When I returned to practicing law full time 10 years ago, one of the biggest surprises was not the new technology of e-filing, or the new world of e-discovery, but the stunning number of bad lawyers I ran into on the other sides. I don't mean lawyers who disagree with me; that's what the adversary system is about. I mean lawyers who miss the best arguments for their client, miss the leading cases, lose arguments they should win and, in some cases, are barely able to put a sentence together. And I'm talking about the elite of Big Law — graduates of top law schools and members of well-regarded firms.
Scary? A little. But most of my work is business litigation. While the issues are important and the stakes substantial, no one's life is on the line. In business litigation, no one dies or sees their life permanently ruined by a bad lawyer.
What is really scary is that if there are this many bad lawyers, then could there also be this many bad doctors? And though I can tell the difference between a good and a bad lawyer, how does someone who is not a doctor know the difference between a good and a bad doctor? References?
Sure, we check references. The psychiatrist who I saw for 15 years had good references and a waiting list. A close friend told me how much the doctor had helped a friend of hers. Recently separated with two small children, I knew I needed someone to talk to. Dr. X was one of those therapists who talks to you and offers real advice, which I thought I desperately needed.
Just not from her.
For 15 years, every piece of advice she gave me was horribly wrong, seemingly designed to completely destroy what was left of my family. And I listened to her, and will regret it for the rest of my life.
Don't let your sister stay at your house, she told me. Why not? Since I finally started doing the exact opposite of what Dr. X said, my sister and I have finally developed the sort of adult relationship that could have provided comfort to both of us years ago.
Don't go to your mother's 80th birthday party, she insisted. It will be a setback for you. A setback from what? As it turned out, it was my mother's last birthday. All my uncles came. I will never forgive myself for not going, and I will never understand where this woman who had never met my mother got the nerve to direct me not to go.
The list goes on and on. Dr. X hated Hillary and Bill Clinton. I finally told her that I wasn't paying her top dollar to discuss people who I knew and liked and she didn't know at all.
What finally broke this camel's back was when Dr. X told me that my daughter would prance at my funeral.
How did she know? Because Dr. X, in a practice that I subsequently learned is widely disfavored by good psychiatrists, was not just seeing me. Oh, no. She was also seeing my daughter, my son and even my ex-husband. (She had convinced me that I should pay for his sessions as they would make him a better father.)
While I was trying to maintain some semblance of a family, she was collecting thousands of dollars a week to tear us apart, with considerable success.
"Your daughter will prance at your funeral."
What kind of doctor says that to a mother about the daughter she loves more than life?
I am purposely not even using her initials. If anything I've said reminds you of a doctor you've been seeing, run don't walk in the other direction. Bad doctors are everywhere.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.