Paul L. Caron

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Law School vs. Med School: Which Is Harder?

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Hint: it's the one that requires scientific mastery, basic quantitative understanding, and probably requires more writing than you had in high school.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 19, 2020 11:44:44 AM

Medical school is certainly more difficult than law school. The purpose of medical school is to train physicians. To achieve this goal, the first two years are dedicated to learning subjects such as the basic sciences, pathology, and pharmacology, with emphasis on common diseases and can’t miss diagnoses. There were also clinical opportunities as well during the first two years. The final two years were dedicated to clinical training. We rotated on the wards, assisted in the OR, delivered babies, and worked in outpatient clinics (who would have thought that the best way to learn a skill was through actual practice, because law profs who don’t practice law have been telling us we can’t reform law school curriculum to develop practice ready graduates). We showed up early and left late. We would pre-round on our patients as early as 5 AM on surgical rotations. We had overnight shifts on labor & delivery and surgery. Testing consisted of objective multiple choice exams and courses were pass/fail. Many students such as myself worked with attendings on their research projects (amazing that a medical school professor/physician can see patients, teach, and publish peer reviewed studies but a law professor cannot be bothered to practice because they are too busy teaching a couple classes a week and publishing a non-peer reviewed article in a Law Review). At the end of our 3rd year/start of 4th year, we began meeting regularly with one of the Deans on our residency applications. 100% of my classmates matched into residency, which is typical for any U.S. medical school. I entered residency with the skills to practice medicine.

Law school on the other hand was far less challenging. The goal of law school is to enroll as many students as possible to transfer student loan dollars into the school’s bank account. Before even enrolling, there was the sales pitch boasting “99% of graduates are employed” with “average private practice salaries of over $100,000.” “Numerous law firms and government agencies come to the law school every fall to interview our students.” “Even the student that is ranked last in the class gets a job!” Of course, legal employers had very little interest in hiring many of the students. Only the top students had a chance to be hired. So law schools need to have a way to distinguish the top students from the rest of the class. Rather than teach students how to handle common legal problems or can’t miss legal issues, professors assign obscure cases to read, focus on legal theory, and play hide the ball in class. This strategy makes it easier to apply the strict grade curve when it comes time for students to take the subjective issue spotting exam at the end of the semester. The students are graded on a strict grade curve to identify the handful of students legal employers should consider. Many students learn later on that they do not have the grades to even interview at OCI. Other top students interview with numerous employers but fail to obtain a job. So the students hear the next canned speech from the deans and career services office - “most people do not obtain a job through OCI! You need to network and mail resumes to employers.” Many students give up on obtaining a legal job and take a non-legal job. No students have the skills they need to practice law. The students were never challenged to learn the skills needed to practice law. Instead, they were challenged to read a long fanciful hypothetical problem at the end of the semester and spot issues better than their peers.

If law schools were truly committed to training lawyers, they would adopt a similar model that medical schools have adopted. Law schools would focus on teaching high yield topics and can’t miss legal issues. The schools would get students out of the classroom and into real world rotations where the student can actually practice law. Law schools would make the same effort at placing students into jobs that medical schools make at placing students into residency.

Posted by: Anon MD, JD | Nov 23, 2020 6:58:39 PM

UT: "it's the one that requires scientific mastery, basic quantitative understanding, and probably requires more writing than you had in high school."

This from the guy who literally advocated eliminating objective standards of performance. If the SATs have a racist history, so does modern medicine.

Posted by: MM Classic | Nov 24, 2020 7:22:17 PM

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