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Once and Future Penn Law
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1) Take better care of patients (“It will produce less work for lawyers like me, but we’ll find something else to do with our time,” he says); 2) Reform the insurance system so that doctors’ premiums pay for medical claims, not insurer’s administrative costs or “outrageous executive salaries”; and 3) Raise service reimbursement rates in Pennsylvania, which, he said, are among the lowest in the nation. He thinks fair compensation would help balance doctors’ high insurance bills.
“Only after those things don’t work, though I think they will work, should we then turn around and say, ‘Maybe we’re going to have to punish the victims of bad care by reducing their access to the courts,’ “Specter says. As a trial attorney, he is understandably interested in medical malpractice, as he is in product liability law. With the fervor of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Specter has spent his career pursuing justice for those who have been unfairly harmed. “I think there’s been an enormous improvement in product safety over the last fifty years as a result of civil litigation,” Specter says. But there are deadly exceptions. In class, Specter obliquely refers to one of his cases. The case, in which he represented the plaintiff, involved a Pennsylvania man who suffered catastrophic injuries after he swerved to avoid a car and flipped over his handlebars, landing headfirst on the road. The man’s helmet should have blunted the blow, especially at the low speeds the bike was traveling. But it didn’t. Specter tells his students, as practicing trial lawyers they would have had a responsibility to prove the helmet was defective and caused these serious injuries.
Ariella Feingold, a second-year law student, listens intently. She wants to be a litigator. She took Specter’s course to get, as she puts it, “in the trenches” and learn from a master. Her verdict on Specter? Persuasive. Sincere. Convincing. Commands respect. “I wouldn’t want to show up against him in the courtroom,” she says.
She marvels at how Specter recreates what a real-life trial looks like from the inside. Indeed, Specter goes to great lengths to simulate cases. One night, in a class on how to interview clients, Specter noticed a woman sitting in the back row whom he didn’t recognize. When he asked her what she was doing there, the woman told him she had a legal problem and wanted to learn how to handle it. Specter questioned her to find out all the details. At the end of the class he disclosed that she was a plant.
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