Medical Malpractice Lawyers
|Degree Level||Juris Doctor|
|Licensure||Must pass bar exam and possibly meet other state requirements for licensure|
|Experience||Experience as an associate before advancing|
|Key Skills||Analysis, critical thinking, research, public speaking, and writing skills|
|Salary||$136,260 (2015 mean for all lawyers)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Medical malpractice lawyers represent clients who have been injured due to a doctor's treatment. This may include mistakes made during surgery, trauma caused during birth, or injuries sustained from inappropriate treatment methods.
As with other kinds of lawyers, medical malpractice lawyers usually work in office settings, although they may need to travel to meet with clients in their homes or in the hospital. Work hours will often fall in normal business hours, although some cases will demand more attention and longer hours. Medical malpractice lawyers may work for private firms or insurance companies. The potential for high income as a lawyer is excellent; however, the job often comes with a lot of stress. The mean annual salary for lawyers is $136,260 as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Earn a Bachelor's Degree
The first step to becoming a medical malpractice lawyer is to earn a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree is required for admission to law school. There is no specific field of study required for aspiring lawyers, but many law students have degrees in English, political science or history.
Take the LSAT
The second step is to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Admission to law school depends on undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores. The LSAT, which undergraduate students are recommended to take prior to applying to law schools, tests a student's critical-thinking, analytical and logic skills. Most schools that are approved by the American Bar Association will require applicants to submit LSAT scores as part of the admissions process.
Attend Law School
The third step is to attend law school. Law school, culminating in a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, normally requires three years of study. During their first year of study, law students typically complete courses in criminal and civil law, property, contracts, and torts. Medical malpractice law focuses on torts. During their second and third years of study, they complete elective courses in subjects like corporate taxation, as well as negotiation and trial advocacy, which medical malpractice lawyers use when brokering settlements or presenting cases to arbitrators or juries.
Complete an Internship
Many law schools offer internships and clinical opportunities to law students. Completing one of these programs provides aspiring lawyers with hands-on experience practicing law.
Take Health or Medical-Related Classes
Courses in health law, which may be available to second- and third-year students, can provide an overview of health rules and regulations. This knowledge provides the background to work as a medical malpractice attorney after graduation.
Pass the Bar Exam
The fourth step consists of passing the bar exam. To become licensed, students must pass the bar exam of the state in which they intend to practice. The format of this exam differs in each state, but may require multiple days of testing on both national and state-specific laws.
Prepare for the Bar Exam
Failing a bar exam may prohibit practicing law, making preparing to take an exam absolutely essential. Several companies offer multi-week study programs designed to help students pass bar exams.
After the Bar
The fifth step involves actively working as a medical malpractice lawyer. After passing a bar exam, an individual is usually licensed to practice in all areas of law. Individuals wanting to practice medical malpractice may do so by joining a law firm specialize in medical malpractice and personal injury cases, or practice on their own, only accepting medical malpractice legal cases. Medical malpractice lawyers may start as junior members of legal teams, honing skills taking testimony and arguing medical malpractice cases in front of juries or arbitrators, before moving up to serving as lead counsel.
The American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys certifies lawyers who have at least five years of experience specializing in medical malpractice. Certification requires attorneys to document experience and substantial involvement in medical malpractice cases over at least three years.
The sixth, and final, step to becoming a medical malpractice lawyer is to consider earning a Master of Laws degree. Some law schools offer Master of Laws degree programs in health law. These programs provide additional education about health care and medical malpractice laws. They usually include about 30 credit hours of study in courses like health care payments, privacy law, physician regulation, government health policy, health care business and finance, administrative law and health care regulation.
Becoming a successful medical malpractice lawyer involves earning a bachelor's degree, taking the LSAT, attending law school, and completing an internship, passing the bar exam, actively working as a medical malpractice lawyer, and getting board certified and earning a Master of Laws degree.