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By:  Patricia McHugh Lambert, Esquire

If you ever want to make people’s eyes roll, just tell them that you want to talk about history.  Certainly, there are the few oddballs that treasure discussing the latest Civil War biography or the newest retrospective on the presidency, but they often hide their historical obsessions fearing it makes them seem too concerned about the lives of dead people.  Indeed, my son once told me that there were two types of people—those who want to be historical reenactors and those who want to make fun of reenactors.  He reminded me that most people prefer to be mockers as they have no interest in history.

Personally, I have never wanted to be a reenactor (too many costume changes). But I have always enjoyed learning about history. And for the most part, I enjoy learning about small things– how ordinary people lived, loved and learned.  So I was enthused to meet someone recently who taught me about Baltimore’s insurance history.

This old school gentleman had been an agent in Baltimore for almost sixty years.  It is hard to imagine a time that insurance business was done without the internet, fax machines, or even computers.  Carbon paper was the only way to make copies.

Apparently, we were a much simpler society in the fifties.  Back then, this agent would go to his customer’s home to collect premium payments.  If they weren’t there, he would walk into the home, go to the freezer and take out the cash needed to pay the premium.  After taking the cold cash, the agent would mark the premium payment book, which was also in the freezer, and then leave.  While I thought that an agent walking into a home must really be a “good neighbor”, I was fascinated by the history.

All this lead me to two thoughts for this month.  First, we all have stories that the younger generation might find interesting.  Consider writing or telling your history. The story does not have to be long, but the next generation may appreciate learning what life was like in the old days.

Second, the lawyer in me needs to remind everyone to document like a historian. Too many insurance producers and business owners rely too much on memory rather than documentation.  But when there is a lack of documentation, there is trouble.  A regulator considering an issue may very well believe a consumer over an agent if there is no written record.  A jury will not believe that a business owner failed to record an important detail to a transaction.  The issue of documentation is further compounded by technology.  For example, business deals are now being confirmed by texts—but too few texts are being preserved or confirmed.  When such historical facts are being lost to the ether of time, an insurance producer can be in trouble.  Those in business need to review their recordation processes so as to prevent problems and preserve historical facts.

So take a minute this month to think about how to preserve your own history.  And if you have an interesting historical story, please let me know.

Ms. Lambert has over 25 years of experience in handling complex commercial litigation and insurance matters. Ms. Lambert has worked on national class actions, significant litigation and regulatory matters for Fortune 500 companies. She has also assisted small and mid-sized companies and business executives with contract, real estate and commercial disputes that needed to be resolved quickly and efficiently. Ms. Lambert is best known as an attorney who knows the field of insurance. She has represented insurers, policyholders, and insurance producers in disputes both in court and before the Maryland Insurance Administration. She can be contacted by phone at 410-339-6759 or email at