Lawyer to Doctor?

Hello all and a huge thank you to those who administer this site. I have not yet embarked on this journey, but I am seriously considering it. A little about myself: I am a successful practicing attorney employed by the government. I am in my early to mid-thirties and I graduated from Law School near the top of my class in the mid 2000s. My undergraduate credentials are good; my law school credentials are stellar. My law school loans are well on the way to being paid off. From my undergraduate degree I have one semester of chemistry, one semester of calculus, and one semester of calculus based physics. I speak three languages, two fluently. I have no doubt that if I decide to embark on this journey I will be able to finish it successfully. My question is how were others able to conclude that they really wanted to do this and were ready to make the required sacrifices to make it happen? The reality of doing this, the financial commitment, the impact it will have on my family (I have small children), and the intensity of med school, residency and beyond cannot be understated. That said, I have and have had for many years a gut feeling that when I decided what I wanted to do with my life 14 years ago I made a mistake-that I was meant to be a doctor. I have always been fascinated by medicine, genetics, and the human body. That said, I have a successful career and am almost out of debt from my education. Am I nuts? What else should I be considering?

Welcome! I’ll say that you’re not nuts, and you’ll find many others with similar stories here on the site. As for myself, I’m about your age, I’ve got a wife and young children as well. I’ve been a licensed, practicing engineer for a number of years, and am now moving down the road to applying to medical school this year.

I struggle with some of the same questions you’re asking. I know that going this road is going to be a strain on my family in a number of ways, but I feel that it will be worth it in the end.

The way I end up putting it is this: “Would my family be better off with a husband/father who works 40 hours a week at a job he hates, who comes home stressed out, upset and angry? Or, would my family be better off with a husband/father who only sees them a few hours a day, but is happy, fulfilled and positive?” For me, the latter is the much better choice.

Hello and welcome, practicinglaw! I’ve helped many students make the transition from a prior career to medicine as the former director of two different post-bac programs (Johns Hopkins and Goucher). So your story is familiar to me. I have always admired the courage it takes to switch from a previous career to medicine, and it’s been a real privilege to mentor those students on their path to medicine.

You should test the waters to be certain that a career in medicine is truly what you want to do and worth the sacrifices it entails. If you haven’t already done so (and you didn’t mention this so I’ll assume you haven’t) you should get some medical experience by volunteering at a site near you (hospital, clinic, or something of that nature). You can’t be sure this is right until you actually see and feel what medicine is like, and you’ll need that anyway to provide evidence to the med schools that you’ve tested your decision and know exactly what you’re getting into.

Your academic credentials sound excellent. It’s the medical experience that will help you move forward and decide if it’s right. Once it’s confirmed that you definitely DO want to switch careers the rest can fall into place (how/where to get your prerequisites done, etc).

I hope this helps. I wish you all the best in your new journey.


Thank you, Liza, for your input. It’s refreshing to hear from someone who has experience with non-traditional pre-meds. To practicinglaw, it sounds like, at a bare minimum, you have more than sufficient intellectual abilities, and it may very well be true that once embarked upon this journey you will finish it successfully. Of course, nothing is ever a guarantee (except death and taxes…or rather death from taxes), but as someone who is currently on this journey, in the end it comes down to whether this is what you want. All the ability in the world is no substitute for unwavering, set in diamond commitment. Best of luck to you as you mull over this decision. For my own part, I think its the best choice one could possibly make!


I’ve decided to do DIY. I will be leaving the military after 13 years of active duty service and becoming a full-time student at my alma mater (GWU). Beginning August 2013. I think whatever route you choose would be okay. As long as the end result is the same…

Hello practicinglaw and welcome. I’ve helped non-traditionals make the decision of whether or not to enter medicine for over a decade. And I think the key to your decision is already mentioned in your intro: that gut feeling.

Medicine is a vocation, a calling. Those with the calling can never let it go, and are very rarely satisfied without pursuing it. Of course, there are time, financial, and family concerns. But it is your gut that will make the final decision.

I will emphasize what Lizat mentioned. You have to get as much clinical experience as possible. Get your hands dirty. Listen to the docs grumble about JHACO and HIPPA and paperwork and our failing medicine system. See someone die. If you still have that gut feeling after all of that, go for it. The worst feeling in the world is always asking “what if?”

Best of luck. Feel free to shoot me any more questions you may have.

Don’t forget, in additional to the clinical experience (shadowing is considered “exposure” and not as compelling, generally speaking), you will want to have ongoing volunteering into an underserved community - “giving of yourself to others.” It’s important.