coping · doctors · fear · lawyers · patients · Uncategorized

Doctors vs. Lawyers – Understand Roles, Limits and Build a Team

The lawyer doesn’t have time to answer all of a client’s questions. Doctors, more than anybody, should be able to understand that.

Is there a doctor out there who doesn’t have a problem with lawyers?  In many ways it’s understandable.  Lawyers are not someone to be appreciated by physicians.  In most cases, they are people to be feared. If a doctor is speaking with an attorney, it’s usually because something is wrong.  Not a small thing, either.  A big thing.

Is there a Doctor in the Courthouse?

Even when “good” things are going on – such as forming business entities and ensuring regulatory compliance – lawyers are at best a necessary evil. There is no such thing as a meeting with a lawyer that is not pucker inducing to some extent.

What should a Doctor Expect when Really Bad Things Happen

For physicians, this can be much worse.  And when things happen that are REALLY bad (medical malpractice action, medical bard action), then the doctor is placed into an even worse position.  Any doctor who has ever been involved in a malpractice case can probably had the following occur:

  • Doctor gets served with a lawsuit or maybe prior notice of a lawsuit
  • The physician sends the notice to the errors and omissions insurer
  • The doctor gets a call from a lawyer that the doctor never heard of and doesn’t know saying, “I’ll be defending you, come to my office”
  • Physician deals with attorney for a few minutes who explains who he is and what is going on
  • Doctor is utterly perplexed and doesn’t even know what questions to ask
  • Doctor is embittered and angry a few weeks later when physician receives some initial report from the lawyer who has just demonstrated a lack of complete knowledge about the facts of the case.

And the doctor – who doesn’t trust lawyers, anyway – is now intensely mistrustful of the lawyer. Resentful. The bad situation has now gotten much worse. Not for any legal reason, but for a pragmatic reason. Doctor and lawyer are not on the same page.

The Next Step – 90% of the Time – Vent at Lawyer

The doctor is now angry. And now the physician will contact the attorney and say, “Why did you do this?” Or perhaps, “Why didn’t you do this?”

A stewing conflict has now come to a head.  The doctor is now questioning the attorney. Rather, the doctor is confronting the attorney.  Attorneys, in general, have egos. Not only do they not like to be challenged, but they especially don’t like to be confronted by someone who doesn’t know what he or she is talking about.

Usually the doctor is not even looking for an explanation at this point. Rather, in most cases the doctor is venting.  Either way, attorneys are not good at identifying emotional causations. The attorney is put on the defensive. Attorneys don’t like that because they have egos of their own. Then the attorney responds in a defensive mode, or perhaps goes on the offensive.

Now there is a situation where the doctor is more mistrustful and resentful. The attorney, as well, is faced with a “problem client.”

Whether we like it or not, we all try harder to help someone we like. We try to be competent for all, but when we truly care about someone we will all go that extra mile. When the attorney starts talking about you to others in terms of “client control” then the problem is at a high level.

We Each Have Our Own Arena, And Assume Other People Know what We Know

Sorry, doc.  This ain’t medicine where you are boss.  You have been dragged against your will into the lawyer’s world.

There is something that I’ve seen all over.  The internet has made it abundantly clear. One can see it on Facebook groups, online blogs, anywhere a person looks. Some expert scientist sees what is going on in the political arena and is flummoxed at what he sees.  Some political writer enters into the world of science and becomes confused and irritated at how long it takes these genius experts to formulate an opinion.

Or, some lawyer goes into a doctor’s office. The lawyers gets height and weight and a blood pressure check.  The lawyers writes out his history and then is in a room waiting for a while until the doctor gets around to seeing her.  A couple of minutes later the doctor is finished.  Perhaps a recommendation or two. Maybe wants to send off for some tests.  Even worse, the lawyer has gone in with some complaints and the doctor doesn’t know the answer.

Sorry there, pettifogger.  The simple answer you’re looking for isn’t available. It’s more complicated than that.

Lawyers Have Neither the Skill nor the Time to Answer all of Your Questions

The lawyer’s job is to gather facts and information about a case in order to help the doctor prevail. The lawyer’s job is rarely viewed as educating the client.  Rather, the lawyer tries to educate the lawyer in order to educate the jury.  They don’t have time to bring each and every client up to speed on a case. They do not have the inclination to listen to you. They have other clients, have deadlines, and are ill-equipped to handle the emotional state of a client.

Doctors know this all too well. Does a physician have time to answer all the questions each patient has? How often do patients complain about, “the doctor saw me for five minutes, had the face in a computer, and left.” Your attorney faces the same constraints. They just don’t have the time.


Ask the lawyer, “What can I do to make your job easier?”

First, do something about the stress.  There is nothing wrong with seeing a therapist. The emotions are real and coping begins with self-awareness .  An emotional and bitter mess is not good for making a team.

The second thing to do would be to speak to the lawyer.  Instead of asking the lawyer why he didn’t do something, pose this question: “What can I do to make your job easier?” Consider as a physician how you would feel if you had a patient ask you this question. If affirms that the patient is looking to you for answers. The patient respects you and the job that you do. And finally, it acknowledges that the doctor’s job is hard enough as it is without dealing with a bitter and mistrustful patient.

Same with lawyers.  Or with anybody else you deal with.  If you need somebody to help you, stroke that individual. Let the person know that you respect that person.

It’s your ass on the line. It is therefore incumbent on you to build the team. It isn’t that hard to do.  However, it also almost always helps to have someone else talk you through it and offer suggestions.

The lawyer won’t answer all of your questions about why the lawyer is acting like he is. Trust that your lawyer is doing a fine job, but he won’t tell you why he is doing or not doing something.

Find someone who can.  It’s what I do. And I love doing it. Any questions, hit me up!


One thought on “Doctors vs. Lawyers – Understand Roles, Limits and Build a Team

  1. I like the point about ‘we all tend to help people that we like’ – how true that is! While it can be so easy to get frustrated when you’re in hot water, blowing up at the wrong person certainly won’t make your situation any better. Great post – hope more attorneys end up reading this.

    Liked by 1 person

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