Reading Medical Records is Boring. Too Bad, Do it Anyway.

There is really no way to be a competent personal injury lawyer without spending an awful lot of time reading medical records. Poring through stacks of records is boring, time-consuming, and we are all faced with an ever-increasing list of seemingly more important things to get done.

Many lawyers have a paralegal read and summarize these records (if anyone reads them at all) because a) they don’t want to do it; b) they think their time is too valuable to spend on it; and c) they don’t want to do it. Did I mention they don’t want to do it? I did? Good.

I am not one of them, although I have an excellent paralegal who usually does a run-through of the records and attaches a cover memo pointing out entries of interest. This is very helpful, but I read them all myself every single time, and create my own contemporaneous notes. Not just the records generated as a result of treating the injury my case is about, but also any prior medical records I can get my hands on.

Why? Lots of reasons. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Maybe something got missed. Or, presumably, I have a broader knowledge base, so sometimes I catch something significant that the paralegal didn’t have reason to question.

But the real reason is for my own preparation. I need to be familiar with the records to give my client advice about case strategy, to confer with my expert witnesses, and to prepare my trial presentation. Ultimately, it’s me standing in front of a jury, not my paralegal.

And for me, the best way to assimilate a large volume of material is to summarize it. It all goes back to Ms. Shuler’s 9th grade French class. I wasn’t a big note taker, because I thought I was smart enough to remember it all. I was wrong, and my grade was less than outstanding. My teacher noticed, and she started requiring me to copy down notes on the lessons and turn them in. Her theory was that “if you write it, you remember it.” Well, at least for me, she turned out to be right. My grade got better, and I still use the same method today to learn important material. It works, but I can’t say I enjoy doing it.