As a lawyer, I’ve always found it helpful to the lawyer-client relationship to get to know my client and to allow my client to get to know me as well. Is it required? No. Of Course not. Is there a formula of how to go about this, or how far to go in cultivating a personal relationship as well as a professional one? Not at all. And reasonable minds can differ on this. I know some lawyers who don’t believe in any personal engagement with their clients beyond the barest social amenities. Happy New Year? Fine. Happy Birthday? Never. Have a nice weekend? Maybe, but that’s pushing the envelope.
On the flip side, aside from some estate planning assistance, I (fortunately!) haven’t had much occasion to use the services of a lawyer, but I do see a number of doctors from time to time. (Sorry, nothing serious, I do expect to be writing my legal and political thrillers, and decorating your email inboxes with my blogs, for some time to come.) As a patient, however, I’ve found at least a bit of a personal relationship with my doctors helps my patient-doctor relationships. I find it helpful to learn a little about their families because I like them to learn a little about my family. (In my case, that can be particularly useful because The Wife is a lot more empathetic than I am.) Most of my doctors feel the same. (Not so much that they want to get to know me, but that The Wife is definitely preferable to me.)
I recently read a newspaper story about a personal relationship between a surgeon and a patient that I thought was nice enough to share. In a pre-surgical session, the surgeon, who was an amateur violinist, discovered that his patient was a professional musician of some serious repute.
So, during the course of the surgical pre-op, before the surgeon—a urologist—applied his professional instrument to his patient’s more personal instrument, they each took to their musical instruments to put on an impromptu concert in the O.R., not only for themselves, but for all of the other professionals on hand. The surgeon played his violin. The patient made do with a guitar.
After the concert—and the surgery—both patient and surgeon had only good things to say about the experience. They both felt it really helped the doctor-patient relationship. The doctor said he was a little nervous to be playing with such an esteemed musician, but that he warmed up and thought he was, as a result, a lot “sharper” in the use of his professional instrument. The patient said the concert reassured him that “he” was in very “good hands.”
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