Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sick? Call Your Lawyer!




Even before I started law school, I was troubled by the Supreme Court decision in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977).  That case opinion, delivered by the late Justice Harry Blackmun, essentially legalized attorney advertising on par with advertising by any other commercial concern.  Once Blackmun opened the flood gates, the worst of our profession have been able to garner the best public attention.

[To set matters straight regarding my own promotion of my professional services to the public, I have essentially adhered to the pre-Bates standard:  A listing in the telephone directory and in Martindale-Hubbell, business cards, and ads in fundraiser dinner journals.  This suits my practice quite well, inasmuch as I have a small group of existing clients whose respective legal issues periodically require my attention, and to whose numbers I am not in any hurry to add, what with my other activities, including but in no way limited to teaching and researching for other attorneys.].

Being in the medical profession, my wife gets particularly exercised when she hears radio ads by attorneys in general, and attorneys practicing medical malpractice in particular.  Beyond this, my wife and I do differ, and have gotten into some animated disagreements, not over the obnoxiousness of advertising by doctors or lawyers (over which we agree), but over the absence of clean hands on the part of the medical profession.  My posture essentially is that the lawyer ads are obnoxious and sickening, but that the doctors they sue are getting what they deserve.

This afternoon, however, we found ourselves in agreement over an obnoxious lawyer ad by the firm of Acosta & Williams, LLC, an ad we heard on at least 4 occasions during our afternoon excursion and return.  A&W is now trying to drum up some business from patients who developed diabetes from taking Lipitor for their cholesterol.  Per the radio commercial, their targeted defendants are not the physicians, but the pharmaceutical companies.

Surprisingly, my wife agreed with me that lawyers such as A&W are the just desserts for Big Pharma, in light of Big Pharma's shifting of its advertising from the medical profession publications such as the Journal of the American Medical Association  or the New England Journal of Medicine  to the common, ordinary, everyday consumer tabloids.  Now that Big Pharma has largely cut out the physician as the facilitator, the plaintiff's injury bar is cutting out the physician and dealing directly with the drug manufacturers.

Ironically, about a year before Justice Blackmun green-lighted attorney advertising, he authored the opinion in Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U.S. 748 (1976), which allowed pharmacists to advertise the prices of drugs to the public.

One thing is clear:  As the cost of health care rises (which it cannot help but doing under the Obamacare scheme), lawsuits against physicians and drug companies will continue to play a very vital role in underwriting the procurement of medical treatments and remedies.  Though it is not my own area of practice, it cannot now be said that the legal profession is unprepared to help the public finance its healthcare expenses.

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