From doctor to lawyer

Peter McCool, MD, prepares for a career as a trial attorney

Peter McCool, MD, is a law student in Loyola’s Weekend JD program. He currently works full-time as an emergency medicine physician at Carle Richland Memorial Hospital in Onley, Illinois. McCool attended medical school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, and completed his residency in emergency medicine at Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago. He launched his career as a faculty physician at the University of Wisconsin’s Emergency Medicine Residency, as a faculty member to the residency and medical school and a flight physician. In 2009, he received the University of Wisconsin’s Teacher of the Year Award.  He was also recognized by the University of Wisconsin Police Department for outstanding public service. McCool currently lives in Chicago with his wife and three children.

What made you decide to enroll in law school?

I have always been fascinated with the law.  I love logic and argument.  The changes in health care in our country have profoundly impacted my job as a physician, and it has transformed my current role as an EM physician.  

Describe an average day in your job at the hospital.

No one day is like the next. On just one shift, I may see multiple traumas, heart attacks, and strokes. The next day I assist with sexual assaults, suicide attempts, overdoses, and appendicitis attacks. I currently work 24-48 hour shifts in rural Illinois, more than four hours south of Chicago.  There are shifts that I only sleep 2-4 hours.  Flu season is particularly bad.  Between my patients, I’ll do my school work if possible. 

How would you describe your job?

You must be competent in everything, but not necessarily an expert. As an ER physician, you truly see it all. 

"I’ve learned that it’s not the degree that makes you a tremendous attorney, it’s your heart—your willingness to serve your fellow brother or sister."

What do you find most satisfying about your work?

The personal interactions and knowing I have made a difference, such as finding and treating a debilitating stroke, counseling someone contemplating suicide, or reassuring a worried parent of a newborn baby. 

Do you think Loyola changed you—be it in perspective, attitude, or ambition?

I have witnessed the incredible faculty demonstrate their commitment to serve others. At Loyola, I’ve learned that it’s not the degree that makes you a tremendous attorney, it’s your heart—your willingness to serve your fellow brother or sister. 

What courses or areas of study are most interesting to you?

I want to be a trial attorney and litigate medical malpractice cases on behalf of plaintiffs.

Are there elements of your Loyola experience that you may not have been able to find at other universities?

First, the Weekend JD program has been incredible. It has allowed me to continue working full-time as an ER physician, while studying as a law student.  Although it will have been four years when I graduate, it has truly flown by. Second, during my visit I spoke to JD Admission staff and graduates of the Beazley Institute for Health Law and Policy.  The atmosphere was welcoming and inviting—I felt like I was at home.  I made my decision that day. 

I also feel that the Jesuit mission of service has been an important part of my law school experience.

In what ways has the city of Chicago enhanced your experience as a law student?

Chicago is a tremendous legal community.  It’s huge, but small at the same time.  Whatever you may want to experience in law, you can achieve it here in Chicago. 

What do you like best about law school?

I have enjoyed every minute of the experience.  I have forged amazing relationships  with my classmates.  This program really attracts amazing people with such interesting life experiences. From the very first class, I have been truly amazed at the dedicated and talented faculty.

Who is your favorite professor at Loyola?

Dean Kaufman was my very first exposure to a law school professor.  He was hilarious, engaging, and truly went out of his way to make sure the students succeeded.   A very close tie for favorite is Assistant Dean Josie Gough.  She has worked with me through my judicial externship, as well as my directed study at the law firm this past summer.  She is truly an incredible person, always giving so much of herself to her students. 

Give us three words that describe Loyola.

Justice, service, compassion.

Where did you work this summer?

I worked at the Chicago law firm Tomasik Kotin Kasserman.  Named partner Dan Kotin (JD ’91) is a Loyola Law alumnus and an incredible mentor.  While there, I participated in many aspects of medical malpractice litigation under the supervision of their senior partner. It was an unbelievable experience. 

What did you like best about your internship?

The real-world law.  Much like medicine, you don’t become a great doctor by sitting in class and taking tests.  Of course, you need to know the material, but what makes you a good doctor, and similarly a good lawyer in my opinion, is real-world, nerve-racking experience.

What do you do for fun?

Ha, well in my free time, I love spending time with my family.  I have an amazing wife and together we have three beautiful children.

What’s next for you?

I plan to practice as a trial attorney focusing on medical malpractice. Loyola has been incredibly good to me, and I would love to continue the tradition of giving back by someday teaching as an adjunct professor.


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Loyola is committed to helping you develop the professional skills and legal knowledge needed to enter the practice of law. You'll complete at least six hours of practical hands-on training through an externship, comprehensive simulation courses, clinics, or practica. Learn More