Healthcare Lawyer

Healthcare law is the body of laws that pertain to the healthcare system. It covers many subjects, such as health insurance, healthcare reform, patient rights, and mental health. Healthcare lawyers help individuals and entities navigate these complex laws. They also deal with issues related to the rights of patients and the responsibilities of healthcare providers. Keep reading to learn more about the healthcare lawyer.

What Does a Healthcare Lawyer Do?

Healthcare is one of the largest industries in the U.S., and the most regulated. Health law governs the healthcare industry and includes any law that pertains to the health of people. Because it is an extremely broad field, it often relies on other legal disciplines. Tax, privacy, and contract law are just a few examples. The goal of regulating healthcare is improving the system and enhancing patient care.

The incredibly diverse industry also includes many practice settings. It involves hospitals, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers, and insurers. Due to its complexity, each sector requires an attorney with distinct knowledge and experience. Therefore, most healthcare lawyers subspecialize within their practice. Some of these subspecialties include:

  • Corporate mergers and acquisitions
  • Helping families plan for long term or elder care
  • Representing parties in violation ofpatient rights cases
  • Drafting and negotiation contracts
  • Assisting individuals applying for medical benefits and receiving payment
  • Representing clients in civil disputes over medical care
  • Counseling providers on insurance fraud
  • Representing medical providers with non-payment of services lawsuits
  • Responding to privacy violations
  • Assisting with review and negotiation of agreements

The health industry is constantly changing. In order to effectively represent clients, lawyers must adapt to these. Because this area of the law involves the medical field, attorneys with a medical background have an advantage.

Basic duties of a healthcare attorney include meeting with clients, filing paperwork, and researching. They may also attend court hearings or meetings between their client and another party.

Professional Requirements to Become a Healthcare Lawyer

The professional requirements to become a healthcare lawyer start with receiving a bachelor’s degree (B.S. degree). This is a four-year program, and students are free to major in any subject. However, students may benefit from completing their studies in healthcare administration, health studies, or another related field. Towards the end of the undergraduate program, students take the Law School Admissions Test. Law schools use this score as part of the admissions process.

The next step in the process is completing a Juris Doctor (J.D.) program at a law school. During the first year, students study basic law subjects like criminal procedure and contracts. During the last two years, students complete elective courses and internships.

After receiving a law degree, aspiring lawyers must take the bar exam in their state of residency. Additionally, for admission to the state bar, they must undergo a character and fitness evaluation.

Additional Education and Experience

Licensed attorneys can earn a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in healthcare. This program allows lawyers to gain expertise in a specific area of the law. The program includes more advanced studies such as government health policy and elder laws.

Additional Licensing Requirements

Each state imposes additional licensure requirements for attorneys. In almost all states, lawyers must complete Continuing Legal Education courses. These courses help keep them up-to-date with changing laws and new case precedent. The required number of courses varies by state.

Where Can You Work as a Healthcare Lawyer

You have several choices when it comes to where you can work as a healthcare lawyer. One option is to join a law firm. Some firms specialize in health laws. Others may just have a department dedicated to it.

Some attorneys choose to practice solo. In many cases, solo practitioners focus on one or two areas of health law. Healthcare attorneys can also work for a law schools, medical schools, or research institutions. This job entails teaching courses or seminars.

Healthcare lawyers also provide services to local, state, and federal governments. For example, they may work for licensing agencies, government providers, or as prosecutors.

Lastly, healthcare lawyers can work as in-house counsel for large companies. Some hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and supply manufacturers have an attorney on staff. In this instance, the lawyer works exclusively for the company.

How Do Healthcare Lawyers Get Paid

How healthcare lawyers get paid depends on their billing method and the legal issues they work on. Commonly, they charge an hourly rate, especially for more complicated cases. However, some charge a flat rate fee and others charge a contingency fee. With the contingency fee method, the lawyer agrees to accept payment only if the client receives compensation. Attorneys commonly do not accept cases on a contingent basis unless they are fairly sure there will be an award, or a large settlement.

Many lawyers also require a retainer fee. This is a fee paid up front and placed into a special account. Attorneys then use this fee as they work on the case. The retainer fee is often a percentage or fixed amount based on overall cost of services.

Healthcare Lawyer Salary

As of 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”) Occupational Outlook Handbook reports that the average annual healthcare lawyer salary is $119,250. This represents all attorneys, as the BLS does not list each field of practice.

Typically, healthcare attorneys with more experience fall on the higher end of the pay spectrum. Geographical location also plays a part in the amount of salary.

Employment Outlook for Healthcare Lawyers

The employment rate for lawyers will increase around 8% by 2026 according to the BLS. This is the average growth rate for all occupations in the U.S. More students graduate from law school than jobs become available, which causes the job market to remain competitive.

Hiring a Healthcare Lawyer

Hiring a healthcare lawyer is not a task to take lightly. This is especially true if the outcome of your case can significantly impact your future. Therefore, it is extremely important to hire an attorney that has your best interest in mind.

An experienced lawyer is familiar with healthcare laws. He or she will discuss the details of your case and work to protect your rights. Communication is vital when working with a lawyer. For this reason, only hire one that you feel comfortable speaking openly with.

To avoid hiring the wrong lawyer, meet with several before deciding. Most offer initial consultations free of charge. This is the perfect opportunity to inquire about their experience, track record, and fees. You should also express your expectations concerning your case.

How to Find the Right Healthcare Lawyer

There are many resources available to help individuals and businesses find the right healthcare lawyer. Personal and professional references are ideal. Ask family and friends who they would recommend. You can also ask for a reference from a lawyer that practices in another area of the law.

Also, check reputable attorney databases. These databases contain a massive list of lawyers. Many even include the lawyer’s experience and disciplinary records. You can search by location and area of practice to find one that is local. The bar association website in your state can also help point you in the right direction.

Essential Information

Degree Level Juris Doctor (J.D.), Master of Laws (LL.M.) is optional
Degree Field(s) Law
License/Certification Licensure in state of practice
Key Skills Critical thinking, negotiation, verbal and written communication, familiar with various aspects of healthcare, ability to research, analytical, compassionate
Number of Jobs (2016) 792,500
Job Outlook
8% growth rate (average growth rate)
Median Salary (2017) $119,250*
On the Job Training Moderate term of on-the-job training
Top Earners Top earners in the field are generally employed by large law firms

(*Source: the BLS)