Daniel Reat, vice president and chief legal officer for operations and business affairs at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. (Dwight C. Andrews)
Covering corporate law departments and in-house attorneys for Texas Lawyer and other ALM publications, reporter Kristen Rasmussen profiles Daniel Reat, vice president and chief legal officer for operations and business affairs at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. UTHealth’s legal department is unique in that it is overseen by two chief attorneys—Reat and his colleague, Melissa Pifko, vice president and CLO for health care and clinical affairs, who will be featured in this series in the June edition of Texas Lawyer.
UTHealth is the most comprehensive academic health center in the UT System and the U.S. Gulf Coast region and includes schools of biomedical informatics, biomedical sciences, dentistry, nursing, public health and the John P. and Kathrine G. McGovern Medical School. UTHealth also includes The University of Texas Harris County Psychiatric Center, and a growing network of medical clinics throughout Houston and the region. The system also includes a robust research component that attracts physicians and scientists from around the world. UTHealth’s primary teaching hospitals are Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and Harris Health System’s Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital.
“Our institution, with its complexity, is arguably the most challenging of all the UT institutions to manage from a legal perspective,” Reat says.
The UTHealth legal department is made up of seven attorneys, a health care risk manager and four support staff members. Each attorney generally handles discrete specialty areas, but all are “very capable generalists” as well, Reat says.
With two CLOs, “we have a better ability to ‘divide and conquer’ so we can step in as needed to support our team members,” he adds.
In addition, the attorneys all report dually to both CLOs, allowing each “greater freedom to draw on the practice strengths of each lawyer based on the nature of the legal matter,” Reat says.
Reat says that the great majority of business and operational legal issues are handled in-house. The department does outsource some work, though, namely some technology commercialization and patent-related work, and some immigration issues.
As a state institution, UTHealth also works with the UT System Office of General Counsel for assistance on various matters, and with the Texas Attorney General’s Office for certain litigation matters.
As the CLO overseeing UTHealth’s business, operational and infrastructure aspects, Reat is responsible for several areas: employment, faculty affairs, general contracts and procurement, intellectual property and technology commercialization, information technology and information security, institutional policies, facilities and construction, real estate and environmental health and safety. On average, Reat says about half his time is devoted to managing the work, while the other half is spent doing the work himself, although the balance can vary wildly from day to day.
He and Pifko share responsibilities for legal matters pertaining to research, education, litigation, public relations and compliance, based on the nature of the matter.
“I have the pleasure of supporting folks from all areas of our very complex organization,” he says. “It keeps me busy and provides an incredible variety in my work.”
ROUTE TO THE TOP
Reat worked for IBM as an account administrator for three years after college before attending law school. After graduating from the University of Houston Law Center in 1990, he was a business and real estate associate at Wilson Cribbs and Goren in Houston for nearly six years.
Reat then moved in-house, working as corporate counsel for Service Corp. International, the world’s largest funeral home conglomerate; regional counsel for Crescent Real Estate Equities, a large real estate investment trust; and general counsel for Read King Commercial Real Estate.
He moved to the public sector in 2009, when he first joined UTHealth as a senior legal officer. After a three-year period at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, he returned to UTHealth in April 2016 as interim CLO and became co-CLO in December 2016.
Reat enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, ages 13 and 16, including writing humorous fiction for his children. He also enjoys reading, cycling and traveling to cultural/historical destinations such as Paris, London, Edinburgh, Dublin and Toronto, and is a soccer fan.
An avid reader who usually is reading several books at any given time, Reat says his most recent nonfiction book is Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech,” while his favorite last novel is “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,” by Susanna Clarke.