Attitudes toward, and perceptions of, consulting legal counsel by physical therapy professional education program directors
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This study examines the attitudes toward, and perceptions of, consulting legal counsel by physical therapy (entry- level) graduate education program directors. Twenty in-depth interviews were conducted, with ten female and ten male respondents. Respondents represented the full range of physical therapy education program types – large, small, public and private. The semi-structured interviews included questions on: the lega l environment; litigation; respondents’ legal knowledge; access and barriers to legal counsel; costs and risks of legal consultation; respondent attitudes toward the law, legal system, and attorneys; the nature of consultations (systematic-proactive vs. ad hoc-reactive); attorney-client relations; attorney responsiveness and competence; satisfaction with counsel and consultative outcomes; and utilization of, and satisfaction with, outside legal advisors. Female and male respondents expressed different perspectives on their experiences with consulting legal counsel for program-related advice. (Note: These results should not be interpreted as representative of the physical therapy education program director population in general. The results apply only to these twenty respondents.) Among other considerations, females in the study considered their legal environment less complex, and experienced fewer legal actions than their male counterparts. They received more legal education, and had greater direct access to institutional legal counsel. Female respondents viewed the law, legal system, and attorneys more favorably than males. Their legal consultations were more often systematic vs. ad hoc. Female respondents were less likely than males to view their institutional attorney-client relationships as confidential, and to characterize institutional legal counsel as their fiduciaries (acting in their personal best interests). They were more aware of when the attorney-client relationship may be breached by counsel. Female respondents were less satisfied with their institutional attorneys than males, but more often believed that consultative outcomes are positive. An interrelationship digraph and system schematic were created, delineating system inputs (legal milieu and access to counsel), mediating drivers (nature of legal advice and respondents’ knowledge of the law) and outcomes (attorney-client relations and respondents’ satisfaction with consultative outcomes), and system outcomes (respondents’ perceptions of the law and attorneys, and their satisfaction with legal counsel). Recommendations include, among others, more and better systematic legal education for physical therapy education program directors, and more effective attorney-client relations, especia lly including mutual education, listening, respect, and support.