AHLA's Speaking of Health Law

Launching Your Career in Health Law, Part 1

January 22, 2020 AHLA Podcasts
AHLA's Speaking of Health Law
Launching Your Career in Health Law, Part 1
Show Notes Transcript

Nothing is more important to your career than where you work. AHLA’s latest podcast will be invaluable to any law student or law firm summer associate. Thomas Wronski, of Thomas Wronski and Associates, a national legal search consulting firm, in Part 1 of this series, speaks with Amy Simmons, Director of Attorney Recruitment & Professional Development at Epstein Becker Green, about the law firm hiring process and pursuing a career in health law. Access Part 2 of this series.

To learn more about AHLA and the educational resources available to the health law community, visit americanhealthlaw.org.

Speaker 1:

Hello, I am David Cade , executive Vice President and c e o of the American Health Lawyers Association. The A H L A offers a wide variety of learning opportunities to our members, most of which focus on aspects of the practice of health law. However, this podcast series is designed to address a more basic need of our members and future members. Our host for today's podcast is Tom Roski of Thomas Roski and Associates, a legal search consulting firm that specializes in recruiting, healthcare and life sciences lawyers for law firms. If you are a health lawyer, you either know Tom, or you should know Tom, our guest today joining Tom is Amy Simmons, director of Attorney Recruitment and Professional Development at Epstein Becker Green , a leader in health law. Enjoy the podcast.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, David. And thank you, our listeners for tuning in today. As David indicated, my name is Thomas Roski . I've been a legal search consultant for over 20 years. I specialize in recruiting, healthcare and life sciences lawyers for law firms. The subject of this BCA podcast is launching your career in health law. Part one will be about the things law school students should do to prepare themselves for careers in health law. Part two will be about the things junior associates should do to be successful in the practice. Our guest today is Amy Simmons, director of Attorney Recruitment and Professional Development at Epstein Becker Green . Um, welcome Amy.

Speaker 3:

Thank you.

Speaker 2:

Uh , can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Speaker 3:

Yes, thanks, Tom. I am currently, as you noted, the director of Legal Recruitment and professional development at Epstein Becker Green. In this role, I oversee all aspects of attorney recruitment, which includes the law school recruitment process, as well as the summer program. Um, it also includes the lateral associate and lateral partner recruitment process. In addition, I oversee all of the areas that fall under professional development, which include things like the attorney evaluation process , uh, attorney training and recruitment, business development planning, diversity initiatives, mentor sponsor, and the pro bono program. As you can see, a lot of things fall under that bucket.

Speaker 2:

Well, so I , I would say that if I was gonna talk to anybody about how to launch a career in health law, you're the person to talk to. Um , what does one do to become a health lawyer? How , how does someone start off, at least from your vantage?

Speaker 3:

I I think it starts first with someone having an interest , um, in health law and understanding that by definition, health law is an incredibly broad area of law. From there, if they decide at that point they're ready for law school, it's hopefully if it allows , um, choosing a law school that perhaps specializes in health law , um, if not one that maybe at least offers a little bit of health law classes. Um, if they decide to wait and go to , uh, law school at a later point in time, I think it's maybe finding a job or a career , um, in the, in the health wall industry to kind of get them familiar, get a little bit of an understanding of what health Wall really is.

Speaker 2:

You know what, those are all interesting things. And I was gonna , I mean , ask you about a couple of 'em in detail , uh, especially the , uh, uh, the point of which law schools and which programs to go into. Um, let let me ask you this. In terms of undergrad work, is there any particular commonality? Do you see particular majors or backgrounds that, that health lawyers who get to your level have in their background?

Speaker 3:

Uh, you would think there would be, but with health law being so broad there, there typically isn't one area of study that we see or that we value when we're looking for at law students. Um, we look for students who have a demonstrated interest in health law, and that can be experience, it can be courses they're taking. Uh, if you look at the bios of the health attorneys at our firm, you'll see they have very diverse backgrounds , um, and experiences for law school students who are interested in Epstein Becker Green . It is, it is important that they're able to articulate why they have an interest. And we see that anything from growing up in a household with two doctors to pursuing an L l M at a law school or to a second career because they were a prior nurse or some other healthcare professional or something like that. So it really does vary. Um, and there's so many different ways that, that people are able to demonstrate that interest.

Speaker 2:

I know a partner at , uh, at a prominent law firm who I once asked, how did you get into to health law? And this person told me that he developed the interest because , uh, his father was a , a physician and he had always thought in the back of his mind, he might become a , a doctor someday , but he just decided he didn't really like medical things or taking care of sick people and things like that, or being exposed to them . So he went to law school and while he was in law school, he wrote letters to prominent law firms at ed health practices and said, this is who I am. This is my background, and this is why I wanna be a health lawyer. And 30 years later, that's what he does. He had a vision as a young person and a law school student as to what to do, but it wasn't too far off what , what his family's background

Speaker 3:

Was. We see many different backgrounds, but we see that quite a bit where we hear one or two parent households where, you know, the, the , the talk over the dinner table all the time was healthcare because they were physicians or somehow associated with the health industry. So, you know, even if that, you know, person has never had a job, they just grew up hearing all about all of the issues that their parents faced as doctors. So it is fascinating how people can get into the area of health law,

Speaker 2:

And it's surprising that they would go into that area because most doctors hate lawyers.

Speaker 3:

<laugh>, <laugh> . That is true. <laugh> .

Speaker 2:

Uh , what does the firm like to see from a , a , a a law school student in terms of , uh, of outside interests? Are there, should a , uh, a law school student be a , uh, uh, a member of the A H L A ? Should that person be, are there there organizations and things that, that someone that you would recommend that

Speaker 3:

Someone do? So, although it's not required by our firm, we do like to see that is one of the ways that somebody can demonstrate their interests. So becoming a member of a H l a other , uh, organizations or even being a member of a particular journal, a lot of law schools will have health law journals or journals at least relative to the health law field. So those are ways that , uh, students can, can demonstrate that they do have that interest in health law, especially if they are straight out of college to law school where they haven't necessarily had a lot of time to work and do internships or things like that to help demonstrate.

Speaker 2:

Do you like to see people who come straight from college to law school? Or does the firm generally like to see people who've done other things or is it a

Speaker 3:

Mix? It's a mix. We, we, it's, it's probably leans heavy for our firm, a little more towards second career . So even if it's been two or three years in a different occupation, we tend to get a lot of second career does not mean that we don't see a lot of law students who are straight through. Um, and again, for us, there's many ways that they can demonstrate an interest in health law. So it's not a one or the other for us.

Speaker 2:

Are there any particular law schools , uh, that the firm favors are , for example , are there firms that have health law programs that, you know, a person is gonna be in that program is gonna be somebody who's got an interest in in the practice?

Speaker 3:

There are. There are , uh, that we recruit heavily at University of Maryland, university of Houston, St . Louis, and several other schools that do have , uh, health law programs , um, recognize health law programs. We also tend to recruit at schools. Um, the other half of the practice that we recruit for at our firm happens to be labor. So we tend to focus on schools with health or labor programs. We also focus on schools that are in the geographies in which we have offices that we host summer programs, so New York, dc , la We also will tend to look at local law schools. Um, but I will say I , I would never discourage anybody from applying to our firm if they are do have that interest in health law. We tend to process anywhere between 12 and 1500 law school resumes every year. Uh , we look at every single one. So it, you know, just because we don't necessarily recruit or do on-campus interviews at a school doesn't preclude us from looking at resumes and hiring people outside of that process.

Speaker 2:

Of the law schools that you mentioned that have the health programs , uh, do other law firms recruit at those schools too? I mean, do you have competition?

Speaker 3:

We have, we do have competition. I wish I could say we didn't have competition, but we do have competition. So , um, those firms that are looking to hire students, you know, totally dedicated to healthcare , do know to kind of look at the St. Louis, the Marylands, the University of Houston's, and there are other, you know, Georgetown, we get a lot of our health law students from Georgetown, from gw. So there's a lot of local for our DC office that we're able to get as well. Seton Hall's another one that has a great health law program. So we do have competition. One of the things that can set our firm apart is that we are focused on healthcare and labor. So our law students will come in, if they come in wanting to do health law, that is their specialty. We don't rotate them through, you know, they don't do other things. If they come to us wanting to be a healthcare lawyer, that's what we're gonna allow them to do. So there's no formal rotations that they have to worry about.

Speaker 2:

Um , do , are you the one who goes out and , uh, makes it , do you go to the schools and you make presentations? How do , how does it work? How does they find you? Um ,

Speaker 3:

For , um, I am part of a group that prior to the on-campus interview starting, we will go to law schools and meet with students and tell 'em about our firm. When it comes timed for the on-campus interviews, we typically will send two attorneys to do the on-campus interviews. Um, typically we try to send at least one partner, if not two partners. And if we can, we try to match up alumni to the various schools that we're recruiting from. Um, so they're familiar , um, with the school, with the background, the history. So , um, but it is typically attorneys who do, are on-campus interviewing.

Speaker 2:

Interesting. How does your summer associate program work?

Speaker 3:

So we have , uh, an intense summer program. Um, the summer program is our source, typically of all of our first year associates. So our goal is to give our law students a picture of what it's like to tr to be a first year associate, a junior associate at the firm. So we give real projects , uh, intense educational program. We assign mentors, both an associate and a partner mentor to all summers. They're designed to help the summers navigate , um, answer any questions, help with workflow along the way. Um , we have an intense training where we do two to three educational , um, training classes every week. They tend to focus on skill sets , like writing and speaking, but they also are on the core practice areas. So it's sort of an intense dive into health law, into labor law, some corporate, some litigation for us. So it's a mix of training events, real projects that otherwise our junior associates would be working on. And those projects are client projects, but they're also pro bono. They're also , um, business development type things where we've had our summers co-author articles help develop presentations. So when our first years come back, they truly understand what it's like to be a junior associate at the firm.

Speaker 2:

It's almost like a

Speaker 3:

Bootcamp . It is a bootcamp , which ironically, when we get to that, we actually have created for our first years,

Speaker 2:

Oh , they call it a

Speaker 3:

Boot camp . We do call it a bootcamp . So <laugh> , we, we , we've kind of morphed into a boot camp scenario. <laugh>,

Speaker 2:

How do you transition then from , uh, a summer associate , uh, to a first year? What's the, or do sometimes people wash out during their summer associateship or ,

Speaker 3:

Um, it is, I would say it's intense, but we get very positive feedback. Um, it's, it's busy. There are social events. That's a way for us to get to know summers outside of the normal course of the business day for them to get to understand the culture of the firm. Um, but it is intense. I mean, they're, they're billing their time. They're working on real projects. They're putting in sometimes longer days because we, we, we do things and require things of summers that, you know, all the education sessions that we do over the summer are meant for the summers. So if you're a health summer associate, you're going to all of the educational programs, whether it's labor, litigation, corporate, just to get exposure to everything the firm does. It's almost a little bit easier when first years come back because

Speaker 2:

They've been

Speaker 3:

Through bootcamp . They've been through bootcamp . We still give 'em another bootcamp , but it's a little bit easier, a little bit less pressure. They're not required necessarily to do everything. Um, I think the main difference when they come back as summer associates, we're lining up projects even though they're encouraged to seek others out. We have attorneys who will enter projects into a work allocation system. When they come back as first years , we get them started with three or four projects, and then they're sort of left to their own devices to seek the work, figure out who they wanna work with. There are folks that can help them along the way. But I think the biggest difference is being handed projects as a summer versus, here's a few to get you started when you come back, but good luck finding what you want to do with the resources we provide, helping them along the way.

Speaker 2:

Is there a characteristic that you would say is, is common or held in common by people , uh, uh, young lawyers who do well at the firm, or the person who trans transitions from law school to , uh, to a law firm environment? Is there something about that that would , um, about those people that you can, can usually spot what somebody's gonna do well or not

Speaker 3:

For? For us specifically at Epstein Becker, we, we have our, from, from the time somebody's a summer associate to when they come back as a junior, they hit the ground running. So for us, the law student that wants to dive in and get that hands-on experience from day one does really well at our firm, the, I don't even know if firms do this anymore, but if you wanna be sort of in the proverbial libraries that don't exist that much anymore, but behind the scenes in the boxes of documents hiding from, that's not us. So we want , um, for , and I know for some students that can be a lot of pressure. That's maybe not what they wanna do. They kind of wanna ease into it. For us, it's more hit the ground running client interactions, real life projects from the day they walk in as summer. So it's important for us that they want that responsibility, that that's something that is, you know, something that they look for and is important versus something that they're gonna be fearful

Speaker 2:

Of. So conversely, if a person is someone who , uh, wants to do a lot of , uh, legal research and stay in the back burner, this Epstein Becker wouldn't be .

Speaker 3:

So the legal research works, the staying in the background, because if you're the one doing the research, the supervising attorney is gonna want you on the call relaying that research to the client. So if you wanna do the research and hand it over and maybe hide, we may not be the best place. If you, you know, are enthused by it, want to talk about it, you know, the chances are you're gonna be on the call answering the client's questions. Um, that happens to our summer associates. It definitely happens with our juniors. And it , it can be scary at first, but it's, it's the culture we have and it's a great environment to learn in , uh, where you get that hands-on experience.

Speaker 2:

Okay . So you obviously have a lot of , uh, of experience doing this. Yes . And you've done it a long time for a lot of people. Yes. Would it be fair to say that maybe you've had some somewhat disastrous interviews or anything that would be humorous that you've seen over time?

Speaker 3:

Um, they're there , there have been some disastrous interviews. Probably ones I should not specifically share, <laugh> , but what I will share is there are things that, that people can do when they're interviewing that are perceived as negative. And I, I am not so sure that these are firm specific to us. Um, typos. Um, I can be very forgiving with typos, but as soon as I put those in front of an attorney, I've asked people to resubmit their cover letters before because they have great cover letters and a great resume, and they do mass mailings, and the name of the firm is wrong <laugh>. And as soon as I turn that in to somebody, they're gonna automatically say no <laugh> . So I've asked for, for , for people to correct things because when I look at things, it's more about the experience and the person, not the one typo. It could

Speaker 2:

Have been a mistake,

Speaker 3:

It could have been a mistake. And a lot of times it is because they'll do form letters and things like that. We get letters addressed to the wrong person that, so there are times where we're like, no, because it's a no. Anyway. Other times we'll ask , um, being late for an interview is never a great thing, but being late and acting like it never happened is really bad to start things off <laugh>. Um, one of the interesting things, not being able to speak about what you have on your resume is a big one for us. There will be, for our DC office, when we interview law students, they do callbacks with eight different attorneys, two attorneys, four different rooms. They kind of, you know, go throughout the rooms. So if you long boat , somebody will find something, everything that is on your resume. So our attorneys have pet peeves where they'll put something and the attorneys will be so excited to talk to them about it. And then it's like a sort of a dead conversation because it's sort of like they thought it was impressive and they were maybe hoping nobody would ask 'em about it. <laugh> doesn't work out that way, <laugh> . And the last thing I'll say is the same thing for questions. Um, you know, we'll have people interview and if they get to the fourth room, they're like, I don't have any more questions. It's never a good thing. Like, ask the same question in all four rooms for us if you have to. But it just makes you seem uninterested either in the people or the firm as a whole if you're not willing to ask

Speaker 2:

Questions. So the person would go to four different interviews and then I maybe just got tired by the

Speaker 3:

Way , they , they could be tired by the fourth. But I encourage them to fake it at least and ask even if they're the same questions through all four rooms. Because

Speaker 2:

If it's not the same purple that

Speaker 3:

There is , it's not the same people. You'll get different perspectives. We, we pair up, we're, we're strategic with our pairing. Sometimes it's two associates, sometimes it's two partners, sometimes it's mixed. But everybody has a different experience. So if nothing else, test it and see if you get the same answer twice and see how consistent the answers are. So

Speaker 2:

If I was gonna ask you to summarize , uh, just maybe on three basic points. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, what advice does Amy Simmons have for a law school student who's interested in pursuing a career in health law? What would those be?

Speaker 3:

Um, I would say choose if you can. I know there are a lot of reasons that people choose to a particular law school, but if they can choose a law school, if they're truly interested in health law that has a health law program , um, it's, again, I know sometimes it doesn't work that way cuz people now choose for geographic reasons and all kinds of things. But going somewhere with a health law program is one of the easiest ways to demonstrate that you're truly interested in a career in health law. Um, I would say look for relevant externships, internships that are health related . Remembering that healthcare , when I first started at the firm, I was like, healthcare law, like, what is that? And I'm like, it blows my mind every day . How many things are considered health law, how many buckets fall under that? So understanding that health law for us, you know, we have litigators, we have corporate attorneys, we have so many things that r roll up under health law, but to look for relevant things that, that show their interest in the health industry. And then, then maybe the last is to, to just read up and be familiar with current trends. Um , we don't ever expect anybody to be experts when they come in to interview, especially law students. They're just starting. Um, they should never try to be experts

Speaker 2:

If it don't almost be worse if they try hard ,

Speaker 3:

If it's worse if they try , because we're putting them in rooms with people that have been doing this for 30 or 40 years and maybe are the experts. But, but to be con conversational and , and current news and things that are going on, I think is very beneficial and would help them figure out if they're interested in truly pursuing that career in health law.

Speaker 2:

Okay. Well, Amy, thank you so much. Uh , that concludes part one of our launching Your Career in Health law , uh, podcast. Uh, please plan to tune in next month for part two, which we'll deal with the things Junior Associates should do to be successful in the practice of health law. Thank you.