Some doc­tors can make the worst of a bad situation

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Su­san Estrich Su­san Estrich is syn­di­cated by Cre­ators Syn­di­cate.

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’s 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 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.

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