I have been in practice just over 30 years. For the last 25 years, I have limited my practice almost exclusively to medical malpractice defense, representing hospitals and physicians in their professional liability claims.
How has your practice evolved in the last few years?
Medical malpractice litigation has become more and more specialized. Earlier in my career, general personal injury lawyers who handled all types of personal injury claims would also file malpractice claims. Similarly, defense lawyers in medical malpractice claims often were general insurance defense lawyers. That is simply not the case any longer. Rarely nowadays do I see anyone handle a medical malpractice claim, either for the injured patient or the healthcare provider, who does not practice almost exclusively in the professional liability field. This trend towards a focused practice will likely continue.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
Young lawyers tend to worry about three things: maintaining a quality work product, reaching acceptable billable hours, and establishing a client base. The young lawyer who obsesses on quality will find that his/her other two concerns will fall into place.
What’s one technological device, application, or tool you could not function without?
Probably my Smartphone. Because of it, lawyers today are much more accessible than they were at the beginning of my career.
How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?
I feel privileged to have practiced my entire career in Peoria, Illinois, where lawyers pride themselves in the professional way that law is practiced. Here, we do not view the Rules of Professional Conduct as a goal, but rather as a minimum standard for our practice. Professionalism is not compliance with the RPCs; professionalism means exceeding those rules.
Medical malpractice litigation always involves high stakes, both for the seriously injured patient, as well as for the medical provider and his/her reputation and self-esteem. High stakes for the client will often result in high tension among the lawyers involved. Our adversarial system by itself can easily lead to frustrations. We all appreciate the lawyer who can keep his/her personal reactions in check as pressures of our job rise.
What do you do for fun?
I love to play tennis, I love to play bad golf, and I love to run. In the wintertime, when the weather makes it hard to pursue any of these activities, I turn my attention to creating professional responsibility continuing legal education programs for the Peoria County Bar Association.
Kevin Miller is a partner at Quinn, Johnston, Henderson, Pretorius & Cerulo in Peoria, Illinois.