Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Thanks to our friend Professor Rob Hudson up north in Canada for sending us this article from the Canadian Lawyer Magazine that describes some of the similarities and differences between the experiences of law and med students. It's for those readers interested in drawing inspiration and ideas from the professional training programs used in other fields like medicine and business to help improve law school training.
It's gavels and gowns versus scalpels and scrubs. It’s Harvey Specter versus Dr. McDreamy. It’s an english degree versus a biology major. On the surface, law and medicine seem like they’d attract starkly different students, but there is overlap. Both in terms of academics (bioethics comes to mind) and daily work (rapidly synthesizing information while interacting with clients or patients). So how does a kid fresh out of undergrad decide whether to write the LSATs or the MCATs?
Some U.S. universities such as Stanford, Duke and Vanderbilt offer joint JD/MD programs. But in Canada, legal and medical training are only available separately. So it’s more likely these students’ interests have evolved, rather than being set on overlapping specialties like medical ethics, palliative care and intellectual property law from the get-go.
Adam Shehata, a third-year medical student at the University of Toronto, actually began his career as a pilot and a flight instructor. But five years in, he found it was tough to advance in the aviation industry, and he applied to both law and medical schools. He didn’t get into medical school, but went to Osgoode Hall, after which he articled with a management-side labour and employment firm.
“One of the things I was thinking about when I was in law was I miss the immediacy of flying and of teaching people,” Shehata says. “I wanted a career that had the service of law. I wanted something that had the immediacy and technical component of aviation, the teamwork aspect of that. And to me, medicine was right in there.”
So Shehata took one more chance and re-applied to medical schools, and was accepted at the University of Toronto.
When he was interviewing for associate positions, “I had to choose between staying on Bay Street and getting paid a decent salary and maybe paying off the law school debt, and going further into debt with U of T Medicine,” he says. “[Medical school] had been a dream of mine for quite a while and probably wasn't going to come around again any time soon, so [my wife and I] said yes, this would be something we would do.”
. . . .
“Without a doubt, medical school was far more memorization,” Shehata notes. “It's just the nature of medicine. Especially in emergency situations, it's required to have certain information at your fingertips.”
Law school, on the other hand, requires much more analytical work.
“You're taught to think critically: Why is this the way it is? What is the current state of the law, but also what could it be?” Shehata says. “You are the future lawyers and law professors and judges and politicians, and may potentially have the opportunity to change the law.”
But while Shehata enjoyed his clinic work and an “unparalleled” mediation intensive, most of his legal education was academic and theory-driven.
“I think that's been one of the criticisms of law school in general: we graduate great appellate lawyers and the practice of law is left up to other training areas like articling.”
For its part, medical school is much more hands-on, with students working in hospitals beginning in their third year, and continuing for years after graduation.
Nevertheless, legal and medical training have more in common than anxiety-inducing debt loads. Both involve significant interaction with the public, whether as clients or as patients, and the ability to read people is a transferable skill.
“In medicine, you learn how to talk to people,” Joseph notes. “If someone comes to the emergency department, you have to be able to adapt to all their particular circumstances, otherwise you won't have their trust and that seriously impairs your ability to help that person.”
He adds this kind of interpersonal skill is also useful in law to understand the reasons behind a client’s decision, strategy and motivation.
With a medical degree and half of a law degree under his belt, Joseph’s advice to those debating between the two professions is to take some time to discover what you really want.
. . . .
Hat tip to Rob Hudson.