Health law jobs are back in demand in the US. Experts say that the general rise in employment for attorneys has also manifested in the health law sector. The COVID-19 pandemic has only further increased this need for healthcare-oriented law professionals.
About Health Law Jobs
Healthcare is a diverse and continuously evolving field impacting many other fields, in both the private and public sectors. The law - and health law in particular - is no exception to this; the specific area of legislature focusing on medical issues works within the industry as a whole instead of focusing on a single government body. All healthcare is covered by health law, from management to funding, all the way to actual medical services.
A medical law career can be the right choice if you want to participate in making small- or wide-scale reforms. Health lawyers fight for people or groups in the health sector who need the legal know-how to have their voices heard. Most cases health lawyers tackle are not particularly groundbreaking - except for the people they’re representing - but they can set useful precedents and therefore influence US medical practice on a more global level.
However, healthcare law jobs are neither easy to get nor will they be a regular 9-to-5. The matters healthcare attorneys deal with are often quite delicate and must be treated with the sensitivity they deserve. Careers in health law are made for individuals who can handle the problematic relationships and any potential human rights violations arising between patients, medical practitioners, and the government.
Don’t let that scare you, though - health law is an expansive area that offers many opportunities. After all, the lawyer job market in general is currently expanding, so it would be wise to choose a career in a field in demand.
What Health Lawyers Do
On the whole, healthcare lawyers deal with medical policies and practices applicable to institutions like hospitals and nursing homes. The majority of a health attorney’s job is to represent organizations and individuals in medical matters by advising, negotiating contracts, assisting in developing and implementing company policies, etc. A healthcare lawyer’s job description is to help create and maintain health-related policies in accordance with the law and resolve any issues through proper litigation.
Healthcare Lawyer Duties
Healthcare lawyer jobs are comprised of multiple duties. Any person working in medical law must keep up to date with the latest news in medicine and, even more importantly, any related law changes. A healthcare attorney’s usual everyday routine consists of office and administrative work, research and analysis, and client meetings. As in any other legal profession, medical attorneys spend a lot of time driving to and from appointments. What’s more, legal jobs in a hospital mean spending most of your time in medical facilities.
Careers That Combine Medicine and Law
Since it is a broad sector with many sub-areas, there are many legal jobs in the healthcare field. This level of diversity gives lawyers a lot of room for sub-specializing in different areas. Some possible healthcare law careers are:
Medical Malpractice Litigation
Jobs in healthcare law that focus on medical malpractice entail standing up for individuals that have been mistreated by a medical care provider.
Medical malpractice lawyers also focus on particular types of medical malpractice cases, such as birth accidents, surgical errors, neglect, or dental malpractice. Medical malpractice lawyers carry out activities such as collecting and examining medical records and working with experts to develop a medically backed approach to their cases.
Based on their specific field of expertise and number of cases, a medical malpractice attorney’s exact salary may vary.
Transactional representation is also on the medical law careers list, but primarily on the corporate side. Whenever a company is dealing with a transaction in the healthcare field, it needs to have an experienced attorney representing its interests.
Transactional attorneys in the healthcare field help their clients with every step of the procedure involved in any business transaction in the medical field to ensure compliance with the current healthcare laws. The transactions these lawyers handle can range from something as small as a single hire to something as momentous as a hospital merger. It’s the attorney’s job to explain all the legal proceedings to both sides of the deal while also supplying their clients with the information on their options and allocated time frames for appropriate legal action.
Seeing as how they usually work for big corporations, a health law transactional attorney’s average annual salary is $118,164.
In-House Practice for Health Care Providers
Next on our medical-legal careers are in-house lawyers working with healthcare providers. If they can afford to keep one on retainer, entities in the healthcare sector work with in-house attorneys instead of hiring outside counsel for legal advice. Private institutions usually have more access to this kind of service, but some non-profit and public welfare organizations also have in-house lawyers.
In-house health law attorney jobs are rarely given to candidates fresh out of law school. Being an in-house lawyer is a posting that almost always demands extensive previous experience, as it represents another convoluted mixture of law and business. In-house hirings are also on the rise, as Corporate America's priorities are shifting. More and more companies are choosing to rely on their own lawyers instead of hiring a firm on a per-case basis for legal advice.
The salary for in-house lawyers greatly depends on the employer and the attorney’s level of experience, but the average is somewhere around $90,148 per year.
Those Americans lucky enough to have been given access to health insurance by their employer know that issues that demand legal advice and correct implementation arise almost daily. The same goes for people and families who depend on social services or government-run insurance plans to cover their healthcare expenses. Such medical insurance plans raise complex law questions and policy issues in different states. Most states have an agency that manages this type of insurance, and all the people employed there have healthcare law jobs.
The majority of insurance lawyers’ incomes are somewhere around $110,825, with the highest earners reaching $208,000 annually in the United States.
Medical Technology Companies Advisement
Pharmaceutical and medical technology development companies add plenty of jobs to the market, and some of them are jobs in healthcare law. Usually, health law employees working in these companies - or for the government bodies regulating them - follow medical experimentation and work on keeping it within the boundaries of the law. They are also in charge of creating reimbursement policies for medication and the lawful implementation of new drugs on the pharmaceutical market.
Jobs in health law concerned with medical device development and regulation also cover conflicts of interest in medical science. As such, dealing with ethical and legal questions about research protocols is often a part of their job description.
The health law attorney salary in this field may vary for many reasons, but it’s often lower than the industry average, at $57,725 a year.
Food Policy and Regulation
A legal specialist working with food laws also falls under the medical-law spectrum. These jobs entail working with clients to ensure they stay consistent with all the relevant food-processing regulatory requirements. They supply companies with legal information detailing the company’s role in food production and assist them in ensuring that food production procedures always meet the appropriate conditions.
A food law consultant should be very knowledgeable about local and international food laws. Aside from advising companies, they can create consumer guidance and offer training courses. One of their primary duties is to ensure that food is appropriately labeled and ready to sell.
Choosing food policy and regulation from the jobs in healthcare law means that you are fully responsible for the quality of the food that goes to the market. The average income for health lawyer jobs in the food sector varies according to the size of the company you’re working for, of course.
Mental Health Law
Attorneys working in mental health law do so on two sides. On the one hand, they might be working on cases concerning psychological conditions which render the affected person unable to be legally responsible for themselves. On the other, mental health lawyers might be representing individuals with mental health issues and helping them take care of themselves properly within the constraints of healthcare law. This includes ensuring their rights are met and all the mental health services they need adequately provided. Cases dealing with mental health are on the rise, and as a result, so is the number of mental health law jobs in the US.
If the lawyer is working within a mental health institution, they will be in charge of ensuring that all treatment is ethically and legally provided, as well as clearly outlining the conditions and protocols for extreme occurrences, such as involuntary commitment.
The average payment in mental health law careers largely depends on the institution a given attorney is working with.
People with health law jobs usually spend most of their time in offices, libraries, hospitals, medical facilities, and occasionally courtrooms. They typically meet with their clients at their own office, in coffee shops, the clients’ homes, hospitals, and sometimes prisons.
Health care attorneys often need to consult with individual patients, hospitals, and clinics. They can choose to focus on particular health issues rather than large-scale public health problems in society. Still, many legal healthcare jobs tackle issues involving bigger groups or entire communities and their dealings with the healthcare system.
Tight timeframes, payment demands, consumer expectations, long working hours, changing laws, and other requirements come together with the intricacies of the healthcare system to make healthcare law practice one of the most demanding occupations out there.
How To Become a Health Lawyer
In addition to an undergraduate degree, a law degree, and a license, candidates often need to have some experience in the medical field to snag health law associate jobs. Some companies are looking for people with specific expertise related to the particular functions of the open position. We’ll give an overview of the general requirements in a detailed way below.
General Important Qualities
To work as a healthcare attorney, you’ll need good analytical skills to make sense of complicated medical situations and manage vast volumes of data, in addition to your legal knowledge. Communication and writing skills are vital, as well, especially since you’ll be working with plenty of non-lawyers at different levels.
Getting a healthcare law degree is no mean feat: First, you’ll need to get an undergraduate degree. However, there’s no particular area of study required to attend law school. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that a large percentage of law school students have bachelor’s degrees in history, economics, or other related fields.
However, students who want to enroll in health law programs often choose to major in healthcare administration, health studies, or health management. These courses provide insight into the policymaking aspects of the healthcare industry.
Once you’re done with your undergraduate degree, you’ll need to enroll in law school. To do that, you first need to pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Many companies offer multi-week training courses that provide guidance and test-taking tips.
After enrolling in the law school of your choice, you’ll be taking classes for three years. The subjects cover everything from formulating agreements, civil procedure, to constitutional law, before moving on to elective courses applicable to your selected career field. Students can also take advantage of health law internships to practice working on cases; often, these internships are paid.
Every state but Wisconsin requires lawyers to pass the bar exam to practice law. The exam form varies between states, but many have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam, consisting of the multistate bar exam, the multistate essay examination, and the multistate performance test. Once you pass, you’re admitted to the bar and are officially licensed to practice law.
Once your basic education is done, you can choose to get a master’s or doctoral degree. More degrees mean more work, but they also usually make you eligible for higher salaries and, obviously, a higher level of expertise. You can specialize in different fields within healthcare, as well, and take courses on disability law, government health policy, mental health law, or elderly-care law, for example. With a master’s in health law, a job opportunity is sure to come up sooner rather than later.
As in all jobs, so in health law jobs, the salary varies depending on the individual’s experience, specialization, or company. According to the BLS, attorneys earn a median wage of $126,930. In general, the average healthcare attorney will earn $100,493 every year, but the figure can go as low as $53,000 or as high as $191,000.
According to the BLS, the employment market is expected to grow for healthcare workers, creating another two million jobs in all sector areas by 2024. This includes health attorneys, and considering that the lawyer profession is also expected to grow by 4% by 2029, we can certainly expect to find more jobs in public health law. However, the number of new law school graduates is also increasing every year, so the competition will remain high.
There are many health care law and policy jobs out there: A healthcare attorney can work in government agencies or for a private company. Medical innovation firms and medical service providers often seek legal advice from law firms, but they can also choose to hire in-house counsel. Otherwise, you might find that non-profit work suits you better, representing clients from underprivileged communities in their legal dealings with the healthcare system. Whatever specialization you choose, you’re sure to have your hands full.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do health care lawyers make?
Income for health law jobs varies depending on the experience and specialization. Healthcare-sector lawyers earn an average wage of about $100,493. Of course, as in most professions, the payment range for health care attorneys is pretty vast, with the potential to earn over $190,000 annually.
What health issues will preclude you from law enforcement jobs?
Any medical condition which stops the person suffering from performing essential elements of their duty as an agent of law enforcement may disqualify them for a job in law enforcement. All conditions are reviewed on a case-by-case basis; depending on the severity of the issue, a medical problem may or may not warrant preclusion. The US Treasury provides a complete list of medical conditions warranting disqualification from a job in law enforcement.
Is health law a good field?
Health law has become a rapidly growing field for practitioners, filled with plenty of job opportunities. According to the experts, the recent increase in sector activity has led to a higher demand for lawyers specialized in healthcare law.
What can you do with a health law degree?
According to the BLS, the healthcare employment market and the lawyer market are both expected to grow significantly in the coming years. That means many more health law jobs, ranging from medical malpractice lawyers, over in-house counsel for medical companies, to transactional lawyers dealing with the healthcare industry, with many more options in between.
How do I become a health lawyer?
Health law careers start with a bachelor’s degree, perhaps in healthcare management or administration. Then, you have to pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to enroll in a law school. However, graduating from law school is not the final step in becoming a health lawyer. Every attorney must first pass the bar exam. Once you’ve done that and have the proper education under your belt, you’re ready to start your practice as a health lawyer.
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