Pepper Hamilton
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Pepper Hamilton has announced the creation of a health sciences department, bringing together more than 110 attorneys from its health effects litigation, health care, life sciences, intellectual property and white-collar/government investigations practices with the goal of better serving its clients in the health sciences industry.

The department will be chaired by partner Nina Gussack, a key rainmaker in the firm’s health effects litigation group.

While many a law firm in recent years has paid lip service to the notion of reorganizing into industry-focused groups rather than practice-focused groups, Gussack said the health sciences department is not merely a marketing effort.

“It is not a constellation of practice groups renaming itself and moving lawyers from right to left. It is a very significant taking down of walls,” she said, explaining that the goal was to eliminate the “silos” created by separate practice groups and instead form an interdisciplinary team of attorneys whose goal is to develop a deep knowledge of the health sciences industry and the “integrated, complex” business challenges faced by clients in that industry.

According to Gussack, a health effects litigator for 38 years who has served as the firm’s chief client ambassador over the past year, clients are pushing for “lawyers to provide value that doesn’t necessarily show up on the bill”—trusted advisers who function more like an extension of the in-house legal department and less like an outside contractor.

To do that effectively, Gussack said, firms need “permeable membranes” between lawyers in various practices to allow for the free flow of information.

“Clients don’t think in terms of practice groups,” Gussack said, explaining that what clients really want is outside counsel who understands that, for example, an intellectual property issue is never just an intellectual property issue—it has implications and ramifications across their business.

The health sciences department “is an effort to say to clients, ‘We see and understand your problems at a far more granular level,’” she said, adding, “We are client-centric and we will answer questions through the eyes of our clients, as if we were sitting in the client’s office.”

Gussack said that with a new presidential administration in place, health sciences clients will likely need plenty of advice. Though, in that regard, the timing of the department’s unveiling is more fortuitous than strategic.

“I, personally, did not predict this administration,” Gussack said, noting that the department has been in the works for a year. “But there is no question that the current political environment affects the health sciences industry at every level,” from the pricing pressure pharmaceutical companies are feeling to the fact that decreased federal regulatory oversight may mean state attorneys general will increase their vigilance.

Gussack described the new team as “the first department at Pepper that has no practice groups” and is instead led by a steering committee made up of commercial, intellectual property and litigation partners.

But she was also quick to note that the firm is by no means abandoning its clients and practice areas outside the health sciences industry. For instance, there will still be a white-collar/government investigations practice group that services clients in the financial sector and other industries, but some of the attorneys from that group will also be members of the health sciences department. Meanwhile, being a part of the health sciences department does not preclude an attorney from serving clients outside the health sciences industry, Gussack explained.

The announcement of the new department comes a little less than a year after the firm’s merger discussions with Reed Smith abruptly ended. While sources said Gussack was a major supporter of those talks because her practice would benefit from an international platform, she said Wednesday that the health sciences department was not formed in response to the scuttled merger.

“This all preceded Reed Smith,” she said, noting that while she has “great regard for Reed Smith’s industry focus,” the structure of the health sciences department does not mirror that of Reed Smith’s industry groups.

“This was always intended to be a real, dramatic change in eliminating practice groups,” Gussack said.

The announcement also comes after Pepper Hamilton posted a 10.6 percent decline in revenue for 2016, to $347.5 million, and a 28.8 percent drop in profits per equity partner, to $730,000.

Firm leaders at Pepper Hamilton blamed the declines on a temporary drop in demand in the firm’s health effects practice, and said the financial trend lines are skewed by a particularly strong 2015.

But the firm has also suffered a string of partner defections over the past several months and sources have said some lawyers were unsettled by Gussack’s recent decision to scale back her practice.

On Wednesday, Gussack said she went from billing about 2,700 hours per year to closer to 2,000 hours per year—in part to aid in succession planning by getting younger attorneys in front of her clients—but rejected any suggestion that she was slowing down or stepping back from the firm.

“I’d like to think it was normalizing,” she said. “I wanted to free myself of some things I was doing so I could ensure that I could really help [clients] on major strategic issues rather than just answering interrogatories.”

As chair of the health sciences department, Gussack said she plans to remain highly engaged.

“My day-to-day is going to be making sure that the tigers I have in this practice are hungry and active and doing all the things I know they know how to do, while also making sure I’m available to clients who need and want my involvement,” she said. “Thankfully, after 38 years of practice, that’s still a compelling demand.”

Zack Needles can be contacted at 215-557-2373 or zneedles@alm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZackNeedlesTLI.

Copyright The Legal Intelligencer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
 

Pepper Hamilton has announced the creation of a health sciences department, bringing together more than 110 attorneys from its health effects litigation, health care, life sciences, intellectual property and white-collar/government investigations practices with the goal of better serving its clients in the health sciences industry.

The department will be chaired by partner Nina Gussack, a key rainmaker in the firm’s health effects litigation group.

While many a law firm in recent years has paid lip service to the notion of reorganizing into industry-focused groups rather than practice-focused groups, Gussack said the health sciences department is not merely a marketing effort.

“It is not a constellation of practice groups renaming itself and moving lawyers from right to left. It is a very significant taking down of walls,” she said, explaining that the goal was to eliminate the “silos” created by separate practice groups and instead form an interdisciplinary team of attorneys whose goal is to develop a deep knowledge of the health sciences industry and the “integrated, complex” business challenges faced by clients in that industry.

According to Gussack, a health effects litigator for 38 years who has served as the firm’s chief client ambassador over the past year, clients are pushing for “lawyers to provide value that doesn’t necessarily show up on the bill”—trusted advisers who function more like an extension of the in-house legal department and less like an outside contractor.

To do that effectively, Gussack said, firms need “permeable membranes” between lawyers in various practices to allow for the free flow of information.

“Clients don’t think in terms of practice groups,” Gussack said, explaining that what clients really want is outside counsel who understands that, for example, an intellectual property issue is never just an intellectual property issue—it has implications and ramifications across their business.

The health sciences department “is an effort to say to clients, ‘We see and understand your problems at a far more granular level,’” she said, adding, “We are client-centric and we will answer questions through the eyes of our clients, as if we were sitting in the client’s office.”

Gussack said that with a new presidential administration in place, health sciences clients will likely need plenty of advice. Though, in that regard, the timing of the department’s unveiling is more fortuitous than strategic.

“I, personally, did not predict this administration,” Gussack said, noting that the department has been in the works for a year. “But there is no question that the current political environment affects the health sciences industry at every level,” from the pricing pressure pharmaceutical companies are feeling to the fact that decreased federal regulatory oversight may mean state attorneys general will increase their vigilance.

Gussack described the new team as “the first department at Pepper that has no practice groups” and is instead led by a steering committee made up of commercial, intellectual property and litigation partners.

But she was also quick to note that the firm is by no means abandoning its clients and practice areas outside the health sciences industry. For instance, there will still be a white-collar/government investigations practice group that services clients in the financial sector and other industries, but some of the attorneys from that group will also be members of the health sciences department. Meanwhile, being a part of the health sciences department does not preclude an attorney from serving clients outside the health sciences industry, Gussack explained.

The announcement of the new department comes a little less than a year after the firm’s merger discussions with Reed Smith abruptly ended. While sources said Gussack was a major supporter of those talks because her practice would benefit from an international platform, she said Wednesday that the health sciences department was not formed in response to the scuttled merger.

“This all preceded Reed Smith ,” she said, noting that while she has “great regard for Reed Smith ‘s industry focus,” the structure of the health sciences department does not mirror that of Reed Smith ‘s industry groups.

“This was always intended to be a real, dramatic change in eliminating practice groups,” Gussack said.

The announcement also comes after Pepper Hamilton posted a 10.6 percent decline in revenue for 2016, to $347.5 million, and a 28.8 percent drop in profits per equity partner, to $730,000.

Firm leaders at Pepper Hamilton blamed the declines on a temporary drop in demand in the firm’s health effects practice, and said the financial trend lines are skewed by a particularly strong 2015.

But the firm has also suffered a string of partner defections over the past several months and sources have said some lawyers were unsettled by Gussack’s recent decision to scale back her practice.

On Wednesday, Gussack said she went from billing about 2,700 hours per year to closer to 2,000 hours per year—in part to aid in succession planning by getting younger attorneys in front of her clients—but rejected any suggestion that she was slowing down or stepping back from the firm.

“I’d like to think it was normalizing,” she said. “I wanted to free myself of some things I was doing so I could ensure that I could really help [clients] on major strategic issues rather than just answering interrogatories.”

As chair of the health sciences department, Gussack said she plans to remain highly engaged.

“My day-to-day is going to be making sure that the tigers I have in this practice are hungry and active and doing all the things I know they know how to do, while also making sure I’m available to clients who need and want my involvement,” she said. “Thankfully, after 38 years of practice, that’s still a compelling demand.”

Zack Needles can be contacted at 215-557-2373 or zneedles@alm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZackNeedlesTLI.

Copyright The Legal Intelligencer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.