Few medical-malpractice plaintiffs’ lawyers have the breadth of experience that Caroline Gilchrist brings to a potential case. Not only have medical-malpractice cases constituted the bulk of her practice since she joined forces with Rex Baker in 1999; for 12 previous years she worked as an attorney on the other side of the med-mal legal divide, working in a downtown Indianapolis firm that defended doctors and health-care providers being sued.
“I’ve seen both sides of the fence,” she says. “I think that gives me a more unique perspective than attorneys who have only done plaintiffs’ work.”
In the mid-1990s, Caroline began thinking that she wanted to work closer to home in the western suburbs of Indianapolis because she had two small boys with whom she wanted to spend more time. Baker, who was practicing in another Indianapolis firm, was in a similar frame of mind—wanting to be closer to his family in the western suburbs. They met to talk—and the law firm of Baker & Gilchrist was formed.
“Our goal was to create a boutique practice and not a volume practice,” Caroline says. “We didn’t want to take every case that comes in the door.”
Instead, utilizing their combined experience, they have developed a reputation as a firm that places its primary focus on medical-malpractice plaintiffs’ work. Given the restrictions that have been placed in the way of claimants by legislation favoring the medical industry, Caroline acknowledges, practices like hers have become relatively rare and challenging.
One reason why she and her partner have been successful in bringing medical-malpractice cases, she says, is that they employ a system of exacting front-end evaluation of any case they’re considering. Oftentimes, they refer cases to medical experts for review.
“We don’t want to bring claims against health-care providers if we don’t have a reasonable belief that the elements of medical malpractice are there,” she says. “By having experts review the case, we increase the odds of success early on—or figure out early on if there’s not a case.”
Although medical malpractice comprises the majority of her practice—70 to 75 percent, she estimates—Caroline also works as a mediator in family and civil matters and handles some personal-injury cases.
She’s also frequently called upon to speak at seminars and has been the Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum’s primary trainer for Basic Family Mediation Training since 1999, teaching the 40-hour course at least once a year.
Although practicing law can be stressful and demanding, Caroline relishes her job and is proud of her profession.
“First of all, there’s the variety,” she says. “No two days are the same for me. And I really like helping people. Most of the people who come to us say, ‘I’m not the type of person who sues,’ but they’ve been through something very difficult. They can be in terrible economic circumstances because of it; their life may have changed drastically because of it.”
When she’s not practicing law or engaged in professional activities, Caroline is active in her church, where she is involved with the women’s ministry and facilitates Bible studies. She also enjoys tennis.