September 2012 Volume 9 Number 1

Section Chair's Column: It’s time. Are you ready?

By David L.Douglass,Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P., Washington, DC

Author“My first Chair’s column is due when? How can I have a first Chair’s column due? I just joined the Section.” That’s how I feel anyway. The Health Law Section has been central to my professional (and personal) life for more than a decade. Yet, in many ways I still feel like I just joined. (No one has ever accused the ABA of being easy to access or understand). But, like many others, over the years I have found my Section involvement to be one of my most enjoyable, rewarding and satisfying affiliations. And now that I’m large and in charge I want to spread the word. And I want you to help. (That’s the in charge part). Are you ready?

We, lawyers and affiliated legal professionals, are being buffeted by change, instability and uncertainty as our profession continues to regroup from the 2008 recession. We may not know what the profession will be like five years from now but we certainly know it will not look the way it did five years ago. As health lawyers and health law professionals, we are additionally facing change and uncertainty now that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. These changes promise opportunity as well. Health Care Reform will affect every segment of our economy; providers, payors, manufacturers, consumers, employers, for profit and/or not for profit corporations, regulatory and enforcement agencies, all of whom are trying to chart a course in a post- reform world. They need legal counsel. It’s a good time to be a healthcare lawyer. But are you ready?

In these times of instability, uncertainty and change, I am finding that lawyers are craving the benefits that Section membership offers; education, fellowship, mentorship. Whether you are seeking to understand the status and forecasts for accountable care organizations, how the new overpayment provisions of the False Claims Act will be interpreted and enforced or any other health law and policy issue, the Section has the answers — at least the latest information — available in the form of your choosing; publications, webinars, live programs, podcasts and members willing to share their experience and expertise. Career guidance? Just look on our webpage or call another member. Are you looking to network? Join one of our Interest Groups, task forces or committees or attend one of our live programs.

Our mission is to serve you, our members, and our profession. Section membership and, even better, active Section participation, gives you access to a national network of colleagues who are wrestling with the same questions as you and who are ready to render advice, assistance and support that forges the bonds of mutual respect and lasting friendship. Where else can you find that? But wait, there’s more! Through our ties to other ABA Sections and entities, we can also help you access the benefits that these groups can offer to support the other facets of your practice, whether your practice entails transactional work, litigation, white-collar defense, consumer rights, etc. In other words, the Health Law Section is ready to help you succeed by offering knowledge, insight, advice, and support that will help you with each facet of your practice at every stage of your career. That has certainly been true for me. And my experience is the rule, not the exception.

Through the years of my Section involvement I have been frequently struck by how many lawyers are desperate for the collegiality and connectedness the Section offers, yet don’t seem to know where to find it or how to take advantage of it. So, one of my goals for the coming year is to spread the word. I hope this year we can work hard to promote transparency and engagement, to make the benefits of Section membership more apparent and accessible — to current and potential members alike — and to find ways to proactively engage our members so that they will receive the full benefits of Section membership.

We have an ambitious and exciting agenda for the coming year. Health Care Reform has lead to unprecedented demands for the knowledge and insights our members can provide. We are experiencing record attendance at both our live and our distance learning programs. Our membership is growing (when many other professional associations are experiencing declining membership). We also actively engaged in shaping health law and policy by commenting on proposed regulations and, where appropriate, filing amicus briefs. To help us better serve our members, we are also planning an annual Section Business Meeting, which will provide leadership training for our Section leadership, an opportunity for interested members to get to know the Section and each other as well as some educational content; in other words, a forum for education, fellowship and mentorship. We are working hard on these and other tasks and we could use your help. We will be reaching out to you for assistance. If you would like to volunteer you can contact any of our Section leaders or just send me a note and I will make the connections.

The Section’s mission is to serve our members and our Section. If there are ways we can better advance that mission, we’d like to know. You can call or email me, or any council member, IG or committee leader. You can also help us spread the word about the benefits of Section involvement. If you have a story or experience about how the Section has helped you or why you find Section membership valuable, let us know. We will publish them to give prospective members a clearer sense of what Section membership offers. Third, tell your friends. I am surprised at how many members joined because a member introduced them to the Section. Although we will be working hard to explain how to make the most of Section membership, there is truly no substitute for reaching out and bringing someone in. I have recruited many friends, not simply because I hope they will reap the benefits of membership as I have but because it gives me more opportunities and excuses to spend time with them. (Keep an eye out for our next Member Get a Member campaign).

The changes in health law combined with changes in the health industry will create new and exciting practice opportunities. The Health Law Section has been and will continue to be a respected and influential voice in the public policy debate that will create policies that will shape health law for years to come. We will also continue to provide the education, tools and support our members will need to take full advantage of the opportunities change presents. We have an ambitious and exciting agenda for the coming Bar year that will benefit our members, shape health law and influence health policy but we will need your help to achieve our goals and realize our potential. We are, after all, only as strong as our membership. So, in the final analysis, it’s up to you. It’s time. Are you ready?

The ABA Health eSource is distributed automatically to members of the ABA Health Law Section . Please feel free to forward it! Non-members may also sign up to receive the ABA Health eSource.