Practice Area Insights: What Training Do You Need As a Healthcare Attorney?

Practice Area Insights: What Training Do You Need As a Healthcare Attorney? was originally published on Vault.

Healthcare law covers a broad spectrum of legal work. While all attorneys in this practice area focus on the healthcare industry, what they do daily varies widely. Private practice attorneys may focus on the transactional aspects, counseling healthcare companies on transactional and regulatory matters or compliance issues, or may choose the litigation route, defending household name companies in court. Government lawyers may focus on enforcing regulations, and nonprofit attorneys use their legal knowledge to advocate for their organization’s priorities. Clients include the expected—hospitals, medical centers, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical behemoths—as well as private equity funds and other entities whose operations touch the healthcare field.

In our guide, Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas, attorneys from law firms with top-ranked Healthcare practices share insights about their practice, including what kind of training they recommend and what a junior or summer associate experience is like at their law firm. Keep reading for their insights!

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Nora Klein, Associate—McDermott Will & Emery: As a law student, to the extent you can, take classes at your university’s business school. If you can speak the “language” of the business world, clients will have more confidence in you. They want to believe they have the best lawyer in the space, and that includes understanding what they’re talking about when they use terms like “EBITDA” and “delta.”

Matt Bergs, Associate—Sidley Austin LLP: If you are interested in healthcare law, I would recommend trying to get exposure to as many different facets of the industry as possible so you can start to discern what type of work interests you. My health law classes, externships, and MHA coursework focused primarily on the provider side of the industry. It wasn’t until my summer with Sidley and then a two-semester-long seminar on Medical Device Development during my 3L year that I had significant exposure to the pharmaceutical and medical device side of the industry, which turned out to be the side I find most interesting. The sooner you can figure that out, the better, because it will help you focus your career path. In addition, it helps to understand whether you prefer to be on the litigation side or prefer a regulatory or transactional focus. Spending your summer associate experience at a firm that offers all of these areas of focus can help inform your decision.

Amanda Zablocki, Partner—Sheppard Mullin: For transactional work generally, I would highly recommend taking a Tax 101 course and/or accounting. On the healthcare side, any course on the Stark Law, federal Anti-Kickback Statute, and False Claims Act.

Kristian (Krist) A. Werling, Partner—McDermott Will & Emery: I always recommend taking tax classes and developing your tax skills, along with learning some basics of accounting. If you want to do anything transactional, healthcare or not, general tax knowledge is a huge benefit. I went back to school for an M.B.A., which is not something everyone needs to do, but a greater understanding of accounting, which is the language of business, is important.

Meghan Weinberg, Associate—Sidley Austin LLP: I recommend taking a broad range of classes in law school to develop a baseline knowledge and appreciation for the laws underlying the issues that our healthcare clients face. In particular, I strongly recommend Administrative Law, Statutory Interpretation/Lawmaking, and any healthcare-focused classes that are offered. Finally, I think classes taught by adjunct faculty are a wonderful way to gain exposure to professionals who are practicing in the area(s) that interest you most.

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?

Nora Klein: At McDermott, you actually get to do substantive work as a junior lawyer and even as a summer associate. Add-on deals tend to be smaller in terms of purchase price, so you can get younger people involved. Typical tasks involve communicating with the client, understanding what their needs are, drafting various transaction documents, understanding what you’re drafting, and then negotiating those points with opposing counsel.

What kinds of experience can summer associates gain in this practice area at your firm?

Meghan Weinberg: Summer associates are brought into matters just as associates would be—they are read into the business and legal issues, included on key communications, given substantive assignments that are critical to the final product, and provided with feedback throughout the process on how their work fits into the bigger picture of the matter and the clients’ needs.

Amanda Zablocki: Summer associates interested in healthcare have the opportunity to work on healthcare matters and typically receive the same types of assignments as would be given to a first-year attorney. If a summer associate candidate is interested in practicing healthcare law, we will have that candidate interview with members of the healthcare team to ensure that they get exposure to healthcare matters. Several summer associates expressed an interest in participating in our Women in Healthcare Leadership Collaborative and helped plan events and engage with our members.

Matt Bergs: Summer associates can expect to gain significant experience researching, writing, and issue spotting. For example, in my past two summers at the firm, we’ve had summer associates assist with drafting procedural motions, running down research for class certification briefings, and preparing for appellate oral arguments.