One of the options you should seriously consider if you desire to transition from clinical dentistry because of illness, injury, or lack of interest is law. There is a documented need in every state for skilled attorneys with detailed knowledge of dentistry. Whether it be a criminal charge or misconduct, few dentist are willing risk jail, fines, and loss of licenses without a skilled lawyer. Make no mistake, it will take a dedicated effort, but you can still have an impact in the field of dentistry whether it be in defense of dental practitioners or assistance to dental patients.
Begin by examining your true motivation for transitioning into the legal profession. If you are disabled and unable to practice clinically the decision may be easier. For those who have just lost interest in patient care, law offers a new profession that really is rewarding. This should not be a decision made in haste. Take time to discuss the lifestyle and demands required of a practicing attorney. You may want to explore the need by checking out your state or surrounding states. There are many attorneys that only have dental clients. You may be able to carve a niche in your community, or you might have to move. Flexibility is critical and be prepared to travel.
Law school requires a strict admissions process; similar to the one that you went through to become a dentist. There may be some undergraduate prerequisites that you will need. You probably have the academic grades, but the specific classes needed prior to admission depend entirely on the institution. The LSAT is an examination required of the majority of applicant. Just like healthcare, some programs are very selective and others not so picky. The school you attend will likely influence the type of law that you enter. Some schools specialize in corporate law, personal injury litigation, criminal law, or contract negotiations.
Of course, you may choose not to pursue a career in dental law. Many dentists elect to work with practice transition and sales by facilitating detailed contracts for the parties involved. With a law degree and after passing your state bar examination, you have the option of pursuing criminal law or prosecution as an assistant district attorney. There are many other fields to explore. Each field has its advantages and corresponding financial reward. Be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up the ladder of law practice.
Most US law schools are 3-4 years in duration. You may have the flexibility to start the academic year with rolling admissions. Tuition is required and you will need to budget in your living expenses along with your academic financial obligations. This field is very exciting and there are rewards to dedicating your post-dental career to law. Don’t be discouraged, and as we have previously discussed there are many other fields that you can easily transition into. Check out academics, consulting, and volunteer work to start. Your past educational and practice experience are extremely valuable.
As a dentist you may choose to study law and continue to practice. If you are not disabled this is an attractive option, but will require considerable effort. There are a number of law programs that now offer classes in the evenings that give many students opportunities to work. However unlikely, this option should be considered if you are still physically capable of practice. You may be limited to consulting or teaching, but at least you can provide some income to help with expenses.
Don’t be under the impression that a DDS-JD will guarantee you a position at a higher echelon of any law firm. Your knowledge may be valuable to a firm that specializes in malpractice, but the actual number of documented cases in each state is low. Be prepared to push your fair share of paper and you will likely work as a paralegal prior to passing the bar. The financial rewards are unlimited, but be prepared for a significant reduction in your paycheck. Dentists make more on average than attorneys. We hear of multi-million dollar lawsuits and often fail to understand they are realistically rare. Have an open mind when listing your honest expectations. The more knowledge you have, the better informed decision you can make on your future.
For those of you that are injured or ill now, see our posting on the ten steps to survive disability. TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY You have time. Whether you are suffering with addiction, mental health, or cancer; the effects on you and your family are the same. Look to us for real help and encouragement.
WE ARE DENTISTS HELPING OTHER SICK AND INJURED DENTISTS, WE CARE.