My Thanksgiving Wishes from My Family and I to You and Yours
A Blog and Video Blog Explaining Why I am Thankful
My family and I have much to be thankful for this year, not the least of which are the care provided by Dr. Wright, the cardiologist who cares for me and my wife, Thea.
I am personally in good health, walking four to five miles a day, and in retirement from the practice of law, working only six to eight hours a day doing what I love the most, writing about insurance, insurance claims, insurance law and acting as an insurance claims consultant and expert witness.
To me, I am thankful for you, my friends, clients and readers of “Zalma’s Insurance Fraud Letter,” my blog “Zalma on Insurance,” and my books and other writing including the new books: The Compact Book on Ethics for the Insurance Professional, The Tort of Bad Faith, The Equitable Remedy of Rescission of Insurance, and Insurance Fraudsters Deserve no Quarter, the newest among many other books I wrote on insurance, insurance law and insurance claims available.
As a first generation American, whose parents were proud naturalized citizens, I am honored to join with all Americans the ability to celebrate Thanksgiving. The holiday started when the United States was a dream and just a colony of Great Britain to give thanks for the good things in life at least once a year. It took Abraham Lincoln, our greatest President, to make it an official holiday. The Thanksgiving holiday gives me and my family the opportunity to consider the blessings we have received as an American family and to thank all who have made it possible.
When I enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1967 to avoid the draft I volunteered to serve anywhere in the world other than Viet Nam. Fortunately for me, it seemed the U.S. Army made assignments in alphabetical order, so I was sent, with the wisdom only the U.S. Army could understand, to Peoria, Illinois. I served my enlistment in Missouri and Illlinois where I became a Special Agent in Charge of an office of U.S. Army Intelligence investigating people who sought security clearances.
I was trained effectively to be an investigator and enjoyed every minute of the job. Until the Army I had never seen a river without a concrete bottom only to see the mighty Mississippi as my first real river. I had never seen snow other than in the distance on mountains only to find myself shoveling the snow off the driveway in the small half-of-a-house I rented from my Peoria landlords, an old couple who could not do it themselves.
My investigative assignments required me to travel throughout Central Illinois from the Iowa to the Indiana borders. I stopped at court houses along the way, all of which had signs that Abraham Lincoln had practiced law there and convinced me to return to California and study law. Those experiences with the courts, law enforcement officers, and court personnel gave me the incentive to become a lawyer.
When I finished my three year enlistment I returned home, proposed marriage to the love of my life. I began the study of law at night and found my first real job where I could use the skills I learned in the Army. I was hired as a claims trainee at the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company who spent the time to train me to be a claims adjuster.
The training I received was, unlike what is done at modern insurers, thorough. I was required to read a treatise on insurance and insurance claims handling. I was sent out with experienced adjusters in all types of insurance Fireman’s Fund wrote, and eventually allowed to deal with the public under close supervision.
Contrary to what was done in the insurance industry at the time, Fireman’s Fund allowed me to study law at night while I worked as a full-time insurance adjuster with the Fireman’s Fund. I was fortunate enough to work for a claims manager – Coleman T. Mobley – who did not require me to go out of state to adjust major storm claims if it interfered with my law school studies. Since I was in law school 50 weeks a year the only storm duty I was required to work was a fire storm that burned from the San Fernando Valley to the ocean at Malibu. Because of Mr. Mobley and the Fireman’s Fund I was able to complete my studies and pass the California Bar late in 1971 that allowed me to be admitted to the California Bar on January 2, 1972.
I took a cut in pay to get my first job as an Associate Attorney with a law firm that was willing to teach me to be a lawyer handling every kind of problem a new lawyer could face from wills, tort claims, divorce, drunk driving, trials, depositions, and dozens of orders to show cause in multiple courts around the Inland Empire of California. By doing so, the first two years after I started practicing law in 1972 I was able to become a lawyer who could deal with any issue brought to me.
I was fortunate enough to move to an insurance law firm in Century City where I was assigned to a coverage lawyer who was trying to deal with over 500 active matters who, when I arrived, assigned me 250 of the matters and pointed me to the firm’s library to learn what to do. At the time new technology was an IBM Selectric typewriter that could erase errors from the keyboard without the need to use white-out paint. I did legal research in the firm’s large library which, when it was inadequate for the task, I had to drive to the County Law Library in downtown Los Angeles. Research in a large library took days to find support for an issue.
In 1979 I decided it was time to be my own boss. I started a law firm called Barry Zalma, Inc. with a secretary who came from my last firm and brought an IBM Selectric typewriter with her into a small windowless office. I had obtained a line of credit from a bank that I hoped would carry us until the practice started since the only case I had was my sister’s rear-ender from which I could not take a fee. The office was furnished with a file cabinet from my father-in-law’s dental practice and a dining room table from my wife’s grandmother who had passed away.
I received my first call at 8:10 a.m. on the first day, October 1, 1979, from Alan Worboys then a claims person at Lloyd’s, assigning my fist case, and my practice began. I had nothing to do on October 3, 1979 so I wrote an article for publication. After that I had no peace and the firm quickly grew to 9 lawyers and a large staff to serve me and the eight other lawyers. The firm defended people who were insured and soon morphed into specialists acting as coverage counsel for insurers who needed advice and defense of bad faith suits. We did no plaintiffs’ tort cases.
Some of the things I, and my family, can give thanks for include:
- I have loved my wife for 68 years since we first met when she was nine and I was twelve.
- I am thankful that she still loves me and lets me make clear every day that I love her more now than I did when she ignored me when I was 12 and made me wait to marry her until 1967.
- My three adult children who are successes in their own right.
- That my three children, my almost six-year-old granddaughter live nearby, put up with my wife and I, and are healthy, successful,and mostly happy in what they do.
- That my grandson is about to graduate from Puget Sound University in Washington state.
- My clients who, for the more than 50 years have allowed me to earn a living doing what I love: practicing law until I let my license go inactive, acting as a consultant, testifying as an expert witness and writing materials to help others provide excellence in claims services as members of the insurance profession.
- My publishers the American Bar Association, Full Court Press, Fastcase.com, Thomson Reuters, and Amazon.com.
- My dearly departed parents and grandparents for having the good sense to leave the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th Century so our extended family could avoid the Holocaust and I could be born American.
- My country for giving me a place to live and work in peace and complain about it without fear.
- The state of California, where I was born, and have lived for 80 years, for allowing me to have my home and grow my family, and the ability to pay the high taxes for the privilege.
- Those of you who read what I write and gain something from it.
- Eighty years of mostly good health, but for a small heart attack and clogged arteries, that were all redone by a great surgeon, Dr. Robertson, who gave me the ability to continue to work as an octogenarian.
- Allowing me the health and ambition to avoid my cardiologist by walking every day and working on my garden and training my bonsai.
- The hundreds of friends I have never met but with whom the Internet has allowed me to communicate in parts of the world I have never visited.
- The wonder of the Internet that allows me to publish Kindle E-books, ZIFL, insurance related videos and my blog instantly on line.
- That my family can get together to express our thanks for each other and our happiness this year again without a need for anything but enjoying each other’s company.
- That most of you, who I know only by my publications, have the right and opportunity to gather with your families to express your thanks for all of the good things that you have experienced.
I was more successful than I ever expected. I, whose life experience was limited to Los Angeles County and Central Illinois, found a need to travel to Taipei, Taiwan and London, England on behalf of my clients. I worked, as I had learned from my father who survived the Depression, 16 hours a day six or seven days a week. When I became 75 years old my firm had been reduced to a sole practice and I decided it was time to stop practicing law and become a consultant and fulfill my childhood dream to be an author.
I am a very lucky and happy man. I do work that I love. I fulfilled my childhood dreams. I Live in a home I have owned for more than 46 years that my wife and I adapted and increased as children were born to meet our needs, have the love of my life with me and look forward to celebrating our 55th wedding anniversary next month.
I am honored that my eldest daughter has come back to live with us and care for my wife and I who are not able to do everything we used to do. My son shares my office building and has time to visit with me as allowed by his busy schedule. My youngest daughter is a successful public relations executive and makes the time to visit us regularly to allow us to play with her soon to be six year old daughter as often as possible.
I hope, on this Thanksgiving weekend, that you can join my family and me remembering that it is more important to think about our blessings and those things that we have to be thankful for than to get in line for “Black Friday” to buy an inexpensive flat screen t.v. or tablet.
Enjoy the holiday and your family as I will enjoy the holiday and my family as I have for every day of my life.