Like all lawyers, I love getting referrals. When another lawyer refers a client to you, it’s flattering. You have a sense that your abilities are recognized and appreciated. Even more flattering is when a client or former client recommends you.
This week we got a referral that shocked me – in a totally good way. A doctor told his patient that she needed to see a lawyer about a possible case against another physician who had been involved in her care. And he gave her my name. A doctor suggesting to a patient that she sue another doctor is rare enough, but to tell her who to go see is even more rare.
Of course, there is a back story. The doctor is not a friend of mine. He is not a former client from my previous life as a defense lawyer. There is only one connection with him: He was an expert for the defense in a jury trial where I represented the patient. We won that case and – not to be excessively immodest – my cross-examination of this doctor was likely one of the big reasons we prevailed.
Even at the time, I felt kind of bad for the doctor. He seemed like a good guy and he struck me as quite honest. He has a great reputation in the community. Unfortunately for him, the defense lawyer had not given him all the necessary information, so let’s just say his testimony did not go well. As a former defense lawyer, it was painful to watch, but I had to do what I had to do to represent my client effectively.
Considering the above circumstance, it’s easy to see why I was complimented. I also think it says two good things about this doctor: First, he cared enough about his patient to not only suggest she consider legal action, but also to try to make sure she ended up with a good attorney. Second, he was able to put aside his pride. His cross-examination had to have wounded his ego – and good doctors like him do not lack for self-confidence.
Another takeaway is that experience matters. Quite frankly, I have tried a lot of malpractice cases - probably more than any other medical malpractice lawyer in Virginia, well over 100. When I was a defense lawyer, I tried cases all over Virginia, sometimes doing two or three almost back-to-back. Did I win them all? Of course not. Any lawyer who claims that he or she has never lost a case – or who claims something like a 95% win ratio – is just lying. If you try cases, you will lose some. But no one could ever accuse me of being afraid to try a case.
Trial practice is experience driven. The more you do, the more you learn and the more you learn the better judgment you develop. It was that experience and judgment that enabled me to cross examine this doctor so effectively. At this point, I only represent plaintiffs and I am grateful that I can use my skills to help patients and families injured by medical mistakes.