AHLA's Speaking of Health Law

Conversations with Leadership: Navigating Your Career in Health Law, Part 2 - The Interview Process

July 24, 2019
AHLA's Speaking of Health Law
Conversations with Leadership: Navigating Your Career in Health Law, Part 2 - The Interview Process
Chapters
AHLA's Speaking of Health Law
Conversations with Leadership: Navigating Your Career in Health Law, Part 2 - The Interview Process
Jul 24, 2019
Thomas Wronski
AHLA's look at how to manage and handle your career in health law.
Show Notes Transcript

Nothing is more important to your career than where you work. AHLA’s latest podcast series on Navigating Your Career in Health Law will be invaluable to any attorney thinking about switching law firms. Thomas Wronski, of Thomas Wronski and Associates, a national legal search consulting firm, specializes in working with health care and life sciences lawyers and placing them at law firms. In Part 2 of the series, Wronski gives practical tips on how to master the interview process.



Speaker 1:
DC:
0:02
Hello. I am David Cade, Executive Vice President and CEO of the American Health Lawyers Association. The AHLA offers a variety of podcasts to our members, most of which focus on aspects of the practice of health law. However, this podcast series offers something new. Rather than addressing an aspect of the practice of health law, this podcast series is designed to address a more basic need of our members - Navigating Your Career in Health Law. Our guest for this series is Thomas Wronski of Thomas Wronski and Associates, a legal search consulting firm that specializes in working with health care and life sciences lawyers and placing them at law firms. If you are a health care lawyer, you have probably heard from Tom at some time or another. Welcome, Tom.
TW:
0:54
Thank you, David. It's good to be back.
DC:
0:57
In our first podcast, we discussed the decision to change firms, or in some cases, to transition out of government. These are not decisions that one takes lightly, though, are they Tom?
TW:
1:09
No, they are not. What you do in your legal career is important. But where you do it is equally important, and in some cases, it can be more important. For a lawyer to reach his or her full potential, she must be in a law firm with a platform and capabilities she needs. She must be at a law firm where she trusts the firm's management, and that's key - that trust is so important - and where she's confident in the abilities of her colleagues.
DC:
1:43
You mentioned the importance of taking your time and engaging in a process of self examination when deciding whether or not to change firms.
TW:
1:53
Yes, there are structural reasons why someone might change firms, such as client conflicts or firm capabilities or lack thereof. And these are the good reasons, but sometimes lawyers decide that they want to change firms over things that are fixable. If an issue is structural, then by all means one should look elsewhere. But if something at your current firm can be fixed, then every effort should be made to fix it before you make a decision to leave.
DC:
2:22
So there is no perfect law firm, is there?
TW:
2:26
No, and anyone who's practiced law at a couple of different law firms knows that there's no perfect law firm. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Be careful - exercise extreme caution when changing firms.
DC:
2:43
In our last podcast, Tom, you talked about helping a lawyer develop a narrative. Can you tell me more about that?
TW:
2:50
Yes. David, every day I look at resumes on law firm bios that are overly broad and purport to demonstrate that a health lawyer is experienced and active in a wide variety of facets of health care practice. The resume will indicate that the lawyer's active in health regulatory matters and transactions and litigation and policy work. Resumes like this look good to outsiders, and they may even look good to potential clients, but they're useless for the purpose of changing law firms.
DC:
3:29
But isn't it good to be broadly experienced?
TW:
3:32
It is, and it isn't. But the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of lawyers don't do it all. You focus on specific areas for a specific range of clients. Maybe you do reimbursement work, you handle privacy matters, you start work, or you're a litigator, or you do transactions, or you represent hospitals or physician groups or academic medical centers and post-acute. There's a whole world of things that you could do. There is no such thing as a health lawyer writ large. If you're interviewing in a law firm, you need to be able to articulate in two or three sentences how you can help that firm better service current clients and how you can help that firm develop new clients, and importantly, you want to be able to say to yourself and your clients how that firm will better serve their needs. This is your narrative. These must be specific statements, not generalized musings.
DC:
4:33
So are you saying it is not good to be a jack of all trades?
TW:
4:39
What I've said is that people who read your resume and the people who interview you need to know specifically what you do and how hiring you will benefit their firm. Again, your narrative is paramount, and it's absolutely critical that you have one and that it accurately reflects your experience and your career aspirations.
DC:
5:02
Okay, how do you know what your narrative is?
TW:
5:07
Well, that's where I come in. A good recruiter will work with a lawyer to develop his or her narrative, and he won't allow that lawyer to simply flail around in the dark when it's time to change firms. It sounds silly, but think about it this way: a good real estate agent will make sure that a home is properly staged before it goes on the market. Even the most beautiful mansion, if it's not properly staged or if it's messy, won't sell for the price it deserves. That's what a good recruiter does with the candidate and the candidate's narrative.
DC:
5:41
Okay, I got it. So now let's talk about the interview process. I agree to interview at a law firm. What should I expect to happen?
TW:
5:53
The first interview will be a screening interview. For partners, the first interview will often be somewhat casual, maybe in a restaurant, maybe even in a bar, and it should last between an hour and a half, maybe two hours, and there should be, tops, two or three representatives of the law firm who participate and meet with the candidate. For associates, it's usually in the office, and there may be a whole roster of lawyers and sometimes even staff people who will participate. The general idea is for the candidate and the representatives of the hiring law firm to get to know each other and to decide whether they would like to work with each other. That's the first step.
DC:
6:37
Okay. What's next?
TW:
6:38
If both the candidate and the hiring firm are on the same page, the law firm will invite the candidate back for another round of interviews. This will involve more people, and there'll be a more detailed look at what the candidate does and what the candidate can do at that law firm.
DC:
6:55
How many meetings can one expect, and how long will the process be?
TW:
7:00
David, that's the most open-ended question you could possibly ask. The process for an associate should move relatively quickly. There's no reason why it cannot be done in two or three meetings over the course of a month. Partner deals are different. They're more akin to a merger, and in fact, if you look at them corporate-wise they are a merger. Each one has its own rhythm. The fastest partner placement I ever worked on was done in three weeks from the first handshake. I've also worked on deals that have taken eight years! It just depends. Whether we're talking about an associate or a partner, my advice is to understand that law firms are often large, unwieldy organizations that have various and sometimes competing centers of management. Sometimes it takes a while to get everyone on board with a new hire. This is especially so in a general practice firm where people in other offices might not even really know what you do, but they have a role and a say in deciding whether or not you become a partner or become an associate. Therefore, remember that your narrative is paramount, David. It will be the key deciding factor. The question is whether a move to that firm will help you serve your clients better or whether it will be a better place for you to develop a practice in the long term. And it's also important to remember that law firms do not hire lawyers for the heck of it. They hire lawyers to better serve their own clients and to expand their business with potential new clients. These are specific concerns, and they should always be front and center in your thinking and in your conversations with representatives of the law firms you speak with. So make sure that the people you meet understand how you will do these things for them. Help them make a case internally for hiring you. And one last piece of advice. You know what it is?
DC:
9:05
No.
TW:
9:07
Don't take out your teeth in a lunch meeting.
DC:
9:11
What are you talking about, Tom?
TW:
9:11
Yes. I once arranged a dinner interview at one of New York's finest restaurants, in which a partner representing one of the law firms I've worked with removed his dentures at the table and placed them in a glass of water.
DC:
9:27
You've got to be kidding, Tom!
TW:
9:29
Well, it was the candidate, and the candidate told me that she thought that the teeth were smiling at her. Let's just say she decided not to go to that law firm.
DC:
9:39
Well in our next podcast in this series, "Navigating Your Career in Health Law with Thomas Wronski," we will explore assessing offers and transitioning to the new firm. Please plan to tune in. That was Thomas Wronski of Thomas Wronski and Associates, a legal search consulting firm that specializes in working with health care and life sciences lawyers and placing them at law firms. I am David Cade, Executive Vice President and CEO of the American Health Lawyers Association. Thank you for tuning in.
×

Listen to this podcast on