What does a health care lawyer do?
Health care lawyers work on cases and policy matters involving access to health care, insurance coverage, difficult ethical decisions, organization and payment of health care providers, food and drug safety, and disease prevention and treatment, among other areas.
Because health care law is a vast field, it is important for attorneys to have a solid foundation in concepts from other areas of law. Depending on the specialty within health care, you may need to be familiar with contract law, tax law, corporations and nonprofit organizations, insurance and pension law, employment and labor law, public benefits law, torts, ethics, criminal law, administrative law, privacy, civil rights, reproductive rights, constitutional law, and statutory drafting and interpretation.
Health care law is practiced on the federal, state and local government levels, as well as in legal services organizations, advocacy nonprofits and private public interest law firms. Health care law is often attractive as a career path because attorneys can choose from many types of legal practice – they can serve clients directly, work as counsels for health care agencies or shape policy. At a time when health care law is rapidly evolving, many opportunities exist for attorneys to be involved in the realization and implementation of new legislation.
What skills do I need to be a health care lawyer?
In some ways, the skills of a health care lawyer are the same as those of any other lawyer. You will need excellent writing skills to compose contracts, articles and letters to physicians. You will need to work cooperatively with others. Much work in health care law involves the ability to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds who possess varying levels of familiarity with health care concepts. You’ll need to be a creative problem-solver, and you must be comfortable working in an area of law that is constantly evolving. In addition to these general skills, and depending on the area of health care law you choose, you may need to advise clients on difficult ethical decisions concerning beginning or end-of-life matters. A background in ethics and professional responsibility might be useful, though it is by no means required.
What kinds of jobs are available for health care lawyers?
Many health care lawyers practice in large or mid-size firms with departments specializing in health care law. They may also work for organizations associated with the health care industry, including hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies. Health care lawyers also work for city, state or federal government agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Health/Mental Health.
What courses should I take?
- Health Care Law
- Medical Malpractice Litigation
- Disability Law Clinic
- Law & Disabilities Seminar
- Business Organizations
- Administrative Law