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Is the practice of Law more of a Business or Profession?

I read The New England Journal of Medicine, strange I know until you consider that 98% of my law firm’s business involves medical-legal related issues. I have noticed a trend in which the largest read periodical for physicians and medical related workers has been debating a subject without actually naming the issue – whether they are a profession in which money is a by product or more of a business where the bottom line and thus cost benefit analysis must take over. These same articles are included along with articles on the cost/benefit of the new health care provisions and test cases on whether they will work. Essentially, whether increasing the number of people on insurance is worth the side problem of dealing with insurance companies for reduced prices. Let’s face it, the business of medicine is just that, a highly complicated and ruthless business where if your not careful as an orthopedic surgeon or some other specialist, you become the employee of whatever major insurance company controls your state or area. Lawyers have long had this same issue, but we name it very succinctly although, much like other learned professions, we are not always sure how to handle whether as a professional we take a limited number of pro bono (for no fee) cases or whether we simply cannot afford to spend the time (really as attorneys all we have is our time and expertise to “sell”).   My firm’s mentor was always of the opinion that a gut check on most cases you were not sure whether to take would always tell you what to do… Not very scientific and hard to put on a balance sheet, but sometimes your professionalism requires that you spend your time on a case where little fee is expected or as with my law partner, sometimes you take the free Medicaid appeal because the client simply cannot afford for you not to help. Physicians cite as examples of their generosity the number of people they treat without insurance, as attorneys we are reluctant to plug ourselves for the number of “free” work we have performed as quite frankly we’re afraid it may result in that service being required.  Most of the attorneys I associate with who handle medical-legal related issues give 1000’s of dollars per week in free advice and free consultations… Perhaps the public will eventually realize that in the same light as physicians unbilled services.  One day you may even see a sign outside of a physicians’ office that says – free consultations.

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