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Law School for Physicians

I recently finished a ton of free calls with my readers from this blog after posting something about it here. I learned more than I expected and made some great connections. One of the physicians is a primary care physician who got his JD while practicing urgent care medicine and I thought I would share his awesome journey with you guys.

He’s welcome to share his name or details of his work in the comment section. I really enjoyed my conversation with him so if you do end up connecting with him, he is a great source of knowledge and eloquent too.

This doctor whim I’m profiling in this post decided to pursue his JD in 2008. He took the LSAT cold, without any prep, and got a 160 which is in the 80th percentile range.

 

Law School for Physicians

A part-time law school might be the right option for many physicians who want to get their JD.

A.’s experience should be a good primer for anyone who is interested in pursuing law school as a physician. Feel free to ask him any questions in the comment section and he’ll provide you with more info.

Motivation for JD

2 of my other friends went on to obtain their JD’s. Kim is incredibly successful and still volunteers as a physician and is trying to specialize in telehealth law. She attended Stanford Law and has some pretty lofty goals for the future.

The other went on to get his JD after getting sued and having to deal with the medical board. The experience left a bitter taste in his mouth and he thought the JD would help him get an upper hand in the future. He hasn’t used his JD yet but he anticipates switching into law when he’s closer to retirement.

What was your motivation to do pursue law A.? I didn’t even ask you.

Getting Accepted

Law schools seem to not do interviews. They rely mostly on your LSAT score and your GPA. One could make up for the other to a certain degree – I suppose much like MCATs and your science GPA.

He mentioned that the law school rankings seem to be determined by various factors, among which is the US News annual ranking report.

Apparently with his 160 he didn’t have a good shot at any of the top-tier law schools and because these law schools have to maintain a certain score average, they may not have given his medical degree much weight.

LSAT

His cold score of 160 would have been in the 50th percentile for his law school of choice and so he decided to retake the test with some studying next time around.

To prepare for the test he purchased 10 old LSAT exams with answers – $12. He would take a full test every few days and ended up ordering a few more sets of these old tests.

His practice scores were in the 168-171 range and his score on the LSAT ended up being 169 which is the 96th percentile. With that score he got into every school he applied to except for one.

He describes himself as being a good standardized test taker so pursuing law school as a physician wasn’t as much of a hurdle – maybe. I’m the opposite. I suck at taking tests – the idea of sitting for another exam gives me diarrhea.

Night-time Law School

2009 he applied to a night-time, part-time law school in Oregon. As a backup, he also applied to a few other full-time law schools in the same state. Since they had lower acceptance criteria, it was a safe bet.

He didn’t think his 160 score was enough for this particular part-time school which is one of the motivations to retake the test.

When he started law school in 2010, the schedule for his night-time school was Monday-Thursday from 5-9 pm. Few classes were held on Fridays and none on weekends.

Attendance was mandatory, as I’ll discuss in a bit.

Tuition

Part-time tuition was $27k per year back in 2009. He was able to get a hefty scholarship so, in total, he spent $45k for the entire degree, including books and material. My buddy just spent that much during his 5-month sabbatical.

There are ways to save a lot of money on books. He traded, rented, borrowed, and at one point held someone up at gunpoint – if I recall correctly. Amazon was a good resource for him to find better deals on books.

A full-time program is 3 years long but his part-time, night-time choice takes the average part-timer 4 years to complete. He ended up taking 5 years – 2010 until 2015.

Scholarships

He was awarded $10k per semester for scholarships. 2 of his backup schools offered him scholarships as well – one offered a full ride.

He mentioned something interesting about a bait & switch model for the scholarships. Apparently the law schools can take the scholarship away if law school grades aren’t high enough. They arrange it so that the scholarship recipients have to compete against each other.

Working/Income

The full-time programs in Oregon didn’t allow students to work in the first year and allowed only 10 hour per week in the subsequent years. How would this be enforced though?

He wanted to continue working part-time as an urgent care doctor and his wifey didn’t care to move too far for another law school. That’s how he decided on the part-time program which happened to be closer to where he lives.

He worked part-time as an urgent care doctor for a large medical group in Oregon. Saturdays and Sundays were the only times he could work because he needed to be at least 0.6 FTE in order to receive benefits. Without kids, this was a livable wage for him and his partner.

Workload/Classes

200 students started in 2010 along with this doctor. The class is broken up into different sections, depending on the subject. The smaller sections were ‘legal writing’ and there were larger sections with more students.

Attendance is mandatory with sign-in sheets passed around by the professors. You are okay having a handful of excused absences, like, ‘my child is sick’ or ‘I got the clap’, but beyond that you’ll be flogged.

You’re expected to get involved during class discussions. Professors call on you randomly but, overall, they are quite nice about it. This doctor found a section of mostly employed, older, and more mature individuals to blend into.

As for his particular law school, A. mentioned that it is a little more liberal.

Physician Stigma

By 2009 this doctor had his fill of medicine which may have been a motivator for pursuing his JD. When I spoke to him on the phone, he seems like a well-balanced and mild-mannered individual. He has a very fair view of medicine and I didn’t appreciate any bitterness in his voice.

As for being a physician among law students – there aren’t a lot of doctors who go to law school so the law schools maybe see one or two coming every couple of years. He was the only one in 2010 and he didn’t advertise it but didn’t hide it.

It was important to him to get a broad education about law and not just get stuck in healthcare. His exhaustion from clinical medicine helped him maintain this balance.

He sometimes would feel frustrated when others commented on medicine and physicians without having had the proper perspective. I can imagine how difficult it must be to remain neutral during those discussions.

Grades

My medical school only had pass/fail/honors – I mostly hovered near the first 2 and didn’t even know we had honors until some of my fellow fucking nerds told me they ‘honored’ a class – thought it was slang for passing. ?‍♂️

The subject which he felt required the most work was legal writing but it was graded as pass/fail. Other subjects were graded on a curve with A-F – set to a B-average.

There are no quizzes and no midterms – just the one final exam which could be great or could be a shocker.

He was kind to share his GPA which was a touch below 3.0 which happens to be close to my non-science GPA in college. This affected his scholarship which dropped by 50% when he didn’t meet the GPA cutoff.

But he kept teeter-tottering. The following year he would raise his cumulative GPA and regain his full scholarship and then drop back down. It wasn’t until his final year when it all clicked.

Bar Exam

He ended up extending his stay in law school though it was a tactical decision. He wanted to have his classes covered by his scholarships.

He also did so because he had shockingly switched from urgent care to primary at 0.9 FTE – what in the world possessed you to do that son?!

He finished law school in 2015 – that’s about 5 years after starting it. He got a little side tracked with career changes in medicine but is planning on taking the bar exam in 2019.

His plan is to work 0.5 FTE in order to study for the bar. He expects his income to be rather low the first year working as a lawyer but expects it to pick up after that.


I enjoyed chatting with A. and writing this post because it’s great seeing doctors pursuing alternative careers. I can only imagine the options available to him in the future.

4 replies on “Law School for Physicians”

As Dr. Mo mentioned I would be glad to answer questions about applying to or attending law school.

I forgot to mention that one of my professors was an MD/JD. She didn’t do internship, just went straight from medical school to law school to practicing law. I guess it worked out for her but I would be really anxious if I had medical school and law school debt at the same time!

How old were you when you started the law school process? How many years have you been practicing?

I’ll let him answer here but I believe it took him 5 years to complete it and he started it in his 40’s and he hasn’t yet started practicing in law as far as I know.

Dear AG,
Has the law part of your career been more rewarding for you than the MD part of your life? Do you ever sometimes pick up shifts at the urgent care or ER while still practicing full time as an attorney?

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