The Legal Profession vs. The Medical Profession: A Comparative Analysis

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This paper explores the similarities and differences in pursing a rewarding career in the fields of law and medical science. Both career paths offer outstanding benefits to the professionals and the consumers of their services alike. Although the process may initially seem difficult and rigorous, it can be done by just about anyone who puts forth the effort. The only two major requirements to gain admission into a law school or medical college are a strong GPA and standardized test score. Once admitted, the student undergoes general education in the beginning portion and focuses their studies on their specific field of interest as they continue on. Both fields are great in that they can be applied to a wide range of concentrations and majors depending on the prospect’s interests. Both fields require professional licensing to practice. All in all, despite the work involved with the process, the benefits of each career path are exceptional. This paper describes the process of undergoing each career path and concludes that although there is no one best career option, the fields of law and medical science are arguably amongst the best.

Introduction

Attending a college or university is the beginning stage of choosing a career path. In the modern age of information, the world of higher education has expanded to hundreds of majors and concentrations in colleges and universities across the nation. Where in the 20th century a high school diploma was sufficient to sustain a living standard, the 21st century is much more competitive coming out of a global recession. A college education exercises the mind in critical and analytical thinking while pursuing one’s specific interests. Engineers solve civil infrastructure problems, marketers continuously research new methods to reach consumers and computer science major continuously update the world’s most efficient source of information, the Internet. Truthfully, any major one chooses to pursue has its benefits and career implications. As long as one is passionate in their work, success is more likely to result. Of the various majors and career paths a student can choose to take, there are two fields that exceptionally benefit society. A profession in either law or medicine provides one with the human capital to have life changing impacts on the consumers of their services. Unique to the career path of law is students from all majors, political science, business economics, communications, can apply to attend law school to pursue the profession of a lawyer. The medical field is narrower, but a degree in biology, chemistry, physiology or exercise science well prepares a prospect for medical school. Both career paths seem difficult at a glance, and thus are rarely pursued. However, anyone who sincerely puts in effort into what each career path entails has a high probability for success. Both professions are special in how they help each of their clients and society at large. This paper compares and contrasts both career paths and what comes with them. In common to both the fields of law and medical science, and undergraduate degree is undeniably necessary.

Undergraduate Study

Competitive GPA

A great attribute of both the career path of the legal and medical professions is there is a wide variety of majors and concentrations that both fields derive from. A legal prospect can enter the fields of political science, communications or any other field in liberal arts. Economics majors have statistically been shown to have more chance of success in studying law (Gwartney). The medical field requires slightly more specific choices in that it must be a field in science, but the options widely vary from organic chemistry to microbiology etc. A prospect of either career path can choose the major he or she is most interested in. However, prospects of either field should be aware that each requires an exceptional GPA of at least 3.0 but somewhere between 3.5 and 4.0. With a competitive GPA comes the standardized testing for admissions into the continuing schools.

Standardized Testing

The admission law school is a specific process administered by the Law Schools Admissions Council (LSAC). The LSAC is the organization that helps the law school prospect register for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and formally assembling their credentials when applying to law schools. The LSAT is an exam that tests logical and analytical reasoning as well as reading comprehension. A wide variety of studies indicate that the LSAT and GPA together are the best indicators of success during the first year of law school (Shultz, 2008). The test incorporates arguments and passages from a wide variety of subjects, making it an option for just about any major. What is interesting about the field of law is that it can be applied to any other field of interest. Rather than the specific subject matter being of importance, the way the argument and reasoning is set up is what is most important. This electronic administration of the law school admissions process standardizes the procedure and makes it practice for anyone to try their chances with a legal career. 

Similarly, medical college admission is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). To receive admission into medical school, prospective students need to have exceptional academic achievements and an acceptable score on the Medical College Admissions Test (Chen, 2013). The MCAT consists of sections in physical sciences, verbal reasoning and biological sciences. As mentioned before, it is narrower in that it focuses specifically on science but broad enough that any biology, chemistry of physiology student can grasp the material. Once a degree has been awarded and an MCAT score has been received, a prospect can begin applying to medical school. Both the legal and medical profession has specific procedures for admission such as submitting an essay. Once admitted into a program and the logistics are set up, a student is ready to begin their professional course of study.  

Graduate Education

Once an undergraduate degree has been acquired along with admission into a law school or medical school, a student is ready to begin their formal study of the subject. Both career paths are similar in that they require formal schooling after undergraduate studies, but both differ in the length of time and the type of learning they undergo. Currently, there are 199 ABA accredited law schools (LSAC, 2013). Law school is typically around three years. The first year is known as the most rigorous and it is to shape the students into the lifestyle of a lawyer. The course material covered is fairly consistent across the nation. Once the students are retained for their second and third year, then they can begin focusing on specific fields relevant to their interests. Some law students may wish to pursue tax law while others choose to pursue immigration. There are various concentrations in law programs that cover essentially all aspects of law in the community. In addition to schooling, law students are also encouraged to join student organizations, write journal articles and seek externships. Being applicable to just about any field, a study of law is applicable to just about any student. Once three years of law school have been completed and a J.D. degree has been obtained, the student is one step away from being a licensed to practice law. 

Medical school is more extensive in that it is encompasses much more than a few years of professional schooling. Medical school itself takes four years. The first two years consist of general education courses about the art of medicine and patient care. The courses prepare the student for passing the licensing exams, which are required to move on to the third and fourth years of medical school. General course material includes neurosciences, microbiology, clinical psychiatry, genetics and human anatomy. After the general requirements have been satisfied, the student can begin focusing on the concentration of their choice. Some concentrations include neurosciences, microbiology, clinical psychiatry, genetics and human anatomy. The second two years consists of rotations in hospitals and clinics. The rotations are essentially observations of what and how things are done in the medical environment. As the student looks to finish up medical school, they must prepare for the second part of the licensing exam and the final step required for becoming a fully licensed medical practitioner.

Professional Licensing

This is where the legal profession and the medical profession begin to differ in their timeframes. After law school the student is required to pass a bar examination. A bar examination is generally defined as an exam given to determine to qualify a candidate to practice law in a given jurisdiction. Each state in the United States administers its own bar exam and the specifics along with the exam such as timing (Clarkson, 2012). There are options for a Uniform Bar Exam and a Multistate Bar Exam, furthering the options a student has when considering the legal profession. One section is a series of multiple choices question that test general points of law. Another section involves a series of short essays with several contesting issues. Finally, the third part is specifically about ethics. The bar examination is known to be generally difficult, as with the entire course of study for the legal profession as a whole. However, the wide range applicability of the legal field makes it a viable option for just about any major. Once law school is completed and the bar exam has been passed, the student is free to practice law wherever they are licensed.

The process of becoming a fully licensed medical practitioner is a bit more extensive than the legal profession. In addition to attending medical school for four years, a medical student must receive residency training based on the specific area of medicine they wish to work in. Although they have their medical degree, they are still not licensed to practice medicine until the completion of residency training, which may take 3-5 years (Peterson’s, 2013). Finally, once all of the medical licensing examinations and requirements have been fulfilled, the student is ready to begin practicing medicine in the area in which they are licensed. Specific fields of medical science such as cardiology or interventional radiology, require an additional 1-3 years of training. Despite being a more extensive process than the legal education, the medical profession is one of the most beneficial and well-respected professions in a society and well worth the rewards.

The Outcomes

Both career paths reap outstanding outcomes for those who undergo the extensive process associated with each one. The benefits of becoming a lawyer involve the social nature of the field. Law in itself revolves around logic, rationalization, stability, order and justice. Regardless of the specific concentration of law pursued, the lawyer’s work is to bring these characteristics to whatever field it is being applied. A lawyer is a free thinker; adaptable to any situation and useful in many ways. The lawyer can perform a wide variety of social functions to help in the functioning of society. Contracts that need to be enforced, defending an innocent person from being convicted of a crime they did not commit, ensuring government standards and regulations are met are all examples of work that lawyers do to make sure society functions smoothly. The greatest benefit to pursuing a career in law, aside from the money and power associated with the profession, is the level of thinking acquired during the process of becoming a lawyer. After seven years of critical and analytical thinking to become a lawyer, the mind is well trained in the process of rationalization and decision-making. If not for widely applicable social benefits, the way of thinking is beneficial enough to pursue a legal education.

The medical career path is rewarding in its unique ways. Aside from the large amounts of money medical professionals are known to make, there are various implicit benefits to pursuing a medical profession. Medical professionals work organized work environments according to strict schedules and objectives. The organization associated with the medical profession can promote a positive attitude when thinking about going to work everyday instead of a work environment that lacks organization and structure. Also, knowledge in the medical field helps both the doctor and those who interact with them in making important life impacting decisions regarding health and development. Diet, physical activity, medication and therapy are all things a patient can discuss with their doctor. The doctor, having studied the information, can help both themselves and the patient in making positive decisions. The greatest reward of the medical profession is helping relieve people from their pains and injuries. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, both the fields of law and medical science are rewarding to both the student that chooses to undergo them and society as a whole. Whereas any career path is beneficial in its own way, the legal and medical professions are arguably the most impacting. Having such important implications on their consumers, both professions come with hard work and responsibility. No one field is better than another; rather all fields together bring us as a whole forward. 

References

Chen, P. W. (n.d.). The Changing Face of Medical School Admissions - NYTimes.com. Health and Wellness - Well Blog - NYTimes.com. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/02/the-changing-face-of-medical-school-admissions/

Clarkson, K. W., Miller, R. L., & Cross, F. B. (2012). Business law: text and cases : legal, ethical, global, and corporate environment (12th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Gwartney, J. D., Stroup, R., Sobel, R. S., & MacPherson, D. A. (2011). Microeconomics: private and public choice / James D. Gwartney ... [et al.]. (13th ed.). Mason, Ohio: South-Western Cengage Learning.

LSAC Law School Links | LSAC.org. (n.d.). Welcome to LSAC.org. Retrieved from http://www.lsac.org/jd/choose/law-school-links.asp

Peterson’s Staff (n,d,) A Brief Synopsis of Medical School - Medical School Requirements. (2013, January 30). College Information - Peterson's - The Real Guide to Colleges and Universities. Retrieved from http://www.petersons.com/graduate-schools/synopsis-medical-school-requirements.aspx

Shultz, M., & Zedeck, S. (n.d.). Identification, Development, and Validation of Predictors for Successful Lawyering. Berkeley Law Files. Retrieved from www.law.berkeley.edu/files/LSACREPORTfinal-12.pdf