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Why Not Doctor a Stalled Legal Career With a Nursing Degree?

Last week, Above the Law readers discussed whether returning to school for an LLM degree is a good option for laid off lawyers.  Most commenters agreed that in today's economy, an LLM is a waste of both money and time.

But are there other educational programs that might make sense for laid off lawyers seeking to make a fresh start? For example, what about a nursing degree? I realize that retraining as a nurse may sound far-fetched, but after reading this New York Times article on the role of that nurses play in the criminal justice system, it seems that a lawyer-turned-nurse would have some terrific job possibilities.

As the article describes:

Nurses with forensic training may gather data at accident sites and in other situations where crimes may have occurred or medical evidence needs to be collected. They may also testify in court cases and help lawyers understand medical records -- often for medical malpractice cases.

Some nurses with this training start a business as legal nurse consultants, and still others become coroners, completing work like that of medical examiners, who hold doctor of medicine degrees. Some continue their regular nursing work and do forensic work part time.

Moreover, nurses with forensic training are well compensated.  As nurse-consultant Holly Bedgio told the Times:

It’s not uncommon for a legal nurse consultant working full-time to make six figures, but it takes a while to get started she said. In her experience, a legal nurse consultant can make between $100 and $150 an hour.

A nursing degree is also much less expensive than an LLM program, which can cost $40,000 for a single year. One of my sisters is a second career nurse (and now a clinical scientist); she knocked out most of the basic requirements at a low cost community college, then worked her way through a night program at a state school with reasonable tuition.  

Do you know of any laid off lawyers considering a career in nursing -- or returning to school to retrain for another career? We'd love to hear any interesting stories in the comments below.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 11, 2009 at 02:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)


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