A doctor and a lawyer were going golfing one day. As they strolled across the green, the doctor said to the lawyer, “I have a professional dilemma.”
“Oh yeah?” said the lawyer.
The doctor continued, “Yes. With the ease of quick communication nowadays, my patients have started asking for my medical opinion through emails and What’s Apps. The conversation is usually brief, taking up no more than a few minutes of my time.”
“Ok…” replied the lawyer.
“But, you see, when patients come into my office, even for a brief appointment, I can still charge them for the whole appointment. When they ask me questions over SMS, I don’t charge them because it’s not an official appointment.”
“I see” said the lawyer. “This is a tough situation you’re in. I think you should charge them for the electronic conversation as if they’ve come into your office for an in-person appointment.”
“Really?” replied the doctor. “It’s not unethical?”
“Not in the least bit,” the lawyer assured his friend. “The only mistake you made was not charging them from the first text message.”
The doctor responded, “ok thanks. It’s good to have a lawyer as such a close friend.”
Two weeks later, the doctor received a bill from his close lawyer friend charging him $125 for a quarter hour of legal advice.
Considering President Trump’s recent firing of FBI director James B. Comey amid the spicy Russia investigation, it behooves us all to consider the individuals in our close networks, both professional and personal. Who do we approach with our ethical legal questions, if anyone? Do we only ask sticky questions to those who will provide smooth answers?
We were all required to take a Professional Responsibility course, or its equivalent, in law school. And since 1980, most lawyer wannabes have had to pass the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination) to become licensed to practice law in their preferred U.S. state(s).
Yet, every year, I see hundreds of names of disbarred or suspended (pardon the profanity) lawyers on various state bar association websites. Clearly, no one wakes up one morning and decides “I want to commit legal malpractice today.” So how do so many people slip? One reason involves the company people keep. If others in our professional circle are lax in their ethical standards, this sentiment is likely to spill over to us, unless we make a conscious effort to maintain our integrity.
Lawyer and legal writer, Julie worked primarily in real estate law before focusing her career on the social media and marketing aspects of the legal industry.