The Purpose of Law School

Group study sessionNow that the academic year has ended, it’s time to catch up on what is happening in the world. Of particular interest is the news that Kim Kardashian plans on becoming a lawyer without attending law school. Or college. Bar exams are likely easier to pass with the help of a law school education, but is that the purpose of law school? Not all states allow law school to be optional, but does law school serve purposes other than just checking off a requirement?

Is the purpose of law school to educate us regarding the law? To teach us to “think like lawyers”? Or is law school a socialization process, as a lawyer explained to Ms. Kardashian/West on an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians? This attorney explained that law school doesn’t teach you the actual “stuff” and that Kardashian’s qualities put her way ahead of contemporaries in law school. I wonder if law school is meant instead to be a selection process.

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Informed Consent

White hospital bedsSeveral years ago, the Wisconsin veterinary state convention focused on the legal standard of informed consent in the profession. Lawyers explained that this meant that veterinarians needed to provide all options to owners and that owners make the decision as to what options to pursue. Although this seemed simple enough, and certainly some veterinarians already practiced some degree of informed consent, some veterinarians were understandably concerned about discussing a “no treatment” option and some veterinarians practice in situations where discussions with owners may be difficult (e.g., production medicine) or the time involved would defeat the purpose of their services (e.g., high-volume spay/neuter clinics). But the take-home message was that veterinarians are not the responsible parties for making the decisions for clients and that veterinarians need to provide all of the options, and all of the information that clients need to make decisions. Informed consent protects both parties to the transaction.

Informed consent provides transparency. In the veterinary profession, owners are held directly responsible for the decisions and charges incurred. When an owner is informed about diagnostic or treatment options, this includes the cost involved with the options. Informed consent means discussing what the diagnostics or treatments entail, the prognosis or outcome expected, and the costs involved. In fact, most veterinarians provide written estimates for procedures or hospitalization and may require a deposit. Although this may seem insensitive in some way—to require a deposit to provide care—the estimate can be the reality check an owner may need and, again, the owner client is the responsible party.

Informed consent is also the standard in the human medical profession, but the human medical profession does not provide estimates and doesn’t seem to even know, or admit to knowing, what price tag attaches to options. Much is said about the failures of human medicine. Some of this can be attributed to allowing the profession to not be transparent—to not providing information.

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