Working at Epstein is a labor of love for lovers of labor law, and a hearty home for those with a hankering for healthcare.
"AT the moment there is a lot of uncertainty about healthcare in politics in Washington DC," observed one Epstein associate. "And where there's lots of uncertainty, we see ourselves as here to help." Healthcare law is one of Epstein's twin focuses – the other is labor and employment. The firm has over 40 years of experience in these areas and uses a mantra of 'focused excellence' to promote its expertise. Chambers USA ranks Epstein for both health and labor law in New York and New Jersey, and for health law nationwide and in DC. Labor and healthcare each make up 40% of the firm's practice, with the remaining 20% being employee benefits and immigration.
"The reason clients come to us is that we think deeply about emerging problems in the healthcare market and in the workplace."
The associates we interviewed appreciated the exposure to interesting work provided by the firm's focus on the always-changing areas of health and labor law. "You often get the opportunity to work on matters that you’ll hear about on the news,” one told us. Firm chair Mark Lutes added: "We think the reason clients come to us is that we think deeply about emerging problems in the healthcare market and in the workplace." Those clients include Johns Hopkins Hospital and Bain Capital on the healthcare side and Honeywell, Home Depot and AXA Investment Managers in labor and employment.
Epstein has 14 offices across the US, though several of those only have a couple of lawyers. The most recent addition to the network is a Nashville office, which opened in 2017. New York, Washington DC and Newark are the three largest outposts and this is where the firm regularly recruits junior associates.
Strategy & Future
In recent years Epstein has been active advising clients on issues related to the Affordable Care Act, such as physician reimbursements, as well as on new developments like telehealth. In addition, the sector is experiencing a significant trends toward consolidation (ie mergers between healthcare providers), another area where Epstein lawyers are active.
As for the future, the firm says the election of President Trump provides its clients withboth opportunities and challenges. While the President is yet to enact his pledge to 'repeal and replace' the Affordable Care Act, Epstein is committed to guiding its clients through whatever bumps along the road that the political landscape throws up for the healthcare sector.
On the labor law side, issues around cybersecurity and artificial intelligence are keeping lawyers busy.
Most associates join the Washington DC or New York offices, with a handful going to Newark. Two-thirds of juniors join the health & life sciences practice and one-third the labor practice; DC only recruits healthcare juniors. Associates say you need to be a bit of a self-starter to rustle up work in the first few months. While some projects are lined up by departments, it’s mostly up to associates to build contacts and seek out opportunities within the firm. “Sometimes it’s hard to go out and find work as a first year,” one associate said, "but after six months I had built up enough relationships that others came to me with work." The upside is that “you get to shape your own workload and decide who you want to work with.” We also heard that new starters can turn to mentors and other staffing resources if they are having any trouble finding work.
Healthcare work is split between regulatory matters – for example, consulting on federal and state Medicare and Medicaid policies – and transactional work, where an influx of cash from private investors means there's plenty of deal work. Clients in DC range from “major hospital systems and household names to startup companies." The team has been kept busy lately by ongoing privacy and security issues like data breaches, and it's also been advising clients that are negotiating service contracts with national health insurance companies. Juniors said their work consists of “reviewing government documents, crafting responses, putting together schedules for agreements and answering questions on regulatory issues.” There's a public service ethos to being a healthcare lawyer, we were told, as clients are “constantly trying to figure out how to make the healthcare system more efficient and serve people better.”
"I’ve had the opportunity to work on motions in limine during federal cases.”
Juniors in the labor practice usually take a litigation or an advisory track. We heard of a couple of interviewees administering subpoenas and writing up documents like bonus certificates, memos and offer letters. A chunk of associates' time is taken up revising company policies, handbooks, training materials and payroll procedures. On litigious matters juniors prepare depositions and organize evidence. “I was drafting discovery documents and preparing exhibits," one source told us. "As the case progressed I was helping to sort through and draft letters and summary judgment motions.” During trials juniors prepare witness examinations and exhibit binders. “I’ve become very familiar with disparate impact analysis, and I’ve had the opportunity to work on motions in limine during federal cases,” a junior reported.
Bridging healthcare and labor at Epstein are the firm's employee benefits and immigration practices. Changes at the state and federal level under the Trump administration have meant that lawyers at Epstein have had to keep clients in the know about how they might be impacted by immigration changes. For example, workers in employment under DACA may no longer be protected from deportation under revised rules. Changes have also been proposed to the H-1B visa program, which allows employers to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations.
Culture & Training
“You have to be entrepreneurial to get ahead here,” associates agreed. “And staying on top of current trends is down to you as an associate.” Because of the firm’s relatively small size, “you can connect with everyone and contribute to the organization as a whole.” Such connections were encouraged by a three-day retreat in Philadelphia for associates in 2017. “It gave us the opportunity to meet people from other offices and we were told about things like strategy and recent developments within the firm,” a source said. Associates also get the chance to go to lunch with the firm chair annually for a one-on-one discussion about where the firm is headed.
“The majority of training happens when you’re on the job.”
Summer associates take part in the EBG Academy, which first years are also invited to attend and which “covers the basics of how to be a first-year associate.” There is introductory training for first-years covering drafting, billing and using paralegals and secretaries in the first couple of weeks, but “the majority of training happens when you’re on the job.” When it comes to assessment and appraisals, “every partner always gives feedback and there are also self-assessments, which help you grow and address issues.” For all juniors there’s a new shadowing program to help with training which means associates can attend trials even if their time isn't being billed to the client. “I was able to attend a trial that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise,” an interviewee said.
Hours & Compensation
Epstein’s salary falls below the market rate and varies between practice and location. While some associates felt that the current model for pay was “not sustainable in terms of retention,” others said: “Given the billable requirement I’m fine with it: it's a trade-off.” Associates we spoke to said that the 1,950-hour billing target is “totally achievable” and praised the “fantastic support and flexibility” of the firm when it came to working from home and visiting other offices. The average junior's working day lasts ten to 11 hours; for instance 9am to 8pm or 8am to 6pm. While there are "some long hours when there are deadlines," it's "always manageable" juniors agreed.
“Given the billable requirement I’m fine with it: it's a trade-off.”
Associates get four weeks' vacation, although most hadn’t taken that much during their first couple of years, and said that they still expected the odd phone call during their time off. As for the bonus target, insiders said: “I wish there was more transparency. I feel like the firm needs to work on incentivizing people so they’ll stay on at the firm.”
The DC office, just one block from Georgetown, was recently refurbished and is “really beautiful,” according to associates. While Epstein’s New York branch might not be as up to date, all associates get their own office and everybody was happy with the facilities across the DC, New York and Newark offices. A junior in Newark told us: “I can reserve an office in New York if I want to.” Others said that they had worked at the firms’ other locations too, including Boston. Epstein also has offices in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, LA, Nashville, Princeton, San Diego, San Francisco and Stamford.
Epstein’s policy on pro bono changed in 2017: up to 100 hours can now be counted toward associates’ billing target (hours spent on the firm's new shadowing program can also count toward this allowance). “There’s been a real enthusiasm and a push for pro bono lately, and most partners are really encouraging it,” said one junior. Another added: “I’ve worked on a couple of successful pro bono appeals and it’s been really rewarding to be able to make a difference.” Juniors may do pro bono related to the firm's specialties, like drafting an employment handbook for a small business or handling a social security disability discrimination claim.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 4,657
- Average per US attorney: 17.1
Epstein recently hired a new diversity manager to help with the firm's initiatives. Associates told us of an active women’s group, as well as a variety of events during Black History Month 2017. Others mentioned that they had been allowed to go to conferences on diversity issues in business. Juniors agreed: “There are a strong number of women who have made partner as well as a ton of female associates. It’s very encouraging to work with so many women.”
A proven commitment to Epstein’s two main focuses is a must for would-be applicants. "I would say that generally candidates need prior experience in healthcare or labor law," says director of legal recruitment Amy Simmons, “either from coursework or lived experience. We look for people who have demonstrated that they are passionate about healthcare and labor law.”
Many of the juniors at the firm at the time of our research had gained relevant work experience in the sectors that the firm is focused on. Examples included working for a healthcare consultancy, as an intern at a state Health and Human Services Office or as a paramedic on the healthcare side, and interning with a labor union, working in HR, or volunteering for a labor association on the labor law side. There are also juniors who do not have this kind of experience, and some had worked in previous positions not related to the firm's two core practices, for example as a corporate paralegal or judicial intern.
Having some kind of work experience definitely helps at this firm. “You’re expected to jump right into projects from the beginning, even as a summer associate,” says Amy Simmons. Associates noted that “collaboration is very important here so you need to be a team player” – teamwork is also a skill you are likely to have picked up through relevant work experience or in a past career. A final tip on getting hired? “Do a lot of research and make sure you’re up to date with what’s going on in the market,” a junior recommended.
OCI applicants interviewed: 355
Interviewees outside OCI: 909
Applicants invited to 2nd stage interview: 90
Notable summer events: Dinner at partner’s house, pro bono clinic, sports outings, happy hours, museum tours, concerts/plays.
Interview with firm chair Mark Lutes
Chambers Associate: What are the main factors affecting the firm's healthcare practice at the moment?
Mark Lutes: First, private equity investors – who we provide health regulatory advice to – are deploying more cash into healthcare because it’s a growing sector, partly because of the aging population. The government is going to spend more and more on Medicare and Medicaid in future: currently 18% of GDP is spent on healthcare and that’s expected to reach 20% soon. Private equity funds see that and recognize the opportunities provided by things like buying IT companies that handle cash management and population health management businesses. Private equity investors are also buying large physicians' practices and helping to set up new practices specializing in pediatrics, general medicine, radiology and orthopedics. There's an appetite among investors for anything in the healthcare sector that shows a strong bottom line and forecast for growth.
Second, there’s a continuing trend for consolidation of large hospital systems and we’ve been active in the transactions that characterize those.
The third factor affecting our work is the operation of health plans and health systems, especially when it comes to billing the government. When it comes to billing, there are always issues over whether services are medically necessary and whether they’ve been provided in accordance with the very detailed regulations and guidance on what the government’s willing to pay for. Individuals who allege that providers have acted non-compliantly can sue the providers on behalf of the government. There are large numbers of attorneys working in that area and they’re very interesting cases.
A fourth factor is the evolution of the healthcare system to incorporate monitoring and wearable devices, as well as the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare data. We represent the manufacturers of those devices when dealing with the FDA, and associates are helping to keep track of how new devices are used and paid for.
CA: What factors are affecting your labor and employment practice?
ML: Our employee benefits practice links together our healthcare and labor work and is an area of growth for us. Employers have a financial interest in providing health benefits more cost-effectively. Increasingly employers are asking to change the nature of their benefits packages to allow them to reward employees for making cost-effective choices in their care plans.
Another active area which bridges labor and healthcare is cybersecurity and privacy. We’ve all read about security breaches in the news in both the healthcare and labor areas – they are both favored targets for hackers. Our associates are heavily involved in responding to clients’ needs when a breach has occurred. We also help clients ensure they’re employing commercially reasonable administrative and technical safeguards. There’s been particular concern recently around the degree to which insiders could pose a risk to company data, so we’re advising companies on the labor law aspects of that issue.
Another thing impacting the legal landscape is the changing immigration picture. Employees bring a lot of talent from around the world, and President Trump recently issued executive orders which make changes to the H-1B visa program which forms the legal basis upon which workers immigrate. We have an immigration team that spends its time counseling employers as to how they can continue to recruit and retain global talent. Some of the most cutting-edge companies in the tech environment are particularly anxious to maintain access to that international talent.
An interesting development in the economy is the widespread use of independent contractors. One example is how Uber treats its drivers, but there are hundreds of companies using an alternative to having an employed workforce. There are a lot of questions about how this can be done while remaining compliant with the Fair Labor Standards Act, which can lead to litigation.
The question of equal pay also continues to be an issue, especially when it comes to gender discrimination.
Finally, artificial intelligence is having an effect on the workplace and HR functions. For example, some companies want to employ AI in their analysis of employee data. We spend a lot of time helping clients consider compliance issues that might arise from this data analysis. There are a lot of rules around discrimination, for example, that need to be thought about when you’re designing algorithms for AI. The law is pretty well developed when it comes to hiring individuals, so when applications are being sorted by a machine you have to make sure the machine doesn’t apply a bias.
CA: What do you think sets Epstein apart from other firms?
ML: We have a mantra of thought leadership. We think the reason clients come to us is that we think deeply about emerging problems in the healthcare market and in the workplace. We spend a lot of time making sure associates know that they need to be contributing to our thought leadership, for example when it comes to understanding the impact of new technologies. New associates have a powerful opportunity to play a role in the evolution of our products and services, and we supplement that by giving them business development training. We have been using tools like social media as part of our communication strategy to attract potential clients. Our various video series and YouTube series are illustrative of this, and we have encouraged associates to get involved in this.
Notable pro bono opportunities:
Attorneys are encouraged to participate in pro bono opportunities that are of interest to them. The firm does organize a variety of pro bono opportunities throughout the year including the intake of SSI/disability cases and school partnerships. There are also opportunities to support court-assigned cases in a variety of EBG offices.
Epstein Becker & Green PC
1227 25th Street North West,
250 Park Avenue,
- Head office: New York
- Number of domestic offices: 14
- Number of partners (US): 132
- Number of associates (US): 128
- Main recruiting contact: Amy Simmons, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hiring partner: Carrie Valiant
- Diversity officer: Carrie Valiant
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 9
- Clerking policy: No
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 1Ls: 2, 2Ls: 8, 3Ls: 0, SEO: 0
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: DC: 5, New York : 4, Newark: 1
- Summer salary 2018 1Ls: $1,850/week 2Ls: varies
- Split summers offered? considered on a case-by-case basis
Main areas of work
• Health Care & Life Sciences
• Litigation & Business Disputes
• American University
• Benjamin N. Cardozo
• Boston University
• Case Western Reserve University
• Fordham University
• George Washington University
• Loyola University Chicago
• New York University
• Seton Hall University
• St. Louis University
• University of Houston
• University of Maryland
• University of Virginia
Recruitment outside OCIs:
The firm also collects resumes from 25 law schools, participates in several career fairs, and receives over 500 resumes from law school candidates who apply directly with the firm.
Summer associate profile:
EBG looks for law students who have a demonstrated interest (through experience and/or education) in health law or in labor and employment law. EBG prefers students who are in the top third of their class and prefer law journal experience.
Summer program components:
EBG’s Summer Associate Program is designed to provide a comprehensive picture of practice at the firm as well as training in substantive areas of the firm’s core practices and is the primary source of new associates. Summer associates are assigned a broad range of projects that otherwise would be preformed by junior associates. They get the opportunity to work on client projects, pro bono projects, and client development projects.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Labor & Employment Recognised Practitioner
District of Columbia
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Healthcare (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
- Healthcare (Band 2)
- Immigration (Band 4)
- Labor & Employment (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Healthcare (Band 2)