Berger Singerman has recruited Michael Levinson from the Miami office of K&L Gates to lead its developing health care practice.
Levinson, who joined on Tuesday, has spent most of his career in private practice working for large national firms, including nine years at Hogan Lovells before joining K&L Gates in 2016.
Now a partner on Berger Singerman’s business, finance and tax team, he said he wanted to take a more integrated approach to health law.
Over the years, he explained, Big Law has siloed health care as a separate practice. “That makes sense when dealing with strictly health care matters. But the practice I have, and that Berger Singerman wants to develop, is an integrated practice,” he said.
Levinson advises on a gamut of transactional, regulatory and operational matters for hospitals, physician practices and other health care professionals, medical device companies, labs, private equity funds and strategic buyers.
“My main goal is to keep people out of trouble and well-informed. When issues arise, we jump in and help them,” he said.
Levinson said he hadn’t thought about a midsize firm, but Berger Singerman started referring him some of its more complex, health care-related matters about a year ago and then started talking to him about joining.
Berger Singerman, which bills itself as “Florida’s business law firm,” has about 80 lawyers in offices in Miami, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee.
It can offer a “top-quality work product at a more market rate,” Levinson said. “It’s getting very expensive to practice health law at a global firm,” he added, which limits the client base.
“My practice is very broad-based and client-centric,” he said. “I work with clients, spot issues, advise them, and bring in other lawyers as needed.”
His new firm’s corporate, restructuring and tax lawyers serve many clients in the life sciences industry, he said, but they didn’t have anyone with his focus on health care. His aim is to expand the firm’s practice with “health care lawyers who also can be corporate and transactional.”
When Levinson started out 25 years ago, he added, he was actually trained as a corporate and tax attorney because health care was treated as a subset of those practices.
Levinson, who is board-certified by the State Bar of Florida in health care law, also holds a medical degree from Chicago Medical School and has worked in-house as the general counsel and COO for Scion, a family of medical device companies that facilitate “minimally invasive cardiovascular and radiologic procedures,” he said.
“I understand the language of health care, so I can come in and get the deal done,” he said.
Levinson’s interest in health law was actually sparked when he was on a hospital rotation as a third-year medical student. That was before living wills, he said, and he learned about something called “slow code.” These were cases where a seriously ill patient was dying. “They’d call a code and the chief resident would say, ‘Walk, don’t run,’ ” he explained, adding that the resident told him: “They have a low quality of life. It’s time to let them go naturally.”
“Who are we to be making those decisions?” he asked. The department head said it was a good question, and connected him with Dr. Mark Siegler, who created the field of clinical medical ethics in the 1970s and heads the University of Chicago’s MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics.
As part of an internship there, Levinson sat in on an ethics committee that advised practitioners on end-of-life decisions, including assisted suicide. One of the members was a lawyer, he said. “I was fascinated by the legal issues that kept coming up,” Levinson said.
So, after a general surgery residency in Miami, he earned a law degree from the University of Virginia.
“One thing I love is that health care is constantly changing. It’s not static,” he said. “By 2025, it’s going to be 20 percent of our GDP.”
As a result, Levinson sees tremendous growth potential at Berger Singerman from its relationships with clients in health care who already engage the firm for restructuring and financing work. “By adding to the health care capabilities, our belief and hope is that the business opportunities will follow as well,” he said.