February 25, 2016 Articles

An Industry Crash Course for the Aspiring Healthcare Litigator

Junior litigators often assume that, to become a healthcare practitioner, they must have a strong understanding of the many facets and intricacies of the healthcare industry from day one. This is not true.

By Eric W. Shannon

As a relatively new lawyer practicing in a large city, I have been fortunate to meet other young litigators in various settings. When I’m inevitably asked what I “do” at my law firm, I explain that my professional practice centers largely on representing clients in the healthcare industry. On numerous occasions I have heard some permutation of the following sentence in response: “You know, that’s something I thought I might want to do but I don’t really know anything about the healthcare industry—like, who all the players are and how it actually . . . works.” My conversation partner typically lowers his voice for the second half of that sentence, as if he’s confessing something shameful and taboo to me, like that he hasn’t filed his income taxes in six years. Now, some of these folks are certainly just being polite; they don’t think what I’ve just said is even vaguely interesting, and they have zero interest in doing the kind of work that I do. But I really do think that some of them genuinely mean what they say. They’re interested in healthcare matters, but believe that having a robust understanding of the healthcare industry is an absolute prerequisite to becoming a “healthcare litigator.” This, in my opinion, is unfortunate because it simply isn’t true. If you want to be a healthcare litigator, does it help if you show up on the first day of your job knowing the difference between Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D? Sure. Have you missed your shot at practicing healthcare law if you show up on day one (or, dare I say, even practice for several years) not knowing the difference? Absolutely not.

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