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How Lawyers Mutual Got Me the Key to the Courthouse

by Jay Reeves |

Could it possibly be almost a quarter-century since I went to work for Lawyers Mutual?

It seems only last week I was whipping into the parking lot at Annapolis Drive – this was back before the move to Cary – and sprinting to my desk so John Q. Beard would see I was earning my pay.

I was hired by JQB in 1993 as Risk Manager even though I knew almost nothing about insurance and had never managed anything other than my son’s Pee Wee baseball team. So I was feeling a bit of performance anxiety.

My distress increased when I learned I would immediately have to face the company’s Board of Directors. I had signed on a week before the board’s quarterly meeting.

“Keep your presentation brief,” growled JQB – and those who know JQB have heard his growl – as together we walked into the boardroom. “And don’t be a dummy.”

Presentation? Why didn’t anyone tell me? So I went in and said my name, and thanks for hiring me, and that I was excited to get going. And I guess I passed the don’t-be-a-dummy test because the next day I was still employed.

Three Steps to Risk Management Success

Whatever success I had during my seven years at Lawyers Mutual can be attributed to three factors.

Number one was Doris Bray. The Greensboro attorney was chair of my risk management committee and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. She came up with the idea of taking risk management on the road by doing CLE seminars in smaller locations that don’t typically get live programs.

It was a great plan. There was only one problem. I had never done a seminar in my life.

Luckily, I stumbled across a copy of I Can See You Naked, and I was all set. One of the book’s recommendations for public speaking was to use visual aids, which led to the second reason for my success.

Saved By the Kodak Carousel

I had long dreamed of having a Kodak Carousel Slide Projector, and now I had a good excuse to get one. I loved everything about this machine: the soothing heat of the light bulb, the gentle hum of the cooling fan, the pleasing clunk as the slides advanced.

I began taking pictures and assembling a production titled The 10 Building Blocks of Risk Management. It was spectacular. It had photos of a law library and a cluttered desk. It had a pyramid of blocks starting with Ethics and ending with Yourself. Spielberg would have been envious.

Over the next few years we hauled the 10 Building Blocks around the state, from Sylva and Mocksville and Statesville, to Asheboro and Kinston and Southport. We performed in barbecue huts and VFW posts and even a hunting lodge.

We would dim the lights and serve coffee and pastries. We flashed pictures on the screen. The audience was usually appreciative, even though many of the slides – pictures of Cool Hand Luke and the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz come to mind – had at best a tenuous connection to risk management.

The Key to the Kingdom

Our very first show was in Brevard, in the wonderful old Transylvania County courthouse. When I checked into my hotel the night before, the front desk clerk produced a key that had been dropped off by the local bar president.

“This is to the courthouse,” she said, and handed me the key. “They thought you might want to go in early tomorrow to set up.”

It was the first and only time I’ve ever been given a key to the courthouse. But it was indicative of the warmth and hospitality that greeted us everywhere we went.

I remember after that first show in Brevard how the attendees applauded. They thanked me for being there. They said how much they appreciated Lawyers Mutual. They told me to tell John Q. Beard hello.

Later when I reviewed the program evaluations I saw that many had signed their forms – even though they didn’t have to – and also indicated when they had first become policyholders. Many had been there since day one.

It seemed important to them that I know how long they had been in the family.

And that was reason number three for my happy tenure at Lawyers Mutual. I had lucked into a job at a place that didn’t just sell insurance, it built relationships.

Jay Reeves has practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He enjoys photographic slides, Paul Newman movies and all things Oz. He has recovered from an unfortunate experience in Rocky Mount when the Kodak Carousel Projector expired between Building Blocks 6 and 7.

These days he helps lawyers and firms put more mojo in their practice through marketing, work-life balance and reclaiming passion for what they do. He is available for consultations, retreats and presentations. Contact him at jay.reeves@ymail.com or 919-619-2441.

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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