I appreciate Kathy Poppitt’s invitation to be a guest columnist. As I write this it is July, and our Health Law Section leaders are preparing to travel to Detroit for the annual Leadership meeting. The ABA Annual Meeting in Denver is also around the corner, and we will leave this current bar year and step into the new one. I am completing my two-year term as a co-editor of HLbytes, the weekly bulletin from the Health Law Section of the ABA, and this has caused me to pause and look back at the history of our smallest but most frequent publication.
HLbytes will enter its tenth year during the 2023–2024 bar year. It is amazing to me how the bulletin has endured, how much it has changed, and how much it has remained the same. HLbytes was born during the strategic planning meeting of the new Section officers during the ABA Annual Meeting in August 2014 in Boston. Michael Clark had just ascended to Chair with Bill Horton as Chair-Elect and Joyce Hall as Vice-Chair. I was beginning my term as Secretary, while Alexandria Hien McCombs was in her last year as Budget Officer and Eugene Holmes was serving as Budget-Officer Elect. Alexandria is the one who came up with the idea for a weekly bulletin to highlight major developments and areas of interest in health law to provide our members with relevant, breaking-news information. From the outset, the Section’s Interest Groups and Task Forces were charged with submitting concise hot topics and updates in their practice areas, and the bulletin included mention of and links to information on upcoming events.
Fittingly, Alexandria McCombs was the first editor of HLbytes with the support of staff members Jason Billups and Simeon Carson. She announced the creation of HLbytes to Health Law Section leaders in October 2014, and the first issue appeared on November 20, 2014. Alexandria shepherded HLbytes for the next two years, after which a rotating, two-year, two-editor process was established. Editors who followed were Shannon Salimone and Catherine Greaves in 2016–2017, Catherine Greaves and Tracy Powell in 2017–2018, Tracy Powell and Michael Morton in 2018–2019, Michael Morton and Marc Meyer in 2019–2020, Marc Meyer and Steve Postal in 2020–2021, Steve Postal and Hilary Young in 2021–2022, and Hilary Young and David Ermer in 2022–2023. In 2023, David Ermer and I added the position of editorial assistant and were joined by Sam Ruddy, who steps up as the newest co-editor alongside David Ermer for 2023–2024.
While the core of HLbytes has remained basically the same, the bulletin has grown through the years. The formatting today is slick and sophisticated; for a period of time, we published an HL Well-byte of the Week to encourage our members in taking care of themselves; and the bulletin provides a robust platform to highlight upcoming webinars, conferences, and publications. The editors bring their unique touches to the Bytes. But HLbytes continues to serve as a vehicle for bringing hot topics, breaking news, and interesting case law and regulatory developments to our members, and to offer the opportunity to submit and have a Byte published in the weekly bulletin.
What makes HLbytes succeed, of course, is the contributions from our Interest Groups and Task Forces. The current process is that each Monday, Section staff member Ally Donnantuono sends IG/TF leaders an email with a link to a Google document. Leaders have until noon Wednesday to write and place a Byte in their section of the Google document. The editors then review and edit the Bytes, and Ally formats the bulletin for circulation on Friday. Tips for writing and submitting an effective Byte include:
- Have a short headline summarizing the piece;
- Write approximately three to four original sentences in your own words about the topic, the development, the law, the rule, or the case.
- Keep the tone of the Byte objective, like a news article.
- Include one or more links to sources where readers can find more information.
- Whenever possible, links should be to original sources such as the relevant court opinion, agency press release, or Federal Register publication of a notice or rule.
- Newspaper articles and blogs can be helpful background but give preference to free sources that do not require readers to have subscriptions to access the information.
- Review prior issues of HLbytes to avoid submitting a Byte on a topic that has already been covered, unless you are covering different information or more recent developments in the matter. If multiple authors submit articles on the same topic for the same issue, the editors can combine them and give credit to all the submitting authors.
- Conclude with your name, the name of your law firm or other employer, and your email address should the editors need to contact you with a question.
If you are interested in getting involved in writing and submitting Bytes, reach out to the Chair or Vice Chair for Communications of your Interest Group(s) or Task Force(s). You can also contact Ally Donnantuono at Ally.Donnantuo[email protected]. As a Section member and reader, I hope that HLbytes continues to be valuable and to help you be aware of some of the latest developments in health law.