Archive for September, 2015

minimeA client recommended a book, and I read it, only to be bowled over by the parallels between the author’s experiences and my own. It’s a novel, “The House of God” by Sam Shem, and my client alerted me to it, he said, because “the author reminded me of you.” I’m flattered by the comparison, and I have to admit, the parallels between our work, and our lives, are striking. I feel like I’ve stumbled onto – well, maybe a role model, maybe a hero, maybe a friend, if we ever manage to meet up.

“Shem” is the pen name of Stephen Bergman, a psychiatrist who wrote his novel about becoming a doctor – it recounts experiences drawn from his residency at Boston’s Mount Sinai Hospital (which is where Jewish kids from Harvard Med went in those days.) Bergman used a pseudonym because his book was controversial and still stirs controversy today in its honest depictions of sex and use of humor to expose the hypocrisy surrounding the practice of medicine and medical education. I employed a lot of the same tricks in my own book, turning my gaze on the practice of law and legal education.

Okay – let’s list a few of the striking parallels, because, as I said, they’re striking.HouseGod

Bergman didn’t want to go to medical school – he went to avoid the draft, and to please his father, a dentist who, as a Jew, couldn’t get into medical school himself, due to anti-semitism. Bergman wanted to be a writer, but thought medicine would earn him a better living.

I didn’t want to go to law school. I did it to satisfy my mother and in an attempt to earn money. I wanted to be a writer. Oh, and my family’s Jewish, too – and my father was a psychiatrist.

Bergman went to Harvard, a first-tier medical school, then to a top internship.

I went to NYU Law, a first-tier law school, then to train at a top law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell.

Bergman began practicing medicine at Mount Sinai, and I began practicing law at Sullivan & Cromwell. That’s when we experienced what we both refer to as the worst years of our life.


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