Solo lawyers aren’t alone …

In the “Musings of a Dinosaur,” the doctor discusses his hospital re-credentialing application and the dilemma of a sole practitioner.

He says, among other things, “‘Solo’ means ‘alone.’ No other medical professional in the office. No one. How can anyone fill out a form like that (asking for another doctor’s confirmation of competence, a sort of peer review) meaningfully? Oh, I can probably find a buddy somewhere to sign it and send it in, but this whole episode has got me thinking about several things.

“I know I am competent; that I keep up to date; that my charts are wonderful, my patients love me, and my outcomes at least average. At least I think I know this. I believe it, at any rate. But realistically, with no one else in the office (short of an actual observer coming into the office, watching me interact with patients and auditing my charts), how can I prove this?”

How can a professional prove competence? And why is it that professional organizations appear to focus on eliminating the sole practitioner or at least making it economically far more difficult to practice in the solo setting?

Are lawyers in a different boat? See Carolyn Elefant’s recent discussions concerning the plight of the sole practitioner (lawyers) and my discussion concerning The State Bar of California’s new malpractice insurance effort that will impact sole legal practitioners more than “BigLaw” practitioners.
As an aside, the Dinosaur mentions that his continuing medical education is 50 hours per year! Lawyers education requirement is usually only 12 – 15 hours per year (and over a 3 year time frame, permitting all units to be taken in one year).  He asks shouldn’t that be enough to ensure competency?  The “Dinosaur” suggests that we take courses in subject we like, subjects with which we are familiar. Thus, we know what we know. We don’t know what we don’t know. And this latter element is what is required to keep us truly “competent.” And, by inference, he’s suggesting that even 50 hours per year may not be sufficient to maintain a professional’s competence unless there is a requirement that the professional take courses in designated areas of study.

In the legal community, for example, why is it that law practice management courses are not required? This is such an important component of the practice of law, even for lawyers not in private practice. Why is it important? Because more than 50% of all complaints by clients in State Bar disciplinary board proceedings all across the country relate to poor management practices!

If the State Bar were truly concerned with protecting the public, it would require practice management education! Then, requiring not only disclosure of malpractice insurance coverage, but also malpractice insurance at affordable premiums would be appropriate, relevant and important.


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