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Should I be a lawyer or a physician?

June 15, 2007

Before going to law school I couldn’t decide whether to become a lawyer or a physician. My decision to become a lawyer was based largely on the notion of becoming the first attorney in my family and charting the unknown territory of law. If someone would have then asked me whether I would make a good lawyer, I would probably have been unable to answer. 


I recently read an article about choosing a good doctor. After reading the article, I was forced to consider what, in my opinion, constitutes a good doctor. A good doctor is one who is infallible, objective and fast. We want a doctor to objectively decide, based solely on the facts at hand, a patient’s diagnosis, and treatment. Of course, to get to that diagnosis you want the fewest possible tests, and expect that the treatment should be optimized for the patient with the fewest possible adverse events. Society’s expectations for a physician reminded me of its expectations from a computer. Whenever I get on my laptop I expect windows to work identically every time I hit the start button. Whenever I type in an address on google maps I expect an optimized result that minimizes all reroutes and errors. I realized that I want a good doctor to be a computer.


In contrast, a client wants his attorney to be creative and subjective. The client wants the attorney to see the issues from the client’s viewpoint and hopes that the attorney can convince the objective Judge that the client’s version of events is the most accurate one. Accordingly, you want the attorney’s solutions to be imaginative and descriptive of the client’s side of the story. This is, of course, in stark contrast to a computer. Personally, I would be very upset if a Windows tried to convince me that its recommended background is better for me, or if my excel spreadsheet decided that the product of 20 and 40 is a “very large number.” Society, and I, therefore have very different expectations of an effective attorney as compared to a computer and a physician.

So, maybe, the next time someone asks you, “Should I go to med school or law school?” the appropriate question to ask is: “Are you a creative person or do you prefer cold, harsh logic?”

One Comment leave one →
  1. Marielle permalink
    January 5, 2009 8:35 pm

    In keeping with your lists of modifiers, this note was succinct, explanatory, and lovely. I am a nearly-finished undergraduate at Bard College, with a degree in biology that has left me with questions upon questions (more like terrors upon terrors) about my future career. For I realized about 3/4 of the way into a loosely-assembled pre-med program that hard science logic is simply not my jam. As philosophy and literature, critical theory particularly, have become increasingly appealing, I’ve begun looking to law as a possible stimulating alternative to my once unencumbered trajectory.

    So ultimately what I am trying to say is that the ‘creative vs. cold’ binary you refer to is really quite astute, and a small comfort to my pre-commencement anxieties. Danke!

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