Q and A with Nicholas Ellor, Underwriter

4 Apr 2023

Nick tells us about his 20-year legal career in London, his reasons for selling up and moving to São Paulo in 2009 and why he loves miserable British winter weather

What is your role at Harbour Underwriting?

I am a commercial dispute insurance underwriter.

Can you briefly outline your career before you joined Harbour Underwriting?

I practised company and commercial law in Holborn for about 20 years.

As a consequence of the credit crunch/financial crisis in 2008/9, I embarked on a complete change of direction. I sold everything in the UK, moved lock, stock and barrel with my young family to Brazil (São Paulo), and taught English there for about nine years. My wife is Brazilian.

I came back to the UK in 2017 and, not wishing to go back into the legal profession, joined Temple Legal Protection Ltd as a commercial dispute insurance underwriter.

What prompted you to go into the insurance industry?

On returning to the UK, I did not want to go back to being a lawyer. I looked for a job where the experience, skills and knowledge I had gained as a practising lawyer acting on both contentious and non-contentious matters could be put to good use. Being an underwriter for legal expenses insurance seemed to be a good fit.

What do you most enjoy about your role?

The cut and thrust of legal argument. My intellectual curiosity is always fully engaged, and there’s never a dull day. I am always challenged by the sheer variety of different areas of law opined upon by leading silks.

I enjoy working with highly skilled professionals and making decisions, supportive or otherwise, of applicants for dispute insurance.

Tell us about some of the most memorable events in your current career

Trying to read a judge and second guess the direction of travel is always a dangerous game. We once insured two claimant cases, one relating to professional negligence and the other to defamatory tweets. The trials of both were heard at roughly the same time. I felt sure we were probably on the wrong side of the tweet defamation claim and on the right side of the negligence claim. When judgment was handed down on both claims a couple of months later, the opposite turned out to be the case.

Underwriting high-value cases in the Competition Appeal Tribunal is always satisfying when a settlement is achieved without going to trial. It confirms your original take on the merits and prospects of success.

I am proud of having designed bespoke policies of dispute insurance for high-value construction adjudication cases and building in cover for possible summary judgment and final determination proceedings where the referring party was insolvent. They seem to have passed muster in both the Technology and Construction Court (TCC) and High Court when subjected to detailed scrutiny by both judges and defendant counsel.

What are your ambitions in your current role?

To help maintain Harbour Underwriting’s position as the foremost provider of dispute insurance cover and continue to grow due to the quality of its products and service.

Who has been the most influential person in your career and how have they helped you?

As a lawyer, my principal in the firm I was employed by for about 20 years. He combined an impressive legal mind with great commercial aptitude.

As an underwriter, I owe a great debt of gratitude to the late principal of my former employer for giving me a foothold into the profession.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do? What qualities do they need?

Intellectual curiosity, a good analytical mind, decisiveness and the most difficult quality of all to pin down, good judgment.

What do you most enjoy doing outside of work?

Walking in the Surrey Hills and a pint of ale in a country pub.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Miserable overcast, drizzly and generally dull winter days after suffering nearly a decade of continuous year-round merciless Brazilian blue skies and sun.

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