Attorneys dealing with a given matter often find themselves wishing they had been there at the inception of the difficulty to head off trouble before it occurs.
In the complex field of health care, Polsinelli is doing more than merely wishing. The firm is forming a new entity that will act in a consulting role for those who want more than just legal services.
“There is nothing the consultants do that a lawyer couldn’t do, but it is not generally what clients engage lawyers to do,” said Jane E. Arnold, chair of the firm’s health care alignment and organization practice.
“Legal work is more often a function of solving problems as opposed to scanning the horizon and looking for solutions,” she said. “This is more about looking for solutions to enhance business opportunities and avoid issues that could give rise to problems in the future.”
The firm’s new addition, Polsinelli Healthcare Solutions, aims to be all about solutions. Launched in spring 2019, PHS will draw on Polsinelli’s deep expertise to provide ways to seize opportunities and expand markets. It also aims to put in place processes that will keep clients out of thorny territory on complex issues such as HIPAA security, FDA approvals, pharmacy operations or 340B compliance.
“Our experience as a law firm is that there are a number of us who have consulting backgrounds or who have developed such a deep expertise in the underlying area where we give advice in the context of controversy or problems. We have found that our clients appreciate it, and we enjoy working with the clients on the front end of issues to establish programs, policies, procedures [and] systematic approaches that avoid problems,” Arnold said.
“Because we already have a very solid relationship with the client[s] and we’ve helped them out of some rough spots, they are receptive to our advice, and it is so much more mutually satisfying to avoid problems than to solve them,” she added.
Polsinelli also is looking at similar ideas for other potential consultancies.
“There may be other areas that emerge over time, but health care has been the first to really take off,” she said.
Arnold said this kind of work represents a growing trend, but Polsinelli still can be considered a pioneer in the area.
“It is an unusual thing for a Midwestern law firm to do, but we have seen other law firms that have established effective consulting businesses that are synergistic or complimentary to the health law practice that traditional lawyers provide — areas where consultancy is particularly obvious, where we often have to work with consultants,” she said. “It is really about bringing our industry expertise to bear for the benefit of the client.”
It also may involve working with different areas of a given client’s business or operations.
“That’s another element of the distinction between consultancy and legal,” she said. “Consultants are often engaged by finance or other operational personnel within an organization, whereas legal is engaged by legal.”
In any event, it represents Polsinelli’s ability to use its vast experience with a wide client base to see trends from a higher vantage point that can provide operational insight to its clients.
“Because we’ve concentrated so hard over the past decade on the growth of our health care legal practice area, it seems like a natural extension of that focus development, but it is, in fact, pretty darned creative,” Arnold said.
“Lawyers are good at looking around corners to see risk. This is a celebration of our lawyers’ ability to look around corners and see opportunity,” she added. “We’re proud of our ability to pivot and view circumstances through multiple lenses.”