Recently, my daughter received an award at a ceremony prior to attending a fellowship at a hospital in Portugal in furthering her medical school career. Prior to the awarding of the certificates a Doctor spoke about medical ethics and how all medical school students and physicians must adhere to a basic set of principles designed to enhance the profession of medicine throughout the ages.
He listed beneficence, non-malfeasance, autonomy, justice, fidelity and utility. What stood out the most in his speech was the fact that a physician shall "do good" and shall "do no harm". Those words seem very simple but upon closer inspection one realizes that such a strict directive is not always as easy as it seems to be. Doing justice, autonomy and utility all go hand-in-hand. What struck me deeply was how this belief system was ingrained into all medical students and physicians. That’s not to say that all doctors are perfect human beings, but the practice of medicine is a lifelong dedication to helping people when they need it the most.
LAWYERS SHOULD DO NO HARM JUST LIKE PHYSICIANS
Thinking through his most enjoyable speech I tried to connect it to the practice of law and how it differs or is similar in trait. Lawyers also dedicate their entire life to the law and the court system. Our adversary or opponent is different than a physician’s in that a doctor’s role is to combat sickness and ill health. The physician doesn’t always win and sometimes death rules over life. A lawyer combats other lawyers and strives for success in our judicial system and likewise doesn’t always succeed. Both systems are truly adversarial in that each profession is fighting foes in a constant manner. Many lawyers believe that winning is the crucial component.
Most law students and lawyers are extremely familiar with the code of legal ethics at the state level and federal level. After all, they teach law students ethics 101 in law school just like medical school students. But what I noticed about this Doctor’s speech was that he pointed out that the majority of ethics dictated to doctors what they "must or shall do" as opposed to what they must not do. In other words, no doubt that the dedication level of physicians and lawyers rise to the same level and the purity of interest for success and to help others is equal. However, as this speaker noted, the "soft touches"of interacting with another human being is extremely important when you are treating a patient. The emphasis seems to be on the specifics of how to help the patient.
What I’ve tried to teach lawyers who work for this firm is that obviously legal ethics strictly need to be adhered to, but the "soft touches" are also extremely important. What that boils down to is bedside manner. How a physician interacts with the patient who needs their help on every level is so important. Likewise how a lawyer interacts with a client is the same.
A LAWYER SHOULD STRIVE FOR THE BEST OUTCOME FOR THEIR CLIENT
Contrarily, I’ve seen over the last 3 decades that I have practiced law, many lawyers are so focused on the outcome of a matter that the stair-steps and getting to the finished product seems to be paramount. The lesson, I believe, that lawyers should take away from the medical profession is just the opposite. Not only should a dedicated lawyer strive for the best outcome for her client, but the bedside manner and how they interacted with the client is just as important.
The "soft touches" can be just as worthwhile as an end result in many court cases. A client who understands circumstances thoroughly and believes that their representative has empathy, is caring and has a true desire to help them, becomes a client who wins no matter what.