Medical Law Training
If you have decided you would like to work in medical law, but you do not know where to start, this is the ideal guide for you. Progressing onto a career in medical law may require extensive education, but the journey towards your career goal will be enjoyable. Those who work in medical law typically enter a variety of professions; this includes becoming a solicitor or barrister, or working in policy development.
Your Undergraduate Degree
To work as a law professional, you need to complete an LLB at undergraduate level. The LLB qualification is what leads prospective solicitors, barristers, and policy makers onto their postgraduate pathways that secure professional qualifications. As well as completing modules that focus on aspects of medical law, there will be compulsory modules you will have to work on. These include criminal law, civil law, human rights law, contract law, and much more. The LLB is usually completed in three years, but many universities now offer part-time options that allow students to take up to six years.
As law is a popular subject, the majority of universities offer it at undergraduate level. However, if you are not located near to one that does, you can consider a distance learning pathway. The Open University offers the LLB, which can be completed in six years. It is worth bearing in mind that a law degree gained in Scotland or Northern Ireland will not prepare you for a career in England and Wales, and vice-versa.
Postgraduate Law Qualifications
If you are interested in pursuing a career as a solicitor who can represent clients in England and Wales, you need to look at the legal practice course (LPC). If you would rather be a barrister, you need to look at the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). While the LPC is widely available across the country, the BPTC is primarily restricted to a few universities.
The LPC, much like the LLB, is made of both compulsory and optional modules. You will also learn key skills that are designed to prepare you for life as a solicitor. These skills include advocacy, writing, research, taxation, and trusts. Once you have completed your compulsory modules, you can choose LPC modules that will prepare you for your career in medical law. It is recommended that you focus specifically on medical law and personal injury, as doing so will help you secure a training contract with a solicitor's firm. In contrast the BPTC offers similar modules, but the skills will focus on litigation and other assets a barrister needs. After completing the BPTC, you must secure a pupilage with a barrister; this is often an unpaid position, and can be quite hard to achieve.
In Scotland, solicitors need to pass the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice, as regulated by the law society of Scotland. This diploma is similar to the English and Welsh LPC, and will qualify you to seek a training contract in Scotland. Prospective Scottish barristers need to seek their qualification under the Scottish bar scheme.
In Northern Ireland, the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen Mary's University and the Professional Legal Degree at the University of Ulster will qualify you to pursue a career as a solicitor in the country. Both universities also provide barrister qualifications.
Students in each of the three countries who have not followed the traditional LLB route can also pursue alternative routes. These include degree conversion courses, as well as apprenticeship schemes.
Gaining Medical Law Work Experience
Law is a popular subject in the UK, and there are often more graduates than there are jobs. This means that those who are serious about a career in medical law need to stand out from the crowd by seeking work experience. Fortunately, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to do this throughout your undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. You can volunteer with your local Citizens Advice Bureau, take part in the pro bono students scheme, or look for a medical legal advice charity and offer your services there. The more you do, the higher your chances of succeeding are.
Working in Medical Law Policy Positions
As well as those who ensure the law does right by the people it is designed to protect, there are people who work in policy making positions. Legal policy making offers the best of both worlds, as it allows you to protect medical professionals and patients alike. Those who work in policy making can choose to work on behalf of the government, or for a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO).
Those who work for the government will ideally have pursued the LLB route, as well as a masters' degree, mPhil, or PhD. Policy makers can then seek training opportunities within government offices, or with healthcare ombudsmen. While working for the government, you may form part of a team that implements EU directives so that they meet the needs of the NHS. While working as part of an ombudsmen, you could be helping to form regulations and guidelines following reports. For example, you may help respond to something like the 2013 Foster Report by instigating changes in an NHS trust.
If you work for an NGO, you could help shape the way patient charities lobby the government. This does not have to be just on a national level; you could work on a global level too. Charities like UNICEF and organisations like the World Health Organization all require policy makers to assist them in developing goals and recommendations. This is a particularly fulfilling role for those who want to work in a specific area of medical law. You can increase your chances of securing such a position by volunteering and taking part in internship schemes.
Medical Law Academics
Training to become a medical law academic could lead you into an exciting career that focuses on constant research and development. As an academic, you will research the law and its impact, while working as a lecturer or professor. This will require completing a PhD.
Regardless of which aspect of medical law you want to work in, you can expect to engage in a challenging educational pathway. Once you have completed your qualifications, you will have gained multiple life skills that are highly sought after by many employers.