Law and medicine are both learned, licensed professions, practiced by
demographically similar individuals. Each profession has a well- developed
paradigm that governs the relationship between independent professionals and
their clients. The attorney–client relationship shares many characteristics with
the physician–patient relationship: attorneys have special education and
experience not possessed by clients; attorneys have a license that allow them
to perform tasks that a layperson may not perform; attorneys must keep
clients’ matters confidential; and attorneys owe clients a special duty to put
clients’ interests before their own interests (a fiduciary duty). It is these shared
values that lead medical care practitioners to assume that attorneys deal with
clients’ needs in the same way as they do. This is not a correct assumption.
The attorney–client relationship is profoundly different from the
physician–patient relationship. This difference can lead to hostility and
dangerous misunderstandings between medical care practitioners and
The key difference between legal and medical relationships is that law is not
based on a scientific paradigm. There have been efforts to bring social science
and economic analysis techniques to bear on legal problems, but these have
been of limited utility. The evolution of legal theory is a nonrational social
process that most resembles religious disputation. One accepts a premise and
then develops an intricate set of rules and theories based on that premise. We
see Marxist-based legal systems, democratic- based legal systems, and legal
systems such as Islamic law that are openly derived from religious beliefs.
Understanding law and lawyers requires an appreciation of legal belief
systems, as well as the statutes and cases.