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Navigating Your Path to Success as a Medical Paralegal

Published on: Jul 8, 2024

If you are interested in law and healthcare, pursuing a career as a medical paralegal can offer you a rewarding and exciting professional path. Medical paralegals play a crucial role in legal and healthcare systems, facilitating communication between patients and medical professionals.

However, to better understand this position and its opportunities, in the following article, we will provide in-depth information regarding the duties of a medical paralegal, the educational paths and challenges associated with this position, and the resources available for those aspiring to become medical paralegals.

Common Responsibilities

Medical paralegals are professionals who specialize in medical law. While their role and specific duties will vary depending on their position, their responsibilities typically include the following:

Working at a Legal Practice

When working as a medical paralegal for a law firm, these paralegals are typically involved in various cases, including medical malpractice suits, work injury claims, and labor law cases involving medical workers.

A medical paralegal’s duties in a legal practice will often involve the following:

  • Reviewing medical documents and other types of legal files, such as practice procedures and policy manuals

  • Assisting with discovery by gathering information from clients, submitting records, and taking witness testimony

  • Conduct research to fund updated medical articles and other resources to support the case

  • Obtaining medical records from medical care facilities and clients

  • Coordinating lawyer schedules

  • Aiding in trial preparation

Depending on the law office, healthcare law paralegals may also be responsible for interviewing witnesses and clients, attending meetings with attorneys, clients, and healthcare professionals, and assisting attorneys with their briefs.

Working for Medical Care Establishments

Medical paralegals may also be employed by hospitals and doctors' offices. These professionals often serve as medical consultants, reviewing practices to help minimize liability in medical malpractice cases. As a result, their responsibilities generally include the following:

  • Reviewing medical and office procedures to ensure they meet legal standards

  • Assist with policy manuals

  • Verify that patient information and records are handled properly

  • Consult with medical providers related to their legal obligations

Working for Insurance Companies

Insurance companies employ medical paralegals to assist in developing policies that comply with insurance commission regulations and properly structure liability in claims. Their responsibilities include drafting policy language and guiding other staff regarding general coverage.

Medical paralegals in the insurance industry may also be responsible for reviewing current claims and working with attorneys representing the insurer when defending against legal claims or when the company is defending a policyholder in a lawsuit. The paralegal’s duties include preparing witnesses, deposing witnesses, assisting the legal team on legal claims, and working with executives to help them understand the legal and medical issues involved.

A Typical Day in the Life of a Medical Paralegal

A medical paralegal's daily duties often depend on their specific role and the workplace. For example, a medical paralegal at an insurance company may have different tasks than one at a law firm.

For those working in a law firm, daily tasks may include:

  • Assisting attorneys, such as medical malpractice lawyers in the firm

  • Reviewing motions, legal paperwork, and other documents and ensuring they are filed properly

  • Examining medical malpractice claims to determine case issues

  • Preparing case status reports

  • Obtaining medical records from clients and medical care facilities

  • Coordinating the attorney’s schedule, such as their meetings with doctors or trial dates

  • Researching medical literature, case law, medical laws, and other sources to find information they can use for the case

  • Communicating with clients, medical experts, and opposing counsel

  • Assisting attorneys in court or through deposition preparations, such as preparing notices of depositions or subpoenas

For those working in an insurance company, common duties of a medical paralegal may include:

  • Reviewing the insurance company’s policies

  • Reviewing medical information that is sent to the insurance company

  • Interviewing witnesses and other people related to the case

  • Gathering details and information about the case

  • Researching regulations governing the industry

Essential Knowledge and Skills

Medical paralegals have specialized roles and require specific competencies. They need effective communication skills, excellent writing, research, and investigative abilities, technological proficiency, and the capacity to work in a team and handle multiple tasks. Additionally, they must possess relevant medical knowledge, including understanding healthcare laws and health science, familiarity with HIPAA, a solid grasp of Medicare, Medicaid, and medical billing, and a basic understanding of common medical conditions relevant to litigation cases.

Educational Pathways and Certification

Many individuals who work as medical paralegals have prior experience in the medical field, such as medical assistants, nurses, or other healthcare aides. However, there are other pathways for those looking to enter this profession. 

Aspiring medical paralegals can pursue an associate’s degree in legal or paralegal studies, often the minimum requirement for this position. Depending on the employer, such as a hospital, a bachelor’s degree in legal studies or a related field may also be preferred. Additionally, students without previous medical experience but interested in becoming a medical paralegal can benefit from enrolling in a paralegal program or completing the necessary classes to earn a certificate in paralegal. For example, Edmonds College offers a Medical Paralegal Certificate designed to provide paralegal education and skills training for nursing students who want to transition into the legal field.

Getting a Paralegal Certification

Although obtaining a paralegal certification is not required to become a medical paralegal, it can help individuals when searching for a job.  Currently, the only paralegal certification for those looking to break into the medical field is the Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LNCC) Certification, which can be obtained from the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants.

Challenges and Opportunities

Being a medical paralegal has its pros and cons. On the positive side, medical paralegals have varied and interesting workloads, job stability, and opportunities for career growth. On the other hand, challenges include long working hours, limited job autonomy under attorney supervision, high stress levels, and dealing with complex legal and medical issues. Individuals must thoroughly research this role to determine if it aligns with their personal and professional goals.

 Despite the challenges, pursuing a career as a medical paralegal can lead to various advancement opportunities within the field. These opportunities include progression to senior paralegal roles, specialization in medical product liability, becoming a nurse paralegal, hospital paralegal, or a paralegal medical consultant, or transitioning into healthcare policy roles.

Market Insights and Salary Expectations

The average annual pay for a medical paralegal in the United States is $71,376, with some salaries reaching as high as $108,500. However, the average pay range for this position varies considerably based on a medical paralegal’s education, experience, skill level, and the location of their position.

For example, some of the top cities for medical paralegals that offer salaries higher than the national average include:

  • Berkeley, California ($86,413)

  • New York City, New York ($83,089)

  • Renton, Washington ($82,841)

  • Santa Monica, CA ($82,295)

  • Bend, OR ($82,195)

  • Daly City, CA ($81,777)

  • Woburn, MA ($80,562)

A Self-Assessment for Those Considering a Medical Paralegal Career

The profession of a medical paralegal combines personal values with demanding legal work and deadlines, all aimed at playing an essential role in the justice system. However, before deciding to pursue this legal profession, you may want to consider your answers to the following questions to determine if this role will be a good fit for you:

  • Why do you want to be a medical paralegal?

  • Are you detail-oriented and well-organized?

  • Can you work well with a team?

  • Can you handle tight deadlines and work overtime or on the weekends?

  • Do you have a solid grasp of medical terminology?

  • Do you like helping others and working with medical concepts?

Additional Resources

If you are looking for further resources related to the position of medical paralegal, consider the following organizations and books geared to this career:

The University of Minnesota Law School also provides a comprehensive list of treatises and books to help students learn more about medical policies and the legal field.

The Bottom Line

The medical paralegal position is ideal for individuals who enjoy helping others and want to combine their medical and legal knowledge. However, it is important to understand that this role is complex, requiring paralegals to stay updated on healthcare regulations and laws while being able to work quickly under pressure.

If you want to pursue a career as a medical paralegal, consider exploring educational pathways, seeking mentorship opportunities, and engaging in continuous education to learn more about this field and get your foot in the door.

About the Authors

Written by:

Kasia Nelson, Esq.

Kasia Nelson is a licensed attorney and skilled legal content writer with years of experience. With a background in corporate immigration law, she is well-versed in the intricacies of producing legally accurate and well-researched work. 

Education

  • Michigan State University, B.S.

  • Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Law Licensures

  • Michigan

Kasia Nelson

Kasia Nelson, Esq.

Contributor

Education: Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Knowledge: Corporate Immigration Law

Reviewed by:

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Ryan P. Duffy is an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey, North Carolina, and South Carolina. His practice focuses primarily on Estate Planning, Personal Injury, and Business law. 

Law Licensures

  • New Jersey

  • Pennsylvania (inactive)

  • South Carolina

  • North Carolina

Ryan Duffy

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Editorial Lead

Education: Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, J.D.

Knowledge: Estate Planning