Ask Not What Your Lawyer Can Do For You

Actually, the converse of that is the question du jour.

Ask not what you can do for your attorney; ask what your attorney can do for you.

It is important to find out whether your attorney has expertise in a particular area, because if not, that attorney should contact another legal professional who has the expertise and seek a consultation. These days, although many (including our law office) practice general business and corporate law, lawyers also specialize. Lawyers and law firms need to know their limits and advise clients accordingly.

Here, then, is a tale of two (recent) clients. One required an technology transfer agreement which would assign the rights of an invention to a third party. Although lawyers specialize, these days it is easy to find good, working precedents online and for lawyers who enjoy drafting, there is a gold-mine of information available as a basis for further creative work. At the same time, there are some very tricky clauses and it can be helpful to subcontract for an hour of specialty lawyer time. In this case, we produced a draft of the initial document, tailored to the client's very specific needs, and then engaged special IP (intellectual property) expertise for a brief review and received some very helpful comments on the document.

Client number two had a more generic copyright and trademark question which was ultimately answered using general principles of copyright law and specific legal doctrines such as joint ownership and work for hire. In this case there was no need to consult expert counsel, and the issues were canvassed expeditiously but thoroughly. Although the client initially hesitated because his questions were very specific, the law in this area was straight-forward and easy to apply. Plus, knowledge of litigation procedures was useful to help provide proper practical guidance as to what to do next.

So: as the Upanishads say, he who knows, does not know; he who knows he does not know, knows.

It is good to understand the limits of one's competence, and to refer or seek a specialist accordingly. This applies whether one is in the legal or a healing arts profession. (I think of it more as a duty to consult, when it comes to legal expertise, than a duty to refer, as exists with, for example, chiropractors whose patients present problems that are beyond chiropractic expertise and require medical attention).

It is also important to be sufficiently knowledgeable and well-versed in many different areas that capable advice can be given on most legal questions, especially those general busines questions that crop up again and again among small business owners and entrepreneurs. Our firm has been on both sides -- both seeking specialized expertise and offering expert counsel in the health law / complementary medicine field. Further, my own approach to serving clients is very intuitive--grounded in law, but also cognizant of the overall situation and the client's objectives (both those immediately known, and those remaining to be discovered in a brief but effective, shared exploration). The holistic approach can apply to legal as well as medical issues, as after all, when seeking advice from either kind of professional, one wishes to come out whole.

The Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen offers corporate legal services, litigation consultation, and expertise in health law with a unique focus on holistic, alternative, complementary, and integrative medical therapies. The law firm represents medical doctors, allied health professionals (from psychologists to nurses and dentists) and other clinicians (from chiropractors to naturopathic physicians, massage therapists, and acupuncturists), entrepreneurs, hospitals, and educational organizations, health care institutions, and individuals and corporations.

Michael H. Cohen is Principal in Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen and also President of The Institute for Integrative and Energy Medicine, a nonprofit organization exploring legal, regulatory, ethical, and health policy issues in the judicious integration of complementary and alternative medical therapies (such as acupuncture and traditional oriental medicine, chiropractic, naturopathic medicine, homeopathy, massage therapy, energy healing, and herbal medicine) and conventional clinical care. Michael H. Cohen is author of books on health care law, regulation, ethics and policy dealing with complementary, alternative and integrative medicine, including Healing at the Borderland of Medicine and Religion, Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Legal Boundaries and Regulatory Perspectives (1998), Beyond Complementary Medicine: Legal and Ethical Perspectives on Health Care and Human Evolution (2000), and Future Medicine: Ethical Dilemmas, Regulatory Challenges, and Therapeutic Pathways to Health Care and Healing in Human Transformation (2003).
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Health care and corporate lawyer Michael H. Cohen has been admitted to the Bar of California, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington D.C. In addition to qualifying as a U.S. attorney, he has been admitted and to the Bar of England and Wales as a Solicitor (non-practicing). For more information regarding the law practice of attorney Michael H. Cohen, see the FAQs for the Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen. Thank you for visiting the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog.