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I grew up in a family of physicians. My great-grandfather was a general practitioner in East Texas and my grandfather and father were dermatologists in West Texas. My uncle was an ophthalmologist in Dallas and there were other great uncles and relatives who were physicians as well. Thus, to me, it was normal to have physicians in the family, which was something I took for granted.

One of my favorite television shows when I was growing up was Perry Mason. I admired Mason on a number of levels: He was intelligent, generous and successful, but above all, he won every case, and his clients were almost always defendants. He was one of my heroes, albeit a fictional one, and consequently, I decided that I would become a lawyer when I grew up.

When I told my parents, this did not go over well, especially not with my father and grandfather. They informed me that “real” lawyers were not like Perry Mason at all but were scheming and dishonest and that they sued doctors for a living. Becoming a lawyer would be like defecting with the enemy.

While my family was pleased that I had abandoned my plans to be a lawyer and was now firmly committed to becoming a doctor, they didn’t pressure me to become a dermatologist although that was clearly something they desired. I had worked in my father and grandfather’s office many times over the years on Saturday mornings cutting gauze and helping them with acne and skin cancer patients. While it was interesting, it wasn’t as “glamorous” as seeing someone’s chest being cut open and witnessing a heart beating live and in-person. In the end, however, I ultimately surrendered and decided to pursue a career in dermatology and subspecialized in dermatopathology which I have been practicing now for almost 40 years.

Business School First

During those 40 years of practice, the world of education underwent a sea change with the advent of the internet and for an education addict such as myself, this opened the door for me to pursue educational opportunities that I had wanted to undertake but could not do so because of the physical time commitment required away from my busy practice. Having been exposed to individuals from the business and legal world, I had always felt like a deer in the headlights when they started throwing around business terms. I eagerly enrolled in an MBA program that didn’t require on-site attendance, and completed the program, along with a second in commercial real estate. Now fluent in business concepts that used to be completely foreign to me. I have shared this knowledge with colleagues as well as residents and medical students as they need to have some basic knowledge about these things to avoid being taken advantage of.

Having completed these two degrees, I felt satisfied that I could now focus fully on my medical practice and medical education of colleagues and use this information to be a savvier businessman as well as physician. There would be no more exams, no more lengthy reading assignments, no more 70-page theses to write, etc.

My wife, Brenda, however, had other ideas. Having observed me work through these programs, she was of the “strong” opinion that I needed yet another project to keep me busy. She decided that I should go to law school. After some prodding, I explored two different options, both located in California, and based on my prior education and experience, I was not required to take the LSAT. I was admitted and I was off and running.

Classes consisted of reading and homework assignments, legal writing, quizzes, live lectures, and discussion sessions. We even had one class on “trial techniques” where we practiced opening statements, direct and cross examination, and closing arguments. All the information was recorded and if it was not possible to attend the sessions in person, they could be listened to afterwards. For first-year students, there were required tutoring sessions on some evenings and weekends. Each class had a mid-term and final examination, both of which were closed book just like in college and medical school although monitored live by a proctoring company through the video camera on the computer used to write the exams.

Finally, in March of 2023, after four years of continuous work, I completed my studies and earned my juris doctor degree. Now, I, like a number of my colleagues, could put the letters, “MD, MBA, JD” at the end of my name.

The Bar Exam: To Take or Not To Take?

The final step in the process is passing the bar examination. Many physicians who get their JD do not take the examination because they don’t plan to practice law. However, for me, even if I never do truly practice law, I was not about to stop short of completing the entire process. Because the law school I attended was fully on-line, it had not yet attained ABA certification so the only state that recognizes the school is California. For that reason, California is the only state where I could sit for the bar examination. California is notorious for being the most difficult examination in the country with a pass rate of about 35%.

Thus, having completed my studies, the next step was to begin “bar prep.” Passing the bar examination is not equivalent to passing law school. It requires a completely different set of skills and consists of writing 5 essays, each in 1 hour, 1 performance test in 90 minutes and answering 200 multiple choice questions over 2 days. This was quite distinct from the board examinations in the medical field where all questions are either multiple choice or matching. There is an entire industry that is dedicated to helping attorneys pass bar examinations, many of which are large companies, while others are tutors who have made it their full-time careers rather than practicing law.

Because my law school was not ABA credentialed, there is a requirement that all first-year law students must pass a California “first-year law student’s examination” after completing the first year before being allowed to get credit for any upper-level classes. This test is affectionately called the “Baby Bar” as it is administered by the California State Bar and has the same basic format as the actual bar examination. It is not “baby” at all and is a very challenging examination that I spent many hours practicing writing essays and preparing for with. It was good practice for the bar examination itself and it was somewhat of an advantage to having taken and passed it as its format was very similar.

My bar preparation consisted of enrolling in a course and engaging two tutors, one of whom specialized in essay writing and the other in multiple choice questions. I spent literally hundreds if not thousands of hours (and dollars) studying, creating flashcards, mnemonic devices, audio files, writing essays, answering thousands of multiple-choice questions, and reading outlines. I took a mock examination three weeks before the examination that simulated the actual exam. After this marathon of studying, which was more intense than the amount of time I spent studying for any of the medical or specialty boards I had taken previously, I was finally ready for test day.

Testing Day

The test is administered in one of several cities in California beginning the fourth Tuesday in February and July. Having finished law school in March, I signed up for the July exam and because I had to be in Colorado for a medical conference I was hosting on Thursday after the test, I chose Los Angeles as there was a direct flight to Denver that left at 9pm on Wednesday after the exam was over. The test would be administered in the Los Angeles Convention Center which is in downtown LA and test day would be July 25-26. The testing was to be done in a large room in the convention center. Everyone collected in an open space and we would be allowed into the room where the examination was to be given.

I am 66 years old. My guess is that the average age of the other examinees was probably around 25. I could certainly have been the father of virtually everyone else there with a few exceptions and theoretically could have been the grandfather of many. I was wearing a cashmere sweater, as I had heard the exam room could be cold, along with slacks and loafers. Most everyone else was wearing tee shirts, hoodies, cut offs or jeans, and jogging shoes or sandals. Many individuals had tattoos and piercings. Just about every color of the rainbow was represented in people’s hair colors with mine and a select few older individuals representing the color gray.

It is my understanding that there were about 15,000 taking the examination across the state that day. Seeing all the different individuals, virtually all of whom were of a completely different generation than me, was fascinating and surreal. I eventually found my seat and was surrounded by young people, many of whom were wearing sweatshirts or tee shirts with prestigious law school names such as UCLA, Stanford, and USC but even East Coast schools including Columbia and Harvard. I noticed several examinees who had foreign passports, some from as far away as Taiwan.

I was seated near the back of the room and in the front was a large dais with a lectern and microphone where the chief proctor read the rules in lengthy detail taking well over 30 minutes. We eventually were allowed to proceed with the morning session and wrote the first three essays before the lunch break. We reconvened after lunch, where I struck up a conversation with an older attorney who joked that I was subjecting myself to torture by taking the multiple-choice portion of the exam.

I didn’t spend any time studying after that day. The next morning, virtually anyone even close to my vintage was gone and there were some empty seats that the seasoned attorneys had left. I completed the two sessions of the multiple-choice questions which were quite challenging, but I was able to complete them with time to spare. At the end, my eyesight was strained from reading the relatively small print and coloring in the “dots” on the answer sheet with a good old-fashioned Number 2 pencil. I left for the airport and waited the several hours for my flight back to Colorado. I arrived at 3:30 am having to be at my first lecture of six to be given that day starting at 12pm, completely exhausted but relieved to be finished.


My entire legal journey was a marathon event and now I am glad that I undertook it. I understand the legal system and my legal rights far more than I did before. I learned an immense amount of useful information. Perhaps my mind has been transformed somewhat but I am still a physician first. If I pass, I plan to see if a law firm that specializes in defense medical malpractice work might take me on as some sort of in-house expert which could be a good use of my skills. I may also learn more about employment law to assist physicians in employment and other types of contracts. I may teach a class at a law school or join one of the bar preparation groups to help others prepare for the exam. While I certainly don’t recommend it for everyone, having some legal education is a good idea, especially for doctors.

Fortunately, I just learned the good news that I PASSED the examination! I was in the top 35%!

I’m waiting for my wife, Brenda, to come up with the next project for me although learning a foreign language is a good preventative measure to ward off dementia, so that may be what I foray into next. I’m grateful I passed, and I’ll see what the future holds for me. Thankfully, it won’t be another marathon of bar prep!

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