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Sapere aude - dare to be wise
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Posted 1:17 PM by Kelly
Who are the good guys?
I am interested in medical malpractice law. It is not my only area of interest, but I have recently decided that I need to experience practicing in that area to further explore my interest. Because of my background, it is natural that I am drawn to med mal. I have worked for at least 6 years as a registered nurse. After 4 years in nursing school and 6-7 years nursing, I would like to be able to put some of that experience to use in my new career.

This past summer, I worked for a well-respected but small plaintiff's trial lawyers' firm in Indy. The firm does about 1/2 med mal and 1/2 other personal injury. I was excited at the opportunity and I was told by several people that it was an excellent firm at which to gain experience.
I was stopped short by the first person who asked, "So, they're ambulance chasers?" It had never even occurred to me, in my naivete, that these were the type of lawyers referred to by that label. I shrugged and told those who asked this question, and there were quite a few, that the firm in question had a great reputation in town, even among attorneys on the opposite side.

I decided over the summer that I may not be suited to representing plaintiffs in med mal actions. As I reviewed medical records, I found myself noting all the actions performed by the medical professionals that met the standard of care (as I perceive it). It's not that I am reluctant to blame doctors and nurses for bad outcomes - I agreed to work at the firm with open eyes, confident that I would enjoy helping bring the "bad seeds" to justice. But the more cases I reviewed, it became clear to me that the cut-and-dried clearly negligent cases are few and far between. What dominate are shades of gray.

I am now attempting to secure a summer position with a firm that does med mal defense. I think a view from the other side will benefit me and help me determine in what area I might be the best fit. What have stopped me short are the reactions I get when people learn of my new focus. I get wrinkled eyebrows, scrunched-up faces, and general looks of distaste. Apparently, firms that do defense work are not afforded any more respect in the public forum that their opponents.

Why are people so judgmental? I am willing to bet that most med mal cases, or any type of civil case for that matter, are not bright line cases of negligence. There are ambiguities in every situation. All plaintiff's attorneys are not ambulance chasers and all defense attorneys are not cold and unconcerned with the plight of the defenseless plaintiff.

If both of these options I am exploring are so bad, then who are the good guys?

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