Epstein Becker & Green PC - The Inside View

We'd prescribe a healthy dose of Epstein Becker & Green if healthcare or labor law gets your pulse racing.

EPSTEIN knows what it wants: healthcare and labor law are front of mind at this specialist, mostly East Coast-based firm. “Focused excellence” is its tagline, and keeping an eye on the dual prize has paid off: Chambers USA consistently awards a flurry of rankings to Epstein's two core practice areas in New York, New Jersey, DC, and nationwide.

Being focused is an attitude the firm also seeks out when choosing its incoming associates: “I only went to law school to do healthcare law!” one successful applicant told us. Industry experience of some kind is pretty much guaranteed among Epstein's attorneys, and even the few who come straight through from law school will have taken healthcare or labor modules while studying. “We really look for people who can prove they're absolutely interested in one of those two areas,” a junior with hiring experience stressed to us. “This isn't a firm where you rotate through departments during the summer.”

Strategy & Future



Epstein's not veering from its successful tried and tested dedication to healthcare and employment/labor law. “In healthcare, we continue to have very strong demand from private equity clients that are making investments in healthcare entities,” chairman Mark Lutes tells us, also citing government investigations and information security as other current key drivers. Data protection is also prevalent on the employment/labor side. “Employee data and security risk management is at the top of the agenda for many employers,” Lutes explains, also noting that an increase in “class action litigation is keeping the employment and labor group pretty busy.”

The Work



Most first-year associates join the Washington, DC or New York office while a handful are absorbed into Newark. At the time of our calls around three quarters of Epstein's Big Apple juniors were in the employment practice, with the remainder divided between healthcare and litigation. DC predominantly recruits into healthcare.

“You have a lot more control over your experience.”

Departments may line up a couple of matters to get newbies off the starting blocks but ultimately it's up to juniors to hunt down work. Sources reckoned the procedure's not too painful once you're over the initial discomfort: “It does require effort to go out and drum up work and that can be stressful,” one associate admitted. “But once you're accustomed to it you have a lot more control over your experience and that's a big plus.”

Healthcare rookies operate on anything from M&A to government investigations, regulatory advice or data protection issues. Epstein often partners with other law firms to provide advice on healthcare specific issues of large M&A transactions but it also handles plenty of takeover deals on its own, often for private equity clients investing in “pharmacies, hospitals, physicians' practice, drug or medical device manufacturers,” one deal-doer listed. Associates take the lead on due diligence, reviewing existing contracts and facilitating the transfer of licenses.Overseeing diligence also falls to associates tackling large regulatory matters. This area tends to be research-heavy, though we heard of sources on smaller projects “taking charge of cases from beginning to end; I draft memos as I see fit but a partner may suggest revisions to ensure it fits the client's bill.”

“A significant amount of client interaction.”

Epstein's DC office specializes in advising clients on government investigations into fraud and abuse, such as false billing or issues arising under anti-kickback legislation (which bans the offer of rewards for healthcare referrals). Rookies frequently respond to government subpoenas for the production of information, but matters also afford “a significant amount of client interaction; I often conduct onsite visits to interview clients for additional information.”

Healthcare frequently bleeds into the firm's employment and labor practice; the industry, along with financial services, hospitality, retail and technology, makes up the bulk of the firm's sector focus in this area. Newbies begin life as generalists, sampling both labor and employment work. Associates have seen an uptick in traditional labor relations matters in recent years thanks to the Obama administration's encouragement of unionization. Associates could find themselves gainfully employed on union election, unfair labor practices or labor relations advice matters. On the employment side our sources had toiled away on single and class action discrimination suits, wage and hour cases, trade secret violations, and whistleblowing claims. Matters tend to be staffed by one partner and one associate, so juniors are often in the thick of it: “I've had the opportunity to interact with opposing counsel, attend hearings and second-chair depositions. Partners review my first drafts of complaints and pleadings, but in several cases I've almost entirely produced the documents we've filed.”

Culture & Training 



“Success at the firm is dependent on associates charting their own path,” one source stressed. “There's not much hand-holding so you have to be ambitious and entrepreneurial.” Take training for example: rookies cover the basics like the email system and billing in their first few days. The “biggest chunk of training” comes in the form of the summer program's 'EBG Academy'  but juniors are invited along all the same. The firm also subscribes to various webinars and fledgling healthcare lawyers are sent off to the annual American Health Lawyers Association conference.  Beyond that, “healthcare changes so much that formal training sessions can be outdated. We pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of the area, so a lot of the time you're discussing issues with a partner and learning as you go,” one interviewee explained. “You're expected to do a lot of self-learning and associates who are ambitious in that way get better and more challenging work assignments.” Another added: “Most senior attorneys are invested in teaching you and providing feedback on your work, but it's up to you to speak out and ask for it.” Juniors didn't feel there was too much of a hurdle to overcome in doing this, telling us “interactions between partners and associates are not pompous. I'm never concerned about knocking on an unfamiliar partner's door and saying 'hey, I know you're an expert on this, can you teach me the background?'”

“A lot of self-learning.”

Epstein recently advised iExhale on the launch of a happiness and mental health app, but how well does it help the well-being of its own attorneys? One source conceded: “There are times when everyone is busy, and when deadlines are approaching the tension can get high, but generally it's very calm.” Others credited a lack of suit-wearing with creating a “non-stuffy” and “low key atmosphere.” Although Newark associates believed their office is “a little more laid back than New York,” the general consensus – whatever the location – was that “people are friendly with one another. Associates rely on everyone else to give us work so there's no reason to be burning bridges.” Another highlighted that “although there's a lot of work to be done, no one looks in at my door to see when I'm coming or going. It's very production-based; the real stuff matters, not nonsense” like face time.

Hours & Compensation



Epstein's salary falls below the market rate and varies by practice and location. Although all our sources admitted to craving a pay rise, they had mixed feelings about their take home pay. “We're targeting a cost-sensitive market which determines our billing rate,” one rationalized. Others were less pleased: “It's the one area that has room for improvement. I'm willing to take a pay cut for the quality of life, but within reason.”

“We're targeting a cost-sensitive market.”

We also heard a few gripes about the bonus, which juniors become eligible for once they've billed 1,950 hours. “It's difficult to comprehend how it works,” one grumbled. “It's a very murky issue but it's so below market it's not even worth fighting about.” Others took a more sanguine view: “It reflects the lower rates for the markets we work in but I don't think I've been treated unfairly.” Nearly everyone felt the 1,950 bonus target was achievable; to reach it, interviewees reported pulling ten hour days at the office plus a few additional hours from home each week.

Offices



Associates in the Big Apple might prefer home comforts as their office looks “1980s frumpy!” But on the plus side “it has nice large offices and almost every attorney gets their own. It's not very modern or chic but neither am I.” Excited juniors in the capital are about to see their office undergo “a full tear down” refurb, which will introduce lots of glass and a new cafeteria, among other things. The DC, New York and Newark offices take on juniors, but Epstein has plenty more places in its national network: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Houston, LA, Princeton, San Diego, San Francisco and Stamford.

Pro Bono



Associates can bill up to 100 hours of pro bono once they've met the 1,950 billable requirement.  Several told us the policy meant they'd personally put pro bono on the back-burner but others hadn't let it stop them. A pro bono committee keeps juniors informed of any opportunities, though one source recommended “being a self-starter to find what you want.” New Yorkers had seen plenty of work advising nonprofits and startups, while the DC office “tends to handle a lot of social security disability cases” as the hearing office is in the same building.

Pro bono hours

  • For all attorneys: 5,500
  • Average per attorney: 21

Diversity



Associates repeatedly highlighted the high proportion of female partners at Epstein; at 28% it's higher than the typical BigLaw average of around 20%. “I applied here because it stood out as a good place for women,” shared one junior. “I've found it's very supportive.” A women's initiative regularly hosts cross-industry events which provide “a great networking opportunity; anyone can invite clients or female big players along.” Associates told us Epstein's “not particularly ethnically diverse but it is an inclusive environment” and there’s a pipeline scheme for minority 1Ls.

Get Hired – Tips from associates and recruiters



A demonstrated interest in healthcare and labor is crucial for nabbing a spot at Epstein. Perusing the firm's website we found labor and employment juniors who'd interned for the New York State Department of Labor, clerked for public sector labor unions and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers, volunteered with a labor association and held a previous career in HR. On the healthcare side there's a former Medicare Rights Center worker, a junior who interned at a global pharmaceutical company, an ex-clerk for a health services legal department and even a former paramedic.

Don't panic if you've not got dedicated industry experience as we found a couple of juniors without it who'd instead studied the relevant modules at law school. If this sounds more like your resume, associates advised us the key thing to demonstrate is your interest in the firm's core areas through what you've done “both in and out of law school.” One associate with recruitment experience explained: “People stand out if they've shown an interest by seeking out internships or classes related to the work we do.”

An 'interest' isn't enough to get you through the doors though: “When I'm interviewing I look for people who can talk about some sort of legal experience on a meaningful level,” one source told us. “If someone can chat about an interesting issue, demonstrate they understand it and intelligently follow up on a question” then it's a thumbs up from that associate interviewer. “People need to express their thoughts and ideas in a clear and understandable way,” chipped in another source.

Personality-wise, while associates were keen to stress the importance of entrepreneurial behavior at the firm, Epstein's not looking for go-getters who are likely to stomp on their colleagues in the rush to get head. “We value a friendly environment, not overly competitive people,” emphasized one associate.

We speak with chair Mark Lutes about what's driving Epstein forward



Chambers Associate: What’s driving your healthcare practice at the moment?

Mark Lutes:In healthcare, we continue to have very strong demand from private equity clients that are making investments in healthcare entities. It’s a very active market, with billions of dollars’ worth of transactions that are taking place in an environment that is highly regulated and subject to reimbursement changes. We’re also representing a number of healthcare providers in responding to “realtor” or government-led investigations in which there has been concern that the Medicare program is overpaying in areas where services are not well documented.

In addition, the government has changed the way it purchases its services from healthcare providers to provide bonuses or penalize in a manner that incentivizes efficiency and quality. There’s now stress on hospitals and physicians groups to demonstrate that they’re taking steps to ensure both of these elements before they receive payment, and many are now consolidating into larger groups or organizations in order to meet payment and quality goals.

There’s also a heightened awareness across the economy around information security, and it’s particularly acute in the healthcare sector. Healthcare providers and payers are required, by law, to develop strong information security systems and risk management programs and to report to, and deal with, the government if they experience an IT security breach. Breaches can occur through a hacker in the Ukraine or China or in a more pedestrian fashion there’s a lot of IT incident activity that needs to be investigated and evaluated for potential reporting.

CA: And on the employment/labor side?

ML: Employee data and security risk management is at the top of the agenda for many employers. Healthcare systems are usually the largest employers in an average-sized city, employing up to 10,000 people; when there’s traditional labor organizing among those people, our attorneys are active in labor negotiations from the management perspective. Class action litigation is keeping the employment and labor group pretty busy; they’re seeing a lot of class action suits centering around questions on accurate employee classification.

CA: What’s been happening at the firm since we last spoke?

ML: It’s been over a year since we assimilated a large healthcare group from a regional firm in New Jersey, and the integration has gone very well. We always want the lateral hiring of attorneys to be synergistic –  they have to be able to do things on our platform that they couldn’t have done on their own. New market opportunities have opened up for the group and it has worked out beyond anybody’s expectations. Before joining us, these lawyers served national clients doing work in the New York metropolitan area but were unable to serve them more broadly; now, they’re doing work across the country for those same clients. We’re thrilled that this group has worked out so well.

We’ve had a nice run with EBG Advisors, our consulting affiliate through which we’re able to assist clients with strategic and regulatory issues and incorporate the talents and experience of quality system, program design, and other operational personnel in the solutions. EBG Advisors has also won some very exciting standalone engagements as a number of states turn to it for advice as they redesign their Medicaid programs and those serving dual eligibles. We’re really pleased with the amount and quality of work that EBG Advisors is doing.

CA: Associates stressed that Epstein is a place where it’s up to them to drive forward their development; do you agree with that assessment?

ML: I was speaking with a recruit last night about what all firms do in terms of formal education, and I told him that I don’t think that’s where you learn. Instead, I think you learn alongside a senior lawyer while solving a problem for a client, by sifting through options and watching how that thought process takes place. Our focus leads to clients posing some very interesting questions to us and giving us an opportunity to bring solutions. Our associates are quickly thrust into that maelstrom; those willing to take ownership get a great opportunity.

I often use the example of an associate who, as a second-year, helped me out on a matter concerning a fertility lab being franchised across the country by a sponsor. That associate had previously said to me, “I think I want to do X and Y instead.” And I had replied, “You can’t imagine what you want to do two years from now because what you’ll want to do is whatever exciting work comes through the door.” He’s now a specialist in fertility clinic law. The future is not something you can predict as a budding lawyer, butifyou put yourself in a position where you have the opportunity to jump on something and build expertise in it, it will be an engine for career growth.

Our goal is to put those young lawyers in a position where they get these opportunities and to support them as they develop their own expertise to service a client. It’s not a passive process, and it requires lawyers who are agile and have a positive attitude toward identifying legal and consulting market opportunities. If you’re not entrepreneurial in this regard, this may not be the right place for you.

Practicing law is not sitting in another classroom and having someone talk to you; rather, it requires identifying where there are opportunities for you to make a difference in the market. We ask every associate to provide us with a business plan because we’re not looking at them as producers of billable hours; we’re looking at them as developers and managers of client relationships. They’re not cogs in the wheel of a billable hour machine. If they commit themselves to understanding the businesses that our clients are in and develop a passion for the issues that clients face, we will help them find opportunities to build a professional reputation and client following.

Telehealth and telemedicine at Epstein



Forget the 1990s-sounding names: telehealth and telemedicine are more relevant than ever.  Once the preserve of isolated, remote communities, telehealth is rapidly expanding to wider markets thanks to  the rise of smartphones, tablets and laptops, and improvements in high resolution imaging. Getting a health assessment these days is as easy as googling your symptoms and descending into fully fledged panic as you convince yourself the ache in your lower back is going to result in a foot amputation. If you've ever wondered what this ridiculous, googling-induced anxiety is called by the way, it's cyberchondria.

But telehealth does far more than release the cyberchondriac in otherwise rational human beings- patients can now use the internet to book appointments, attend online consultations and access apps designed to promote health and well being or connect people with support services.

A report released in August 2016 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) advocated the benefits of telehealth “as a means of increasing access to care and improving health outcomes,” especially in remote rural areas where mortality rates are higher than in urban districts. It also highlighted “the potential for telehealth to reduce costs.” It's estimated that over 60% of healthcare institutions and 40% to 50% of all US hospitals currently use some form of telehealth to deliver services to patients, and with the backing of the HHS, tech companies, clinicians and private insurers, it's likely the provision of telehealth will continue to grow.

Most of the legal issues you'll find in the telehealth sphere are similar in scope to the those faced more broadly by healthcare providers but factor in additional digital considerations.  Around ten of Epstein's healthcare attorneys focus on telehealth and telemedicine, advising clients on things like licensing, data protection, industry and state regulatory and compliance issues, contract negotiations with telehealth providers and payers, and litigation on matters such as fraud and abuse.

The firm recently advised iExhale on regulatory and privacy issues concerning the launch of the iExhale app, which instantly hooks up users with therapists through in-app messaging or by phone. Other matters of late include assisting an insurer on regulatory issues surrounding telecare initiatives it's launching across the US, acting for a hospital to negotiate its agreement with various telehealth sites and advising a telehealth organization on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement and private insurance payments.

 

Epstein Becker & Green PC

1227 25th Street North West,
Suite 700,
Washington, DC,
20037-1156
Website www.ebglaw.com

250 Park Avenue,
New York,
NY 10177-1211

  • Head office: N/A
  • Number of domestic offices: 13
  • Number of partners (US): 127
  • Number of associates (US): 118
  • Summer Salary for 2017 
  • 1Ls: Varies by practice and location
  • 2Ls: Varies by practice and location
  • Post 3Ls: N/A
  • 1Ls hired? Yes, 2
  • Split summers offered? Case by case
  • Summers 2017: 10
  • Offers/acceptances 2016: 9 offers, 8 acceptances and one pursuing judicial clerkship

Main areas of work
Healthcare and life sciences; employment, labor and workforce management; and litigation and business disputes.

Firm profile
Epstein Becker & Green, PC, is a national law firm with a primary focus on healthcare and life sciences; employment, labor and workforce management; and litigation and business disputes. Founded in 1973 as an industry-focused firm, Epstein Becker Green has decades of experience serving clients in healthcare, financial services, retail, hospitality and technology, among other industries, representing entities from startups to Fortune 100 companies. Operating in offices throughout the US and supporting clients in the US and abroad, the firm’s attorneys are committed to uncompromising client service and legal excellence.

Recruitment details
• Number of 1st year associates: 9
• Number of 2nd year associates: 9
• Associate salaries: 1st year: Varies by practice and location
• 2nd year: Not lock step
• Clerking policy: Yes

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2017:
American University, Boston University, Columbia, Cornell Law School, Fordham, George Washington University, Harvard Law School, Loyola University – Chicago, New York University, Seton Hall University, St Louis University, University of Houston, University of Maryland, University of Virginia

Summer details

Summer associate profile:
We look for law students who have a demonstrated interest in health law or labor and employment law through education and/or experience. EBG’s summer associate positions are practice specific. Summer associate positions are either in the Healthcare and Life Sciences practice or in the Employment, Labor and Workforce Management practice. We prefer top one-third, law journal experience and strong writing skills.

Summer program components:
Training and development is an important goal of the summer program. Each summer associate is assigned an associate and a partner mentor to help guide them through the summer program experience. Summer associates are provided feedback throughout the summer – formally and informally. They have a midsummer review and an end-of-summer review. In addition, there is a series of educational sessions offered throughout the summer – typically two per week. Summer associates are given real assignments to work on so they have the opportunity to understand what it would be like to be a junior associate at EBG.