Tuesday, April 16, 2013

From Clinical to Courtroom: What It’s Like to Work as a Law Firm Doctor

Guest post by Dr. Charles Bowers

Most doctors don’t enter into the field of medicine to join a law firm. If you’re like me, then your journey likely began with a simple desire to help others and make a positive difference in society, and the medical field seemed like the best way to do so. However, there comes a certain point in your life and career that your expertise as a medical professional may provide you the opportunity to have a different positive impact on as great a number of people as one did in private practice. In my case, this opportunity was presented as the chance to be the in-house Medical (forensic) physician for a highly respected law firm Ross Feller Casey.

People often ask me what it’s like to go from clinical practice to law, and while there are many nuances, there are a few main points that help to provide an understanding:

• Lawyer stereotypes aside, doctors and attorneys are actually very similar – In my mind, these are the two most honorable professions. Both good doctors and good lawyers are studious, hardworking, and empathetic. They care about their patients and clients, and they help them using their own set of different but valuable skills.

• You’re still helping people, just in a different way – In clinical practice, you directly see the positive impact you have on people’s lives, whether by diagnosing and effectively treating an illness or performing a successful surgery. As in-house medical consultant, you help patients/clients and their families just as much, but it’s less direct. You use your medical expertise to give the attorneys the information and tools they need to effectively represent a client and argue for their rights.

• Many cases go far beyond the initial client/patient – In addition to serving justice for the individual client or clients involved, the results of a case are often far more reaching . For example, a settlement may not only stipulate compensation to the client /patients but also that the defendant changes their procedures in a way that ultimately protects many more patients/clients from being injured. So when you look at it this way, working with a single client can mean you have a positive effect on hundreds or even thousands of future clients/patients who may have been similarly injured if the situation had not been recognized and properly changed.

• I will probably reject many more cases than I approve – Contrary to the negative, ambulance-chasing stereotype, reputable personal injury attorneys don’t take every prospective case clients bring to them, and they aren’t out to indict good doctors. My job as the in-house medical professional is to evaluate the merits of each potential client’s case and to determine whether there is truly negligence; to critically review a medical course and/or history while being fair to the patients the doctors and nurses involved, and to point out mistakes that have occurred which were preventable if in fact those at fault had been more conscientious.

About the author:

Dr. Charles H. Bowers is a M.D. with over thirty years of medical experience, ranging from clinical practice to medical education. He currently resides near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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