Malpractice Lawyer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a malpractice lawyer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Lawyers are highly trained professionals who have completed several years of postsecondary education. After earning a bachelor's degree they enter law school, and they must pass the bar exam after graduating from law school in order to be able to practice law. Malpractice attorneys focus on negligence by professionals.

Essential Information

Malpractice law deals with instances of professional negligence. Malpractice cases are usually either medical or legal issues in which a provider has failed to meet the necessary standards of service, leading to personal injury or losses for a client. A malpractice lawyer represents clients either as a prosecuting or a defense attorney. These professionals must complete law school and pass the bar exam.

Required Education 4-year degree followed by completion of law school
Other Requirements Must pass bar exam; further requirements may vary by state
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for all lawyers
Median Salary (2015)* $115,820 for all lawyers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

A malpractice lawyer represents either the defense or the plaintiff in a case involving professional negligence. Failure to perform the duties of a given profession can take many forms; for example, a doctor may misdiagnose a patient, or a lawyer may give incorrect legal advice to a client.

A malpractice case is usually raised by an individual plaintiff seeking compensation in response to the actions of either a singular medical or legal practitioner or the larger organization for which those providers work. Corporations and hospitals might maintain defense attorneys on their staff to represent them in a malpractice suit.

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Duties

When representing the plaintiff, a malpractice lawyer asserts both that negligence occurred and that the plaintiff suffered directly as a result of this negligence. The lawyer provides evidence and develops an argument to show that the plaintiff would not have suffered these damages if services had been rendered according to professional standards. Usually a lawyer seeks financial compensation for the plaintiff of a malpractice suit.

Lawyers of all specializations need to keep up-to-date on relevant laws, conducting extensive research when necessary. In general, a lawyer must maintain good communication with clients and fulfill all responsibilities of the case, including meeting deadlines and preparing all necessary paperwork.

Requirements

Becoming a lawyer usually requires a 4-year undergraduate degree, followed by three years of law school and an application to the bar. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) confirms that all states require applicants to pass a written bar exam, and some states require an additional exam on ethics (www.bls.gov). Other requirements to become a licensed lawyer may vary by jurisdiction; for example, federal organizations can set their own criteria for attorneys they hire, independent of their state's regulations.

A successful malpractice lawyer should enjoy working with people and be comfortable taking on a large amount of responsibility in representing clients. In general, a lawyer should have strong writing and research skills and an aptitude for complex logic and reasoning.

Employment Info

The BLS projected a 6% job growth for lawyers in general between 2014 and 2024. Businesses are expected to give paralegals and accounting firms a share of the tasks that were once assigned to lawyers, even as an increasing number of students complete their law school degree programs. These factors are expected to create strong competition for jobs, especially those that are permanent. As of May 2015, the middle half of lawyers earned between $76,300 and $174,280 annually.

Malpractice lawyers focus on cases that involve professional negligence. This may mean that they represent a client suing a doctor or other professional who they believe failed to perform their duties properly. They may also defend a professional who has been charged or sued for negligence, or prosecute a professional for negligence when criminal charges are involved.

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