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Celebrating 40 Years of Lawyers Mutual: A Look Back at Beginning

by Samantha Cruff |

January is the time for new beginnings and reaching goals.

The founders of Lawyers Mutual created a company dedicated to the attorneys of North Carolina. Their vision and dedication made Lawyers Mutual the great company it is today.

To celebrate our 40th Anniversary, we take a look back at the foundation of Lawyers Mutual.

A Shakeup in Malpractice Coverage

The problem that lead to creation of Lawyers Mutual arose in 1976. The North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA)'s committee for group insurance, chaired by John Beard, faced the issue of unstable malpractice coverage rates as insurers left the market or drastically increased rates.

After reviewing their options, the NCBA committee determined that the best solution was to create their own company. The first step in meeting this goal was to create a steering committee, which was overwhelmingly approved at the annual meeting.

The twelve members of that steering committee would go on to become the original Board of Directors for Lawyers Mutual. These were:

  • William Storey
  • Clarence "Ace" Walker
  • Glen Hardymon
  • John Beard
  • Henry Mitchell, Jr.
  • Thomas Norris, Jr.
  • W. W. "T" Taylor, Jr.
  • William Holdford
  • E. K. Powe
  • Richard Wharton
  • Charles Hostetler
  • Dewey Wells

Making It Happen

The first step for realization of the insurance company was to raise the initial funds to establish it. This was accomplished through a capital campaign. The amount requested varied, depending on years of practice. The ability to contribute was made simple, whether an attorney opted to pay via credit card or cash.

The steering committee led the way. Founder Glen Hardymon created a circular. Committee members visited lawyers and their firms across the state to raise the capital. They also appeared before local bars to help spread the word.

The response from North Carolina lawyers was very positive. With everyone's effort, the requirement funds were collected almost one million dollars.

Managing A New Company

Lawyers Mutual's first policy was issued in 1978. Growth was slow as the new Board of Directors and staff learned the ins and outs of running an insurance company. John Beard served as the president in a part-time role during these early years.

Of particular note was the mission of the company. Most insurance companies are designed to make money, and they either leave market or radically raise premiums when their claims losses increase. Lawyers Mutual was designed to be available for the long haul, weathering the market fluctuations.

Getting the Work Done

The first claim Lawyers Mutual handled during those early years brought excitement with it. While no one wanted a lawyer to experience a claim, this was what the steering committee, and now board of directors, had worked so hard to create. The fact that we won the case before the North Carolina Supreme Court made it even more special.

Claims are always difficult. The personal touch is important. Because the claims attorneys, and President John Beard, were licensed North Carolina attorneys, they were more sympathetic and understanding about what happened to cause the claims.

In addition to the personalized approach to claims, Lawyers Mutual prioritized risk management. Malpractice prevention materials were available to all North Carolina attorneys who needed assistance, not just those who insured with us. The idea was that we would be providing a public service to all North Carolina attorneys.

Looking to the Future

Thanks to efforts of leadership like those of our founders, Lawyers Mutual continues to thrive. Lawyers Mutual was the first bar-sponsored insurance company in the U.S. It is also the only insurance company that has offered coverage to North Carolina lawyers continually over the past 40 years.

North Carolina lawyers recognize this as their company. They know Lawyers Mutual is here to serve them and that the company is going to stick with them through thick and thin. This relationship is built on loyalty and staying power. Lawyers Mutual has always been there for its insureds.

In fact, nothing sums up Lawyers Mutual's business model better than this quote from John Beard: "Call on us and we’ll take care of you. That’s what insurance ought to be about. Always."

About the Author

Samantha Cruff

Samantha Cruff is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at Lawyers Mutual. Contact Samantha for information regarding our available risk management publications at 800.662.8843 or samantha@lawyersmutualnc.com.

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