Fight Club: Doctors vs. Lawyers

fight club doctors vs. lawyersAndrew Jay McClurg, Fight Club: Doctors vs. Lawyers―A Peace Plan Grounded in Self Interest, 83 Temple Law Review 101-58 (2011).

Doctors and lawyers have been at odds since the first medical malpractice “crisis” occurred in the mid-nineteenth century. As one professor said, it is axiomatic these days that “doctors hate lawyers,” which is curious in one sense given that social psychology “liking” research suggests they should get along well in light of their similar backgrounds and socioeconomic status.

Their modern fight plays out publicly in a variety of forums, principally the national tort reform movement. Like professional wrestlers, the fighters sometimes resort to dirty tactics. It is an unseemly, embarrassing spectacle for what traditionally have been considered the two most prestigious professions. Given the importance of the healthcare and legal systems they serve, the doctor-lawyer conflict has implications for all Americans. Previous calls for doctors and lawyers to improve their relationship have been met with scorn.

This article takes a different tack in calling for improved relations: an appeal to self-interest. It argues that doctors and lawyers have shared tangible and intangible interests in reducing their conflict and improving communication. The article also sets forth several steps toward accomplishing those goals, including the need for each side to acknowledge certain core, uncomfortable truths about our medical liability system. It begins with a brief history of the doctor-lawyer fight and an explanation of why the two groups dislike each other so much.

Throughout, doctors and lawyers are compared on a variety of measuring scales such as total numbers, educational debt load, income, public approval ratings, jokes concerning, job satisfaction, political leanings, substance abuse, and suicide rates.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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