Joyce Hall's article, "What I Wish I Had Known" appears in the ABA Young Lawyers Division Health Law Newsletter Committee Newsletter (Spring 2016)
What I Wish I Had Known
By C. Joyce Hall Chair-Elect, 2015-2016 ABA
Health Law Section
The YLD Health Law committee asked senior healthcare lawyers
what they wished they had known as a younger attorney. In Part
Three of this series, Joyce C. Hall summarizes the lessons she has
learned practicing as a healthcare lawyer and explains her daily
"Never let them see you sweat." With that famous quote (from the
'80s) I have affirmatively defined myself as an "older" lawyer and
explained the reason I was asked to share my thoughts with you on
"what I wish I had known" as a younger lawyer. The quote was the
tagline for the advertising campaign launched by The Gillette
Company for Dry Idea antiperspirant in 1984, the year I entered law
school. Picture an appropriate emoji in this spot. The ad campaign
featured celebrities who grabbed the audiences' attention with
advice on three "Nevers" to being _______ (fill in the blank - a
fashion designer, a famous comedian, a winning coach, etc.). You
can view the ads on YouTube for the celebrities' sage advice. As I
began my law career this quote quickly became my motto. Keeping
with that tradition, permit me share with you three "Nevers" I wish
I had known as a young lawyer.
- Never pass on an opportunity to learn from a lawyer you admire.
In today's fastpaced world, we tend to prioritize those things that
are tugging hardest or screaming loudest for our immediate
attention and we don't take the time to study how a lawyer with
more experience handled a difficult situation, responded to a
delicate subject, or explained a complex legal concept. Take the
time to watch, ask questions, and study why someone took a
particular approach. Sometimes the best teacher is sitting in the
office next door. Never forget to appropriately appreciate the team
that helps you achieve your best each day-your family, your
assistants, and your fellow associates. Your best advice on how to
practically accomplish a task may come from the legal assistant who
has been doing it for 20 years or the clerk in the filing office.
Get to know these folks and, more importantly, appreciate the
assistance they give. One day you may be in a pinch and need some
extra assistance. The people you have treated with respect will
most likely be happy to assist in the crisis.
- Never assume you can "wing it." Always be overly-prepared so
you can speak from the overflow, respond to unexpected situations
from a position of knowledge instead of defensiveness, and
demonstrate to your client that you care about their particular
situation because you have spent the time to learn their business.
Clients want a lawyer who will work hard to accomplish the task and
give sound advice. Laziness has no place in the attorney-client
relationship. Practicing in a highly regulated field like health
law makes it especially challenging to stay current on the latest
regulations and guidance from the government agencies. Establish a
routine early in your career for keeping abreast of the latest
developments. Don't rely simply on someone else's evaluation of the
regulations or guidance. Read the regulations for yourself. You
might catch a nuance that is the key to the answer for your
- Everyone feels pressure, but "never let them see you sweat." So
what does that mean? All lawyers get at least a little nervous at
times. In fact, a few butterflies keep you on your toes. But don't
let this profession rob you of your joy in serving your clients.
Find a work/life balance that helps you relieve the stress and find
fulfillment in your job and your family. Keep your priorities in
the proper order. Remember no one ever says on their death bed that
they wished they had spent more time at the office. We are
"healthcare lawyers" but making sure that we keep ourselves healthy
- including physical, mental and emotional health - is as important
to our clients as knowing the law. Some of the best business
development you will do for your firm will come from the
relationships you forge outside of your law school friends and the
legal circles you travel during working hours. Another lesson from
this "Never" is to be careful not to let this profession go to your
head. "Never let them see you sweat" doesn't mean that you are the
only one with the right answers or the only one who can do the job.
Clients want a confident lawyer but not an over-confident lawyer.
There is a distinction. Being a healthcare lawyer can lead to a
very rewarding career. The law is challenging, but the importance
of the work that our clients seek to accomplish in helping to keep
our communities healthy cannot be overstated. Providing advice to
assist a healthcare client pursue his or her mission of building a
healthier society is an honorable profession indeed. I wish you all
the best in your health law careers.
About the Author: Ms. Hall is a member of Watkins & Eager,
PLLC, where she practices in the areas of commercial transactions,
public finance, corporate and health care law. Ms. Hall currently
serves as the ABA Health Law Section Chair-Elect.