What Does a Medical Lawyer Do? (With Job Description)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Medical lawyers have a unique position within the legal field and work to protect the rights of medical patients and health care providers. This specialisation can provide a rewarding career path for individuals who want to use their legal experience to make a difference in people's lives. If you're planning on entering the legal field and want to know more about your options, it might be helpful to learn about a career in medical law. In this article, we discuss what a medical lawyer does, explore their work environment, list their useful skills and highlight the qualifications to become one.

What does a medical lawyer do?

To answer the question ‘What does a medical lawyer do?’, a medical lawyer is a legal professional who focuses on healthcare-related cases. These lawyers often specialise in representing patients or family members of patients who experience medical malpractice, although they may also serve health care providers or employees. For example, a patient might hire a medical malpractice lawyer if their surgeon makes a mistake during a procedure that causes them additional illness or injury. Aside from their knowledge of the law, these professionals require a deep understanding of the health care system and the rights of patients.

Medical lawyers may have a range of responsibilities, depending on their clients. These are some common tasks for medical lawyers:

Conduct legal research

Like other lawyers, medical solicitors and barristers spend much of their time conducting legal research. This may include studying statutes related to the medical industry, researching personal injury law or reviewing past cases to learn about precedent. This helps them understand their options for legal action and allows them to build stronger cases.

Related: Attorney vs Lawyer: What's the Difference?

Advise clients

One of a medical lawyer's primary tasks is to provide advice to patients who have suffered medical malpractice. They often meet with these individuals and gather information on their cases, after which they can recommend different courses of action. This may include seeking a settlement or taking their case to court. In these situations, the lawyer's primary responsibility is to ensure that the client receives the best possible compensation while taking on the least risk.

Gather evidence

Once they take a case, lawyers are responsible for gathering all the evidence necessary for their client to receive compensation. This can include interviewing plaintiffs and witnesses, requesting medical examinations, collecting documentation, including medical records, and recording depositions from medical professionals. In some cases, they may also seek expert witnesses to provide key information in court.

Represent clients in court and other legal proceedings

Medical lawyers typically represent their clients in court during malpractice trials. This includes presenting evidence, making arguments for judges and juries and cross-examining witnesses. To represent clients in court, a lawyer requires to be a barrister. Barristers are also responsible for attending pre-trial meetings and settlements.

Ensure legal compliance in medicine

Not all medical lawyers handle malpractice cases. In many cases, they help health care providers achieve legal compliance and avoid legal challenges. These are some of their tasks:

  • Instructing health care providers on privacy laws

  • Helping doctors set up their practices

  • Resolving insurance issues

  • Advising on public health measures

  • Identifying fraudulent claims

  • Checking applicant credentials during the hiring process

  • Assisting medical providers secure funding

Related: 12 In-Demand Medical Careers (With Duties and Salaries)

Work environment for medical lawyers

The most common work environment for a medical lawyer is an office, as they spend much of their time taking meetings, conducting research and preparing paperwork. This can be a small private office or an office in a larger firm. Some medical lawyers also travel frequently to visit clients at their homes or in medical facilities.

Medical lawyers also spend much of their time in court, attending meetings with judges or representing their clients during trials and hearings. Working as a medical lawyer typically involves long hours that often run outside of a standard 40-hour work week, as they often work overtime to prepare for cases. Some lawyers may also have to work on holidays and weekends, depending on the requirements of their clients.

Related: 20 Different Jobs You Can Do With a Law Degree

Skills for medical lawyers

Medical lawyers require a wide range of skills to conduct legal research and win cases for their clients. These are some of the most important skills for these professionals:

  • Critical thinking: Medical lawyers are responsible for preparing effective cases and overcoming the legal arguments of their opponents. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills can help them complete these tasks more effectively.

  • Interpersonal: One of the most important parts of a lawyer's job is building strong professional relationships with clients and other legal professionals. Interpersonal skills can help them gain the trust of their colleagues and clients, persuade jurors and enhance their professional reputation.

  • Research: When they're not in the courtroom, medical lawyers often spend much of their time researching case law and constructing their arguments. To do this effectively, it's important that they have excellent research skills, including reading comprehension, note-taking, attention to detail and analysis.

  • Public speaking: When in court, medical lawyers are responsible for explaining the facts of their case to jurors and judges to persuade them. This requires strong public speaking skills, confidence and adaptability.

  • Writing: Lawyers prepare a wide variety of legal documents in preparation for their cases. It's essential that they have excellent written communication skills, knowledge of legal documentation and formal writing styles.

  • Persuasion: A lawyer's success often relies on their ability to persuade juries and judges in the courtroom. Effective persuasion requires a wide range of skills, including public speaking, confidence, debating skills, adaptability and charisma.

Related: 14 Types of Lawyers (With Responsibilities and Salaries)

Qualifications for medical lawyers

Medical lawyers require the same training and education as other legal professionals. Like in other fields of law, you can practise as a solicitor, but may undergo additional training and become a barrister to represent clients in court. Here are some of the steps that medical lawyers need to fulfil to work in the field:

Complete an approved law degree

As a legal student in Australia, you have two different options for your university education, you can complete a Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD or Juris Doctor) or a Bachelor of Law (LLB):

LLB

The LLB or Bachelor of Law is the traditional degree path for legal students in Australia. It's open for students who are entering university for the first time and for graduates of other bachelor's programs. If you enter as an undergraduate, the LLB usually requires four years of study, while previous university graduates can complete the program in three years.

JD

The JD is a graduate-entry degree that qualifies students to practise law in Australia. It's an increasingly popular alternative to the LLB and is replacing it in some universities. The degree is designed for students who have already graduated from university, and admission to a JD program requires a bachelor's degree in a field other than law. Completing a JD requires three years of full-time study, after which students begin their apprenticeship.

Undergo practical training

After completing your legal degree, your next step is completing an apprenticeship with a practising lawyer. In most cases, the supervising lawyer may have at least three years of professional practice, although apprenticeship requirements can vary by state and territory. This training period lasts at least 12 months and allows you to learn the practical aspects of working as a lawyer. During your training, you can also study for a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, awarded on completion.

Gain admission to legal practice

After you complete your degree and practical training, you're eligible for admission as a lawyer. When you're ready to complete this step, you can submit an application to your state or territory's admissions authority. This may be completed within five years of graduation. Requirements and procedures vary in different areas, so be sure to research legal admissions in your state or territory.

Once you're admitted to the Supreme Court of your jurisdiction, you can earn a practising certificate, allowing you to work as a solicitor. At this point, it's important to decide whether you want to continue your education and become a barrister. If you want to represent clients in court, it may take a few extra years of education and completion of the bar exam.

Pass the Bar Entrance Examination

The first step in becoming a barrister in Australia is passing the Bar Entrance Examination. This tests your knowledge of the law and covers subjects like civil and criminal procedure, ethics and evidence, although the content varies by jurisdiction. Once you pass the exam, you're eligible to enter reading, a period of study that allows you to practise as a barrister. In some areas, candidates may simply complete an application, rather than an examination.

Related:

  • Pursuing Law as a Career (With Roles and Salaries)

  • How to Become a Lawyer in Australia

Complete reading

Reading is a period of study that all barristers complete. Although the conditions of study can vary, most jurisdictions require nine months to complete reading. During reading, you can have periods of independent study, attend lectures and complete practical training under the supervision of practising barristers. Once the reading period is complete, you can practise independently as a barrister.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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