Epstein Becker & Green PC - The Inside View

Passionate about healthcare and labor law, Epstein seeks like-minded, entrepreneurial associates "with a practical or educational background related to the industry."

KEEP reading if you're interested in going into labor. Labor law, that is, not medical labor. Speaking of medicine, if healthcare law is something that sets your pulse racing, then you should also read on. These two practices form the specialized heart of Epstein's work – and a quick glance at Chambers USA diagnoses it as an adroit performer in both labor & employment and healthcare. “My background screamed healthcare,” declared an interviewee, highlighting industry experience as a common factor among fellow attorneys in the department. This isn't prescriptive though – such experience can take many forms: “There are people here who were nurses, or who have done policy work, or healthcare finance.” What's for sure, though, is that Epstein is a place for folk “who want to be able to specialize from day one.”

Although some labor & employment associates had studied the subject at undergrad level, sources told us that this isn't mandatory. Others might have work experience in, say, human resources. “You need to have a genuine interest in the topic, because the firm is so focused on its core practices.” So, if healthcare or labor & employment give you the heebie-jeebies, or you're just plain indifferent, then 'EeeBeeGee' probably isn't the firm for you.

The Work



First-year associates join the DC, New York or Newark office. In NYC, new recruits can be found in both core practices, though there tend to be a few more on the employment side. At the time of our calls, all the juniors in the capital were members of the healthcare department.

“I hear the word 'entrepreneurial' a lot." 

There's no assigning partner, so juniors must be prepared to go out and find work for themselves, although “they will try to line up a few projects in the beginning.” The system is "challenging,” we heard. “I hear the word 'entrepreneurial' a lot, and that's accurate. As a first or second-year you're under pressure to try and build relationships with partners and not promise them more work than you can bill. It takes time to develop.” While some thought that “it'd be nice to have a centralized system for a more even distribution of work,” others insisted that “it's great to have the freedom to touch on different areas and reach out to certain partners.”

Within the realm of healthcare law, juniors start out as generalists and appreciated the “opportunity to dabble” in a range of areas. “I've been here a year and the work categories have been all over the place!” exclaimed one, while another explained: “I focus mostly on transactional and regulatory matters. On the transactional side we represent a lot of private equity companies investing in healthcare companies, and that means a lot of due diligence. For someone who's junior, it's great to be able to dig into the heart of these companies, and see how they're structured and how they're trying to comply with the law.”

Other areas tackled by new recruits include government investigations, along with fraud and abuse matters (to determine whether “healthcare systems like hospitals are setting up inappropriate financial arrangements with physicians or submitting false claims.”) One noted that “litigation isn't a big area for the firm, but there is a growing antitrust practice.” Day-to-day tasks range from “simple things, like putting together binders of materials,” to “more complicated stuff like legal research and drafting memos and court filings.” There's plenty to keep associates on their toes, as one exhilarated associate proclaimed: “The great thing about practicing health law at EBG is that the field is always changing. You're constantly having to learn and figure out how the client, and you personally, can adapt to changes in order to stay compliant.”

"Specialization happens over time.”

Employment juniors also “start out as generalists, and then specialization happens over time.” The department represents the management side of many big Fortune 500-esque companies across a range of industries including financial services, healthcare and telecom. Our sources had worked on discrimination cases relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as wage and hour matters. “I'm impressed with the amount of experience I've had within a short amount of time,” said a junior. “I've been doing things that I expected to do in the fifth year of practice.” Typical tasks include drafting mediation statements, subpoenas and memos, as well as research. “I'm writing a motion this afternoon for an arbitration,” reported one contentedly.

Training & Development



“Health law is always changing..." 

Rookies cover the basics like the email system and billing in their first few days. Then there are "a number of lunchtime lectures as part of the ‘EBG Academy’, which starts in the summer, but not a whole lot of formal training.” However, “health law is always changing so there are lots of webinars to participate in.” Also, fledgling healthcare lawyers are sent off to the annual American Health Lawyers Association conference.

Some thought that a more substantial range of trainings "might be helpful but difficult to implement, because every partner has a different style: partner A likes it this way, partner B likes it another way." Others pointed out that "you just have to learn organically," while certain interviewees thought that “training is definitely a weak point for the firm. It would be nice to feel like there’s more support.” However, we did hear that the firm has recently put a more formal training program in place.

What about feedback? "It's an entrepreneurial culture here and it's incumbent on junior associates to reach out and solicit it, outside of the formal review," commented one. Another suggested that "the level of informal feedback that you get day to day really depends on the partner. At any law firm, time is a valuable commodity and it's tough for people to be proactive about this, but partners tend to be responsive if you ask them directly."

Offices



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. Those in the capital and the Big Apple referred to their offices as “a little dated in terms of décor, but comfortable.” Those in DC mentioned that a refurb or move is in the pipeline.

Hours & Compensation



We heard mixed reports about the hours. Some were cavalier about the 1,950 billing target: “I’m someone who’s definitely going to hit the hours,” one assured us. “It’s very reasonable. You have to be active in seeking out work, rather than expecting it to turn up at your door.” However, for others in DC's healthcare department, racking up this amount “is a big concern, especially for juniors. There are times when it’s very busy, but a lot of other times it’s not busy at all and there’s still the pressure to meet that target. It doesn’t feel realistic given the flow and volume of work. So it’s very challenging.” One summarized: “You don’t have control over it – as a junior I can send emails and reach out, but I can’t go out and get a client.” In terms of work/life balance, “I’m either swamped or have nothing to do. It’s difficult to enjoy the free time, because I feel uncomfortable with the fact I’m not busy.”

"Clients tend to be more cost-conscious and eyeball the bill."

Interviewees suggested that “there isn’t as steady a supply as there used to be of large projects on which juniors would traditionally build up their hours doing doc review. Now, clients tend to be more cost-conscious and eyeball the bill, so it’s hard to justify putting 20 attorneys on a project when ten could do it, to keep the budget under control.” One thought that “the problem could be fixed with a more coordinated system of work assignment. I don’t think it’s coming down the ranks.”

Apparently the firm’s management is aware of this issue: “Several juniors have raised the problem at an associate committee meeting, but I’m not sure how quickly the firm will figure out what to do about it.” Meanwhile, healthcare associates in New York didn’t seem bothered by this problem. “There’s a broader scope of work to tap into, so while I do have slower months I’m not worried about hours.”

Epstein’s salary falls below the market rate. Again, sources had mixed opinions. “For me, the exposure to clients, the amount of responsibility and the type of work we do means more to me than an extra $30,000,” declared one, while another mused that “there’s more work/life balance here, so that’s the pay-off.” Others were less content: “There’s pressure to work very hard and perform at a high level, so it would be appropriate to be paid in line with the market.” Interviewees weren’t sure about how the bonus system works (“it’s a bit murky”). This is because discretionary factors other than hours are taken into consideration, like 'firm citizenship'.

Culture



"It’s great to be surrounded by very smart colleagues who have a deep interest in health law." 

It’s very congenial here,” emphasized associates. “People are calm and I genuinely enjoy working with them. Day-to-day life is pleasant and it’s great to be surrounded by very smart colleagues who have a deep interest in health law.” However, “some of the institutional issues, like workflow, mean that morale is affected. It’s an added stress.”

This isn’t a firm with a packed after-hours social calendar. “It tends to be more family-oriented. Lots of people commute and have families they want to get back to, but there are some junior associates who make an effort to go out after work every once in a while.” That said, “lots of associates go for lunch and coffee together during the day.” In addition to a big holiday bash, the firm organizes “a handful of happy hours" and monthly birthday celebrations.

Pro Bono



“Pro bono is encouraged, but it can be difficult to juggle it with billable work,” remarked an associate, while another highlighted that “it’s not a huge priority because pro bono hours don’t count until you meet the billable target. The firm would demonstrate more commitment if they counted it before that.” However, there is a pro bono committee and a “dedicated member of staff who tracks opportunities.” Those that had taken on pro bono matters had tackled disability and landlord-tenant cases, as well as healthcare issues.

Pro bono hours 

  • For all attorneys: 5,000
  • Average per attorney: 20

Diversity



When it comes to diversity, interviewees agreed that “the firm is making efforts. When I look at the juniors coming in, I see a diverse crowd that includes women and ethnic minority attorneys, rather than just white men.” A source in the Big Apple remarked happily that “we have a lot of female partners, which is rare for a New York firm.” A women’s initiative puts on regular events (“We recently held a comedy social and a fundraising event for a nonprofit organization”) and there’s a pipeline scheme for minority 1Ls.

Get Hired



"A practical or educational background related to the industry." 

“We recruit people in a practice-specific way,” says Amy Simmons, director of legal recruitment and professional development. “For healthcare we look for someone with a practical or educational background related to the industry, and we do the same for labor.”

Besides this, what sort of personal qualities does the firm value? “Associates have to be self-starters. We're not a firm to tuck juniors away doing research for their first three years, so from the beginning they'll be staffed on real projects with client interaction. We need people who are comfortable giving their opinion. From an early point they get a lot of responsibility. If that doesn't appeal, then they're not a good fit.” Associates added that “they look for someone who's a nice person to be around. Everyone spends so much time at work, so they want to keep up the collegial atmosphere and open culture.” 

Strategy & Future



"Exciting opportunities for associates."

Concentrating on the two core practice areas continues to be the Epstein ethos. “We place emphasis on our brands in the healthcare industry and in labor & employment,” chairman Mark Lutes tells us. “Over the past year we've had conversations with many laterals across the country and have achieved a great deal of success in identifying those who realize that in a hyper-competitive legal market they need to develop their careers at a place with a strong brand in their specialty.” Looking to the future, Lutes predicts that the firm will probably expand its national presence and set up shop “in another city or two.” However, “we're not interested in growth for growth's sake. We only seek out additional opportunities that suit our specialties, where there's a hot healthcare or employment market.” Not that healthcare isn't busy to begin with. Lutes confirms that the Affordable Care Act is still making waves in the industry: “It's going to have reverberations for years to come, with new sets of regulations reforming the way healthcare services are purchased and physicians are compensated by Medicare. All these economic and legal changes are creating exciting opportunities for associates.”


The Affordable Care Act



On March 23, 2010 President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which was later upheld by the Supreme Court on on June 28, 2012. Dubbed ObamaCare, it represents the most significant regulatory overhaul of the US healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. It was enacted with the goal of giving more Americans access to affordable, quality health insurance, and to reduce the growth in healthcare spending in the USA. It expands the affordability, quality and availability of private and public health insurance through consumer protections, regulations, subsidies, taxes, insurance exchanges and other reforms.

Below you can see the key features of its first four years in operation:

  • 2010: A new Patient's Bill of Rights comes into effect, protecting consumers from the worst abuses of the insurance industry. Cost-free preventive services begin for many Americans.
  • 2011: People with Medicare can get key preventive services for free, and also receive a 50% discount on brand-name drugs in the Medicare 'donut hole'.
  • 2012: Accountable Care Organizations and other programs help doctors and healthcare providers work together to deliver better care.
  • 2013: Open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace begins on October 1st.
  • 2014: All Americans have access to affordable health insurance options. The Marketplace allows individuals and small businesses to compare health plans on a level playing field, while middle and low-income families get tax credits that cover a significant portion of the cost of coverage. The Medicaid program expanded to cover more low-income Americans.

Provisions of the Act will continue to be rolled out until 2020, but its impact is already being positively felt. "It’s our belief that the three most important measures are affordability, access, and quality," according to US Department of Health and Human Services secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. "When you consider the law through this lens, the evidence points to a clear conclusion: The Affordable Care Act is working – and families, businesses, and taxpayers are better off as a result."

As of May 2014, approximately 20 million Americans had gained health insurance coverage under the ACA, and the percentage of uninsured Americans dropped from 18% in 2013 to 13.4%. Meanwhile, millions of seniors are saving billions of dollars on their prescription drugs as the donut hole is phased out. More than 8.2 million seniors have saved more than $11.5 billion since 2010.

Mark Lutes, chair



Chambers Associate: What have been the major highlights for the firm over the past 12 months?

Mark Lutes: We're moving very quickly on a lot of things. We have consistently placed emphasis on our brands in the healthcare industry and in labor and employment. We've had conversations with many laterals across the country and have achieved a great deal of success in identifying laterals who realise that in the hyper-competitive legal market they need to develop careers at a place with a strong brand in their speciality. Young healthcare lawyers are now seeing increased competition from in-house counsel. For employment lawyers, they might have an unfocused practice and want to come to a firm where they can create a strong brand in their labor specialty and have access to a client base with national reach. They are very excited about the focus of our platform and understand how career-enhancing it is. So we've been on-boarding a couple dozen individuals who all have some variety of that story to tell. When they've gotten here it works really well.

CA: Is the Affordable Care Act still making healthcare a very busy area?

ML: It certainly is! The changes that the ACA created or set in motion are going to have reverberations for years to come and there continues to be an industry response to the ACA. There are large numbers of hospital consolidations or joint ventures to deal with. CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) requirements mean that their services must now be consistent with quality indicators and financial goals that they didn't have to adhere to previously. That trend gets aggravated every couple of months by new sets of regulations that seek to reform the way healthcare services are purchased in the country. Subsequent legislation is changing the way physicians are compensated by Medicare, and we're going to have changes to the delivery system.

All these economic and legal changes in healthcare are driving legal work for us and creating exciting opportunities for associates. Particularly in our culture, which is one of thought-leadership. We've been using it for decades, and we inculcate that mantra with all our lawyers and other staff. We find that lawyers operating in industries that are in flux have many opportunities to grab onto new emerging issues and become national thought-leaders in those issues at an early stage in their career. We provide support to them so they can follow through. For instance we've got some remarkable stories of lawyers early in their career in both practices, like a second year lawyer in labor, who's been thinking about accommodation issues related to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and received 30 plus press mentions. As a second year! You're not going to find too many operations that identify opportunities like that for early career professionals and give them the means to gain market recognition.

CA: What's the firm's strategy for the future? Any office openings in the pipeline? Where will the firm be in two or three years?

ML: We'll be continuing to focus on our core brands and we'll probably be in another city or two. We're not interested in growth for growth's sake. We only seek out additional opportunities that suit our specialties, where there's a hot healthcare or labor and employment market. We will be identifying strong healthcare lawyers to take advantage of that and areas where there are employers who need the local reach that we can provide. For example, we identified Princeton as a place we wanted to be. The important part of it is that it's not geographical expansion for the sake of it – we look at places where there's a burgeoning client community in our core specialities.

CA: What advice would you have for a law student thinking of joining the firm?

ML: We'd like to hear from law students who have a prior professional experience in, or a strong proclivity for, one of our specialities. We have a very specialized sourcing, if you will, of law students, and we identify those who can immediately provide important insights to our clients. When we find those folks it turns out to be a great match. Most recently we recruited nine summers based largely on their prior experience and we received nine acceptances for all nine offers that we made. Where there are law students who know where they want to be professionally, within one of our specialities, it's a match made in heaven. This is not a place for a student to 'find' himself or herself, but for those who can come to the table knowing that they want to be employment lawyer or work in the healthcare industry with hospital systems, pharma companies or device manufacturers. We're also attractive to those veterans of those industries who have policy and some operational experience because we operate an affiliate consultancy and they have the opportunity to work on those projects as well.

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: 12
  • Number of partners (US): 121
  • Number of associates (US): 95
  • Summer Salary for 2016 
  • 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 2016: 9
  • Offers/acceptances 2015: 9 offers, 9 acceptances

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 2016:
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.