Academy of Chiropractic’s
Doctor's PI Program
From the Desk of:
Mark Studin DC, FASBE (C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
"Creating Chiropractic to be the First Choice of Trial Lawyers"
New Jersey Trial Lawyers Association aka NJ Association for Justice
A few years ago, I lectured at the NJ Association for Justice. It is a trial lawyers association and every trial lawyer who represents someone suing someone else was present. There were 850 lawyers at the meeting and between 250-300 lawyers representing accident victims were in attendance. It took the New Jersey doctors almost 3 years to get me invited to speak, and approximately 12 of them had a booth at the meeting, all of whom were Trauma Qualified doctors and members of the Academy of Chiropractic's Doctors PI Program. Dr. John Cintineo coordinated the event for our doctors at that meeting.
The lawyer who invited me informed me that it was a battle to get me on the agenda, no less as their "key-note speaker." The powers that be, wanted to have an orthopedic surgeon, neurosurgeon or some other "real doctor" instead of a lowly chiropractor. The lawyer who invited me is very influential and on the board of the organization at the time stood his ground, while also sticking his neck out by having me.
I was to speak Friday morning between 10:00 AM and 11:30 AM. The program started at 6:30 AM and the room was packed. Each speaker before me spoke only 10-15 minutes on various topics from how to cross-examine a witness to how to prepare a chiropractor for trial to how to conduct a closing argument. In truth, I learned a lot and it was fascinating. The lawyer who invited me got to present on chiropractic and correctly stated that the problem with the chiropractors on the witness stands is not the chiropractors, but the lawyers who don't know both how to prep the chiropractors or how to ask the right questions.
When on the witness stand, the lawyer opined, the chiropractor should explain that he/she is licensed by the same licensure body that allows professionals of medicine and dentistry to practice, but he/she uses his/her unique healing discipline to get people well and does not need the use of drugs and surgery. In fact, the lawyer made a point of making sure that the lawyers in the room knew to explain to a jury that the patient had done everything in his/her power to avoid the addiction of drugs and sought conservative care with a specialist, the chiropractor, to avoid that path. The lawyer also went on to explain that the credentials of the doctor should well precede his/her testimony and in the courtroom setting, he/she should avoid discussing wellness issues, as they have no relationship to an accident; stick to musculoskeletal care.
Although I believe that everyone should have lifetime chiropractic care, the courtroom is not the place to educate an audience on wellness care! Keep your comments solely on the causality, demonstrable bodily injury and persistent functional loss. If you cross that line, the defense lawyer will tear you apart and the patient’s lawyer will never work with you again.
Before I get into how the lawyer who introduced me by focusing on my credentials, I want to discuss the radiologist who spoke for 30 minutes prior to my presentation. His presentation was to be on the ethics of radiology when testifying in court. His presentation wasn’t very ethical. In fact, he spent 20 minutes trying to teach what was to be my subject, MRI interpretation. The program coordinators were very, very unhappy, but couldn’t stop the radiologist, as he was in front of close to 300 lawyers. The biggest problem was that the radiologist was giving inaccurate information to the lawyers in the room and this is typical of a general radiologist. This is a topic we have discussed previously and the reason you need to interpret your own films.
When it was my turn to speak, I got introduced in a way that I rarely do. The lawyer spent a full 5 minutes going through the highlights of my academic credentials. He made a point of talking about my teaching qualifications and my level of expertise in MRI spinal interpretation. I was actually impressed when he was done and I usually don’t take myself that seriously. This process underscored to me the importance of credentials and the areas that the lawyers focused on, MRI, accident reconstruction and electrodiagnostics. Although that was no surprise, listening to the lawyer introduce me and seeing the level of attention the attendees in the room gave to my credentials, strengthened my resolve to impress upon you the power and importance of your credentials. It also increased my determination to get you to continue to build your credentials for the rest of your career.
Although every speaker of the weekend spoke between 10 and 30 minutes, I was allotted 2 concurrent sessions, a 30 minute one followed by a 45 minute one, with a 15 minute break in between. In my first session, I spoke about the basics of spine and basic findings, such as stenosis, cord compression and myelopathy. It was followed with information about arthritic degeneration and explaining the research behind arthritis causing more bodily injury with less physical trauma (bimonthly flier #15).
Prior to the meeting, the New Jersey doctors had taken a booth at their convention and prepared educational binders with specific bimonthly fliers and research to reflect my presentation, with each participating doctor's CV in the binder and a front cover with each participating doctor's demographics. My credentials were not present as the goal was to highlight the doctors at the convention.
At the end of my first session, I announced that the research for the arthritic degeneration along with other pertinent similar research was prepared for them, they should get the binders at the doctors' booth, located at the exhibitors area and there was only a limited number of binders. Before I even finished, lawyers were out the door literally "swarming" the booth to get copies in their hands before there were none left. The doctors were totally out of binders in under 15 minutes and they brought 150 of them. The balance of those who wanted them left their business cards to have them delivered. Many of the people descending on the booth were from the largest and most successful PI firms in the state. Everyone wanted the information.
I spoke again for 45 minutes and based upon what I was told afterwards, that presentation, because of the lawyers and judges in the room, changed how chiropractic was now viewed in the courts in the state of New Jersey forever. We are no longer seen as "not MD's," therefore, not worthy of testifying. We are now being seen as experts in our field and a "1stchoice based upon our understanding of the total case."
The speaker after me, a 20 year, board certified pain management specialist (MD), spent 1/2 of his 30 minutes trashing the radiologist and imploring the lawyers to listen to everything I said because it was accurate. It truly was a great day for chiropractic! As a note, I never mentioned during my presentation that the radiologist was wrong in his presentation; I simply taught them what was correct.
Here is what I learned: I have often said that general radiologists, as a rule, do not know spine as well as they should and there is a 80% error rate (published 46.3% error rate) in reading MRI's. The radiologist speaking before me confirmed that, even while making one of the most important presentations in his career. What he didn't count on was someone speaking after him teaching the correct facts and interpretations and having someone else "call him out" (the pain management doctor) on his shortcomings, someone who knows the difference between right and wrong.
After the meeting, dozens of lawyers came up to me and asked me if I testified. Each one of them said they looked me up on the Internet during my presentation on their smart phones and found my CV on the US Chiropractic Directory. They said based upon my credentials, they would like me to see their clients as patients. A difficult feat as I no longer actively practice, but the process worked. The most significant fact is that they found me on the US Chiropractic Directory and I never mentioned it during my presentation.
Many of the doctors in the booth told me that based on their CV's in the binders, lawyers came up to them and initiated meetings to discuss referring new clients. Dr. Conti, one of the participating doctors, explained to me that one of the lawyers had one of the largest practices in the state and Dr. Conti has not even been able to have a telephone conversation with anyone in that firm. They were now running after him in the midst of 850 lawyers to have a meeting with him. What a paradigm shift and it was solely based upon research and credentials.
NOTE: Each participating doctor at the booth had to Trauma Qualified to participate in this event. You are only as strong as your "weakest link" and with educational binders being distributed, this group, which dubbed themselves the "New Jersey Injury Group" for marketing purposes, was going to be a unified organization, geographically distributed in the state, whose doctors were all equally credentialed.
I also learned that lawyers are desperate to learn from experts. I was invited back on the spot to speak at many other events for the organization and based upon my schedule, I was extremely limited in what I could do. They went on to invite me to be their main speaker at one of the largest events for lawyers in the country taking place in Atlantic City, NJ, which I have now presented at 4 times. They gave me an 18 month lead time for an invitation so I could be available; over 2000 lawyers were in attendance and it was an invitation I couldn't turn down.
The moral of the story is the following: Credentials and research is what will create the relationships and get the lawyers running after you. Does that sound familiar? I also learned that the larger your vision, the larger your practice. It has been a goal of mine to speak at this convention for lawyers for over 3 years and I simply needed to position myself to be there. You have the ability to do the same in your practice, your community and your state. Dream big and be prepared!