Medical professionals face 3 common legal issues: either they get embroiled in a medical malpractice suit or they get investigated by a medical board or they have to deal with their employer regarding some administrative issue.
I get a lot of emails from physicians who have been dealing with medical board investigations due to the nature of my blog. Many of you have lost your jobs because of it or are unemployable. And since most physicians who are investigated by the medical board tend to be younger, it often means you are in a negative net worth situation.
Speaking of getting emails, please don’t send the details of your case to me via email – this puts both of us at risk. There is nothing secure about emails or text. I am happy to talk to you over the phone to protect our anonymity. I do all my calls through clarityf.fm which is a paid service.
But, you don’t have to pay for advice if you don’t want to. This is why I wrote this post, to refer you guys to all the free legal services that are out there for medical professionals.
Free legal advice
There are 3 main ways for you to get free legal advice:
- state bar association
- interest groups
- public outreach organizations
- free online services
- your employer
- state bar
- your community
Most of the free legal advice out there is free regardless of your income or net worth. Some organizations have both free and low-cost services they offer. Whatever they can’t help you with, they can refer you to community partners.
Just like there are free medical clinics out there, there are free legal clinics out there. They either are government sponsored or get donations from private groups. Some are affiliated with law schools and others with the state’s bar association.
Occasionally, you can find lawyers who are interested in taking your case on for free either because they are trying to build their portfolio in that field or have a personal passion.
Legal advice/Legal representation
Legal advice is different from legal representation. It’s like going to a physician for health related advice as opposed to having them be your treating physician.
Legal advice offers you advice as to what to do next. The lawyers or law students will help you reply to investigation or lawsuit letters and put your own case together. They won’t represent you.
Representing you means that any communication from the medical board or a law office who is suing you goes straight to your lawyer. They communicate with that lawyer and the lawyer takes the reigns and handles your case from the beginning to the end.
If you have to go before a jury or before a medical board, legal representation means that you’ll have a lawyer who’ll sit next to you. Legal advice means that you’ll be prepared as best as possible to handle yourself.
Cost of legal services
How much does it cost to hire a lawyer? On average, it’s about $25,000. That’s a good number that I sort of pulled out of my ass and from research. You won’t pay all the money upfront. It’s often $500-$3,000 per month for 6 months to 2.5 years – on average.
There is a fuckton of downtime when it comes to a med-mal case or a medical board investigation. So it’s not like you’re paying every minute of every day.
As for the hourly rate, it’s about $300/hour for a lawyer who specializes in your particular case. Most law firms will have junior associates who can do some of the work and bill you at $150/hour. For example, when you communicate with your main lawyer or when your main lawyer shows up to a hearing with you, it’s $300/hour. But when you need a document reviewed or a reply prepared, the junior attorney can handle that for you at $150/hour.
One thing worth mentioning is that even though you’ll pay $300/hour, a lawyer could save you a lot of time and headache. A case could be thrown out because of a competent lawyer while you’d represent yourself needlessly for years without their help.
You can often determine this by having a free consultation session with a good lawyer. They will often give you a very realistic idea if your case can be dropped or what the chances are.
1. Court-based self-help
Most of the superior courts will have a department where you can go in-person or whom you can call to get help from lawyers or interns.
Just walk over to your downtown state law office and you’ll see signs there or go on your state’s courts website (i.e. courts.ca.gov) to find out about these free legal advice resources.
Finding med-mal advice will be tougher while administrative action advice (medical board investigations) and employment law will be readily available.
2. Legal aid agencies
These are non-profit organizations which provide free legal services to the average person. Most of these are income-based. For California a good resource is LawHelpCa. Each state has their own.
As a high-income medical professional you may not qualify unless you lost your job. And even if they can’t help you with your particular case, they can often refer you to further resources.
3. Public interest groups
Here is a website, lawhelp.org, which is a community resource and so it links you to all sorts of other websites. It’s mostly for gathering information but has some good referrals in there as well.
For physicians, it’s a good idea to start with your board certification groups, such as NBPAS. They can refer you to the interest group which represents you.
Center for Physician Rights (CPR) is another great place to turn for advice. Again, you’re looking for further recommendations even if they don’t have a lawyer then can put at your disposal.
I also recommend calling your local AMA chapter.
4. Free online service
A good example of a free online service is FreeAdvice. The link takes you to their forum page which is fairly active and you can ask questions about your case.
These platforms allow lawyers to build their reputation and you can always choose a lawyer based on that information. Or you can use the forum just to gather more information. This is a great place to start before you sit down with a lawyer in person.
I love Reddit and have a learned a lot on there. You can post a thread on legaladvice community in Reddit for free and get some great answers.
There is an etiquette to follow on Reddit so let me give you a primer. Don’t be a dick – be nice, be patient; very smart people are giving you free advice. And don’t create a behemoth of a post. Read the rules of the board and post your question exactly according to the rules.
Once you post, don’t wait 3 days to reply, you’ll get replies within the first hour if you’ve followed the recommended guideline. Reply back immediately or your thread will die. Proofread your shit so it comes across as competent and concise.
Maybe your case doesn’t have anything to do with your employer which makes it a great opportunity for you to reach out to your lawyers at your medical group.
Even if you’re just doing telemedicine as a per diem, don’t be hesitant to reach out as long as you’re comfortable sharing your current situation with your employer. You can often pick the lawyer’s brain for free and get some recommendations.
6. State bar
Every lawyer who wants to practice in a state has to pass the bar for that state. The state bar is like the medical board. They can offer you advice on where to go next and what free resources are available.
Search for ‘free legal help’ on their website to get some ideas. Here is the one for California and you can see that it’s listed under all sorts of interests or identities.
7. Your community
Whether you’re part of a church, synagogue, mosque, or sex trade worker’s union – you can often find someone in your community who can help out or point you in the right direction.
If you’re part of a religious group then you can reach out to a community liaison and see if there is free legal advice that you can request. There might be a lawyer in your community dealing with med-mal law or admin law who is willing to help you out.
If you’re part of a minority group, there are often legal interest groups which represent you. Your case doesn’t have to be a discrimination case in order for you to qualify for free legal advice or even representation.
Your community should include your lawyer friends. Best advice I ever got was to be friends with a lawyer, a doctor, a dentist, a mechanic, and a handyman.
If you volunteer for a large organization then you can ask to speak to their lawyer.
Even that NextDoor app can be a worthwhile tool for you. Reach out on there and ask for anyone in your neighborhood with legal expertise who can help you.
I thought I would create this section to catch all the other options out there. The best one that comes to mind is JustAnswer. The link takes you to their law section where you can post a question for a specific amount of money.
You can also purchase a monthly subscription to JustAnswer for somewhere around $100/month and ask a ton of questions for free.
Your state bar association can also refer you to low-cost lawyers in your vicinity who can represent you for a lot less than the traditional costs. They might do this on a sliding scale or a set low rate. Even if you’re a physician making $200k/year, it’s quite likely that you might be broke so your income doesn’t often matter for these low-cost options.