A Lawyer Is Not A Lawyer Is Not A Lawyer

One of the hallmarks of an expert is that he or she makes the work look easy.

We’ve all had the experience of watching a professional athlete and thinking, “With a little practice, anybody could do that.” Or you watch a roofer working on your neighbor’s house and think “He gets paid $150 an hour just to pound nails. That’s so easy.” Watching an expert cook is the worst, because we all have at least a rudimentary knowledge of preparing food. We watch someone on live TV or during an in-store demonstration whip up a picture-perfect soufflé and then try to replicate the results ourselves. Great pancakes, but no soufflé.

What’s the point?

Psychiatrists involved in a claim or potential claim often ask, when reporting the matter to us, whether they can choose the lawyer who will represent them. Generally, our answer is, “Not until you’ve at least met with the lawyer we’re going to assign to your case.” It’s not that the lawyers they know aren’t outstanding practitioners; we often find that they are. That’s not enough, though. We want to assign our customer not just a great lawyer. We want to assign them a great lawyer who has demonstrated expertise in defending psychiatric malpractice cases.

The modern practice of law has become as highly specialized as the modern practice of medicine. You may have been amazed by the skill of the lawyer who handled the incorporation of your practice. The general counsel to the hospital where you have privileges may be considered a miracle worker for her accomplishments. The attorney who represented you when you sued the transit authority whose bus driver totaled your new car may have been tenacious, loquacious, and merciless in asserting your case. Their skill in these matters, however, doesn’t necessarily translate into expertise in representing you in a malpractice case. Chances are that each of these lawyers has carved out a specialty practice in structuring professional practices, or protecting the business interests of healthcare facilities, or representing plaintiffs suing quasi-governmental agencies in tort.

One of the reasons you buy liability insurance is to have access to high-quality specialized risk management resources and, when necessary, experienced legal counsel focused on representing your interests. Should we ever assign you a lawyer in a claim or potential claim, you can be assured that he or she has handled similar cases, in your jurisdiction, many times before.

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