Mentor in Law: Volume 6 | September 2020 | Advice from Practicing and Non-Practicing Lawyers


Practice Spotlight: Health Law

Topic: Advice from Practicing and Non-Practicing Lawyers

Contributors: Nathan Leong, Monica Lopez Reinmiller, David Keenan, Lisa Castilleja

Meet Nathan Leong
In Nathan's words: "I am a husband, father, and technology lawyer, anxiously awaiting the return of puffy-vest season. 🍁 I love food, tech strategy, and rehabbing my 130-year-old Victorian. Helping people is my lifelong quest."
  • What is your current role and practice area?
I lead the legal and government affairs support for Microsoft's U.S. health and life sciences business on a variety of matters including complex AI/ML development deals, regulatory compliance and policy, and overall legal strategy and execution. I also serve on the board of the AABA-Chicago Law Foundation, co-chair NAPABA's health law committee, and just finished a term as an at-large member of the LCLD Alumni Executive Council.
  • Can you briefly describe health law?
I am a translator: I help translate health industry needs and market trends to Microsoft product development and go-to-market strategy, and vice versa.
  • What is one myth you’d bust about health law?
The relationship between health and technology are not like oil and water. While tech is not the answer to every problem, it will be an important tool in addressing the health ecosystem's most pressing needs. We need people who understand both and can help us navigate them with empathy.
  • What are two pieces of advice you'd give to someone interested in health law?
1. Most of the affinity bar associations have a health law section: join it and get to know people, their practice areas, and what they think is exciting about their area. You could also join the American Health Law Association, the ABA's Health Law section, or your state bar's equivalent--and start attending stuff that sounds interesting to you.

2. Ask if you can shadow someone for a day.
  • What is one prediction you would make about the future of health law?
Health law, like health care, will become increasingly intersectional. It is already a highly interdisciplinary practice, but you are seeing integration and consolidation across the value chain, from providers and plans, pharmacy and retail, etc. Lawyers who practice at an integration point will capture the most value and do the most cutting edge work.
  • What is the biggest difference between practicing health law at a firm and in-house?
I am no longer shackled by incentives aligned mostly to a law firm's business model, and I am freer to design my practice around my clients' jobs-to-be-done.
  • What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
"Apply the scientific method." We spend way too much time theorizing about what our passions are, or taking batteries of personality and skill surveys. The biggest mistake we make is stopping there. Instead, we should test, test, test. Yes, do your research on the field and talk to people in that practice area, take skill surveys, think about what you love and what gives you energy. But, then go test that hypothesis, reshape it, and retest.
"Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value." Albert Einstein
Meet Monica Lopez Reinmiller
Monica is a white collar compliance attorney, specializing in corporate compliance and ethics programs, anti-corruption compliance frameworks, and global transactional compliance risk. Her compliance work and experience spans multiple industries – including tech and automotive – and many global business environments.
  • What is your current role and practice area?
Prior to the 2020 merger with Sprint, I was T-Mobile's Sanctions, Export, and Anti-Corruption attorney. Those remain my core practice areas as an attorney, however the focus of my current role is more concentrated on the company’s corporate compliance and anti-corruption program. 
  • Since hindsight is 20/20, what is one thing you would have done differently in law school? 
There isn’t anything I would have changed about my substantive law courses or classroom path, but I would have most certainly networked more intensely with government attorneys when I had the chance (I clerked one summer with the DOJ’s Trustee’s Office) and attended more events to meet attorneys in the space I was pursuing. Speaking with practicing attorneys can clarify the realities of the practice and they can offer immediate professional guidance by recommending clerkships, networks, or other resources that students can tap into for additional guidance, knowledge, and support. I also would have sought a judicial clerkship in my second summer – those experiences are invaluable in my opinion.
  • What is something you wish you knew about the practice of law during your first few years of practice?
I technically began my in-house practice later in my career – I was first a compliance professional for many years, honing my legal risk analysis, compliance process, and financial skills to be honest. Those years also taught me a lot about leadership and people management. As I transitioned to an in-house compliance role, I can recall needing to be more assertive and confident about finding balanced solutions and giving recommendations that were  not so “black and white." That is a different perspective and approach than one may take in a firm environment when a client is asking for that more exact “black and white” assessment. It also may not be applicable to a government lawyer as much, but it's a fundamental skill I wish I understood more when I first started.
  • What is one practical skill that you wish you would have learned in law school?
I wish all law schools had more courses on “plain English” and on how to communicate with clients without sounding so formal or making a letter or email look like a brief. There should always be a level of competency reflected in an attorney communication to the client, but we’re not necessarily taught how to speak on a plain level, and it’s something everyone eventually learns on a practical level as they go through the motions of performing on the job.
  • What is one myth you’d bust about being a lawyer?
People (family, friends, etc.) generally think you can answer any legal question once you’re a law school graduate – and that is not always the case. The myth being that once you’re a lawyer you can help with any legal question or assess any legal issue, and that will really depend on the complexity of the issue and the competency needed to accurately analyze and provide a recommendation. I used to get all kinds of questions about insurance claims, personal injury, and employment questions when I first graduated. I can answer the most basic of questions in these spaces if I have contract language or forms to review, but I am not a practitioner in this space. 
  •  What is one way we can improve D&I in the legal profession?
Look for people to raise up – especially if you are an ally. If you are not looking for bright, talented diverse professionals to start with, you’re not going to find them. And that means one less opportunity to build inclusivity and level the playing field for those that are underrepresented in the legal profession.
  • What is the best career advice you've ever received?
This wasn’t advice specifically given to me, but it's advice I see repeatedly and follow myself: keep networking. Reach out to people who can point you to resources and other connections. Be tireless and learn along the way – eventually all efforts pay off with new opportunities, strong connections, and information that can help you all the way around.
  • What is one prediction that you would make about the future of law?
I’ll respond with an ask rather than a prediction: to make change, you must take action. To aspiring attorneys who are committed to justice and our rule of law, take time to volunteer and give back to our communities. I see the hope and fire in our new generation and I’m amazed by their passion and energy. Channel that drive into government roles, pro bono work, and anything that can help close the gap where we see communities denied access to justice due to cost, policies, or other means. Just don’t stop.
Meet David Keenan
Judge David Keenan is a King County Superior Court Judge, former civil litigator, and former federal law enforcement agent who serves on the Washington State Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Board. Judge Keenan was born into poverty, grew up on public assistance, was arrested and charged in juvenile court, and dropped out of high school after repeated suspensions. But the story didn't end there.
  • What is your current role and practice area?
I’m a trial judge in King County Superior Court.  I’m assigned to the Civil Department, which can include nearly any kind of non-criminal case.
  • Since hindsight is 20/20, what is one thing you would have done differently in law school? 
I worked full-time during the day while attending law school at night. It would’ve been a grind either way, but I wish I’d spent more time with my family.
  • What is something you wish you knew about the practice of law during your first few years of practice?
Remember that the work will still be there tomorrow.  As a lawyer in 2015, I took two days of vacation the entire year and worked all but three weekends.  Looking back, I didn’t need to work as much as I did.
  • What is the best advice you've received about networking?
Sign up and show up.  I live and give this advice.  Many people sign up for things—committees, boards, projects—but many of those folks don’t show up.  It is remarkable how far you can advance and how many healthy relationships you can build by volunteering and following through.  If you sign up but don’t show up, you’re worse off than if you’d never signed up to begin with—people won’t take you seriously.
  • What is one myth you’d bust about being a lawyer?
I’ve spoken with many law students and new lawyers who think that it’s okay to focus solely on their careers in the early years; that’s a myth. If you’re a law student, you have enough education to volunteer in the community. If you’re a lawyer, that license means you should be out advocating in some capacity for the causes and communities you care about—starting now.
  • What is one prediction that you would make about the future of law?
The current public health crisis is making clear that there are many things that lawyers and judges do in person that could be done remotely.  This crisis is also more fully exposing tremendous gaps in our legal system when it comes to serving marginalized communities.  I cannot predict, but I certainly hope that we can learn from this crisis and use that learning to make justice more accessible.
Meet Lisa Castilleja
In Lisa's words: "I grew up in the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington. I am the second youngest of 16 children and my family worked as migrant farmworkers. I am a proud graduate of Toppenish High School, the University of Washington, and UC Berkeley School of Law. I never take my education for granted because it has given me so many opportunities to help my family and the community."
  • What is your current role?
I currently serve as Director of Community Outreach, Inclusion Initiatives, and Alumni Engagement at UW School of Law.
  • What kind of law did you practice before?  
I practiced family law as a child and family advocate as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Washington. I am also a former King County Superior Court Family Court Commissioner.
  • Why did you decide to leave the law?
I don’t feel that I have left the law. That’s the beauty of having a law degree. You can shift careers and serve the community in different capacities. I can also return to practice since I have maintained my license, so I don’t regret any of my career choices. I will say that I miss litigation. Advocating for a client in the courtroom was always a great experience for me…it was difficult, challenging, interesting, and always rewarding.
  • What legal skills do you still use?
Problem-solving: identifying issues of concern, piecing together a strategy to address the issues, and then taking action.
  • What is the best piece of advice you've received about networking?
It’s not about getting a job. It’s about making connections and learning as much as you can about different career paths and meeting some great people who can often become mentors.
  • Since hindsight is 20/20, what is one thing you would have done differently in law school?
I didn’t really know any lawyers and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I wanted to do on my own rather than networking in the legal community or with my law professors. Identifying mentors early on is very important and I wish I had done a better job of connecting with the legal community during law school.
  • What is one prediction that you would make about the future of law?
If I could restructure legal education, I would require a year of clinical work for every student. It would be like a residency program for law students so they can learn from practicing attorneys while working on real cases. I believe that the importance of communication skills is not stressed enough in law school. Communicating effectively with clients and gaining their trust are critical to becoming an effective advocate. It’s not just about explaining the law or the legal issues of the case. It’s about recognizing what your client is going through at the time, helping them understand how the outcomes of the case might impact them and those they care about, and making sure you have given them as much information as possible so they have a better understanding of how to deal with the outcome – win or lose.
  • What advice would you give to those looking for opportunities outside the law?
Network and then network again. Go out and talk to people who have pursued alternative careers. Ask practicing attorneys what they might do differently in their career path if given the chance. Look up professionals online who have your “dream job” and see if they will meet for coffee so you can find out what the job really is rather than holding out for what you think it might be. Also, keep an open mind. You may find a path that you never expected would make you happy to go to work.

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