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Vol. 5, Iss. 10
October 12, 2016

1945! Law Review Article: “The Function Of Insurance Lawyers”
The Insurance Adventures of Elmer Sawyer


My chin dropped when I opened the link provided to me by the all-knowing Bill Wilson of The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. It wasn’t the title of the Indiana Law Journal article -- “The Function of Insurance Lawyers” -- that got me Although that certainly piqued my interest. It was the date. April 1945. Like 70 years ago 1945. Like when the price of a stamp was three cents and all people walked to school uphill – both ways. Add to this the author, Elmer Sawyer, a founding father of liability insurance, and I felt like I had just found a Van Gogh at a flea market.

If you have any interest in the history of insurance this is a must read. To be accurate, despite appearing in the Indiana Law Journal, it’s not actually a law review article, but, rather, the text of a speech that Sawyer gave to the Insurance Section of the Indiana Bar Association.

Naturally, in a piece like this, there are observations by Sawyer that are out of date as well as things that Sawyer could have just as easily said yesterday (“The insurance industry has an incredible ingenuity for making simple things complex.”).

If you are interested in things like this then you are better off reading the article (just 12 pages) than a brief summary from me. The article will show up if you Google it. Here are the first two paragraphs to whet your whistle for The Insurance Adventures of Elmer Sawyer:

"Casualty insurance and the Bar are uniquely related. No other branch of industry relies so fully upon the legal profession." Lawyers guide companies in their corporate affairs. Lawyers help shape the products the companies sell. Lawyers adjust and litigate losses. Lawyers largely determine legislation which defines powers and obligations of companies. Lawyers frequently administer insurance. Lawyers strongly influence public opinion of insurance. Perhaps most important of all, lawyers as social architects play a leading role in formulating principles of social adjustment and readjustment which determine the character of casualty insurance and the extent of the public need for it.

The reliance of the profession upon casualty insurance is no less extensive. Thousands of lawyers are employed in the business. Other thousands count companies among their clients. Many more thousands, representing the public, profit from the existence of insurance. Casualty insurance is probably the largest single source of income of the profession."

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