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Profession, professional, and professionalism are generic terms that apply to a limited number of knowledge-based occupations charged with providing essential services to society. While the terms have existed for over 2000 years, until the middle of the nineteenth century the professions served only the upper socioeconomic strata and thus had a limited impact on society. The reasons were not complex. Wealth was limited and only a few could afford the services of the professional until the industrial revolution provided sufficient resources to support their use. The growth in both size and influence of the medical and legal professions occurred at this time. In the case of medicine, the period coincided with the development of modern science, making the services of the healer worth purchasing. The increasing complexity of industrial societies led to increasing demands for legal services. The result in both professions was an expansion of educational facilities in an attempt to improve their quality and to provide sufficient professionals.

While there are many attributes shared by the medical and legal professions, including definitions, their relationship to society, and certain regulatory processes, there has always been a fundamental difference in their educational systems. Sullivan and his colleagues said it well in Educating Lawyers: "The distinguishing feature of medical training, however, is that most of it is carried out in settings of actual patient care. The consequence is to provide medicine a real advantage, compared to engineering or law, for integrating its forms of apprenticeship."

A fundamental principle of medical education is the allocation of increasing levels of both involvement in and responsibility to learners for patient care throughout the educational continuum.5 In virtually every medical school, contact with real patients begins very early in the first year of medical education, and the proportion of time spent with patients increases until learners are fully occupied in actual care as they graduate from medical school. This process continues as they proceed into the postgraduate training that is required prior to licensure. In contrast, in legal education actually serving clients is largely deferred until after graduation. 6 For this reason, transposing experience gained in medical education directly to the law is complicated. Nevertheless, lessons can be learned in relation to overall curricular design and to specific educational strategies that have been developed.