ABA Health eSource
 April 2006 Volume 2 Number 8

Chair's Column

by Gregory L. Pemberton, Ice Miller, Indianapolis, IN

Gregory L. Pemberton

I regained some insight recently. This was a lesson I learned a number of years ago but had forgotten. It is rewarding when something positive comes back into your mind.

This gift came during a recent conference. I have been privileged to serve on the Legal Committee of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging for a number of years. We meet at least once a year face-to-face, and spend a couple of days discussing relevant issues and legal developments in the long term care industry. The Committee consists of a "core" group appointed by the AAHSA board and leadership as well as appointed lawyers from the various state associations affiliated with AAHSA. The committee changes over time with veterans moving to new responsibilities and others following in their place. Invariably, there are new members whose first exposure to this group is a two day marathon session where numerous issues are raised and covered.

The reaction of the new members is almost always the same (it was of course my reaction to my first meeting). "How can I ever contribute to the breadth of this discussion? I do not know anywhere as much as these people." Ironically, by the next year that same person is contributing meaningfully as she or he understands and works within the Committee's environment, a generally supportive and collaborative environment.

That is the second reaction from a rookie (again mimicking my own). The Committee is made up of people who are comfortable sharing and expressing thoughts in a nonjudgmental manner. That tone was set long ago, and each successive group seems to "buy into" and emulate that approach. Not surprisingly, new members rapidly become productive parts of the team and end up contributing a great deal from their personal background and experience. Candidly, this approach reminds me of the leadership of a certain Section within the ABA, but I digress.

This brings me to my forgotten insight. One of my assistants a number of years ago said one day, "We have the nicest clients!" She was (and is) correct. As I thought about the remark, my theory was this. People who choose to work in the healthcare field tend to be people who care about people (my apologies to Barbra Streisand). They are "nice" as a result. As healthcare lawyers, we are exposed to these same personalities (even if they are sometimes under stress because they need a lawyer). If you compare our clients to those of many of our colleagues, we come out to the good.

So that is my forgotten insight. I am glad I got it back. It continues to be true in my experience and I am thankful as a result. If you agree as you consider your practice, smile as you read this and congratulations. If you think I am a half baked, pop psychology nut cake, I respect your opinion despite its misguidance. Just do not write to disagree; I get too many email messages already. Finally, thanks to all of the colleagues I have mentioned in this note. I know I am right when I describe them as supportive, sharing, and most of all "nice." Take care.