How to Become a Healthcare Attorney: Education and Career Roadmap

Oct 20, 2021

Research the requirements to become a healthcare attorney. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a healthcare attorney.

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Degree Level Juris Doctor (J.D.)
Degree Field Law
Licensure Required in all states
Key Skills Critical thinking, analytical reasoning, negotiation, research, and writing skills; ability to use legal research engines such as LexisNexis or Westlaw, project management, and accounting software
Salary $120,910 (2018 median for all attorneys)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop

Attorneys help their clients resolve legal disputes. To do so, they may research laws, draft legal documents, argue their clients' cases in court, and engage in settlement negotiations. A healthcare attorney is a lawyer who specializes their practice in resolving healthcare issues. These professionals often work long hours, and stress levels may rise when cases go to court. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website, the median salary for all attorneys was $120,910 as of May 2018. Let's look at the steps it takes to become a healthcare attorney.

Step 1: Earn a B.A.

Law schools generally require that applicants possess bachelor's degrees. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there is no specific undergraduate field of study required to attend law school. The BLS states that many law students have bachelor's degrees in government, history, economics, or related fields.

Aspiring healthcare attorneys might benefit from completing their undergraduate studies in healthcare administration, health studies, or healthcare management. These programs provide an education on the operations and policy aspects of the healthcare industry. This knowledge may be beneficial when studying healthcare in law school or practicing healthcare law.

Prepare to Take the LSAT

Most law schools require that applicants submit Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores. This test plays a large role in determining an applicant's acceptance into law school. Companies offer multi-week prep courses that provide instruction about the exam's format as well as offering test-taking tips.

Step 2: Take the LSAT

The half-day-long LSAT tests an examinee's analytical reasoning, reading, and critical thinking skills. Most students take this exam during their junior year of undergraduate study.

Step 3: Graduate from Law School

Juris Doctor programs are offered in both full- and part-time formats. Typically, full-time programs require three years of study. During their first year, law students complete a curriculum consisting of courses in basic law subjects like contracts, property, torts, and criminal procedure. During their second and third years, students complete elective courses, judicial internships, and clinical experiences.

Some schools allow law students to concentrate their 2nd- and 3rd-year studies on healthcare law. These concentrations may include courses in healthcare finance, food and drug law, medical malpractice, and administrative law.

Take Elective Courses in Healthcare Law

Even if a student doesn't complete a concentration in healthcare law, completing elective courses in the field provides them with a solid foundation of the legal aspects of healthcare. Available elective courses may cover topics like comparative health law and policy, corporate issues in health care, and healthcare fraud and abuse.

Prepare for the Bar

Each state has its own bar exam, and passing this test is required to become a practicing lawyer. A lawyer who aims to practice in multiple states will likely need to pass bar exams for each state in which he or she wishes to practice. Preparing for the bar exam by completing a prep course may increase an individual's chance of passing the exam on their first try. These prep courses are usually offered by private companies to new law school graduates.

Step 4: Take the Bar Exam

The BLS reports that every state requires lawyers to be licensed. Generally, to become licensed an individual must pass the state's bar exam and a professional responsibility exam. The format of each state's bar exam differs, but many include multiple days of testing in the form of both essay and multiple choice questions.

Step 5: Work as a Healthcare Attorney

Government agencies, private law firms, and legal aid societies hire lawyers to practice healthcare law. Legal aid societies usually require that candidates have at least two years of experience, while private law firms may seek attorneys with eight or more years of experience. Employment is also available with non-profit organizations, social services institutions, and healthcare companies.

Step 6: Consider Earning a Master of Laws

A licensed attorney can look to a law school to earn a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Healthcare Law. These programs may include classes covering topics like assisted reproduction and the law, disability law, elder law, government health policy, and mental health law. Sometimes, they may require students to write a thesis prior to graduation.

Aspiring healthcare attorneys must earn a bachelor's degree, gain certification through passing the bar exam, and gain experience working as an attorney.

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