Two “red flags” when interviewing a licensing lawyer to defend your medical license

Red flag #1: Blaming the licensing Board’s investigator

Earlier this year, a practitioner hired me as her second lawyer, and I took over the representation of her case. Later, after much of our work had been completed, she expressed surprise at how helpful the investigator had been. When I asked her why she was surprised, she explained that her first lawyer blamed the investigator, saying something like, “Oh, you have Jane Doe for an investigator, you’re in trouble.” That was unfortunate. I have worked with the same investigator and find her easy to work with. More importantly, I regularly represent nurses, pharmacists and physicians before the Oregon State Board of Nursing, the Oregon Board of Pharmacy, and the Oregon Medical Board, and there has never been a reason to blame the investigator. It is my opinion that if a lawyer you interview blames the investigator, keep interviewing lawyers until you find one that works well with investigators. Your interests will be better served in the short and long run.

Red flag #2: Utilizing a litigious approach with an investigator

Last year I had a chance to ask an investigator what she thought of the relatively small group of lawyers that routinely appear before her licensing Board. I was surprised to learn that some used a tough approach, keeping communications short, and often implying that a contested case hearing (litigation) would be necessary when, in fact, they seldom are. Needless to say, these lawyers, due to their uncooperative reputations, were not favored by the investigators. As my record will demonstrate, I am willing to advance tough litigation in defense of physicians, pharmacists, and nurses, but litigation must be reserved for the right circumstances.

More importantly, consider the disadvantage you may suffer because of your lawyer’s “tough talk.” For example, throughout the course of a licensing Board’s investigation, much information must be exchanged, and any alleged practice discrepancy prompting the complaint against you must be carefully evaluated. Consider also that you will most likely be interviewed by the investigator, and much of the work of the interview can be accomplished between your lawyer and the investigator, sparing you much grief. Whatever the cause of the complaint, solutions must be negotiated. Ultimately, the investigator will write the summary of your case, including recommendations, that will become the basis of the Board’s decision against your medical license. For all these reasons, it is my opinion that a cooperative and professional relationship between your lawyer and your licensing Board’s investigator will lead to the most efficient and complete exchange of information, and the best resolution of your case. Along the way, you will be better informed too.