Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney has added depth to its health care practice in Philadelphia nearly four months after the co-chairman of the firm’s group departed for Stevens & Lee.
John Washlick, the former co-head of Cozen O’Connor’s health care practice, joined Buchanan on Monday, while Mitts Milavec co-founder and name partner Stanley J. Milavec Jr. will move to Buchanan on July 2.
Despite Milavec’s departure, his former 10-lawyer firm will continue as a going concern.
Both Washlick and Milavec are leaving litigation-focused practice groups in an effort to better serve their clients in the corporate and regulatory space. Both attorneys represent hospitals and large physician groups in mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and corporate governance and compliance matters.
Milavec’s firm, started in 2005, has grown into what he described as a “potent” litigation boutique that can and will continue to grow. But he said he needed the tax, ERISA, labor and employment, antitrust and securities capabilities to back his practice up and Mitts Milavec’s strategic vision didn’t encompass the capital or resources to grow in that direction. He emphasized that he and co-founder Maurice Mitts would remain friends.
For Washlick, Cozen O’Connor’s health care practice was focused mainly on litigation, with Washlick serving as the only corporate and regulatory attorney in the group. For all of its efforts — and Washlick said he had nothing bad to say about the firm he was at for 10 years — Cozen O’Connor was unable to grow the corporate side of that group.
Washlick and Milavec each had some ties to Buchanan.
Washlick had known Tom Tammany very well for years and the two had always tried to recruit one another to their respective firms. Until recently, that was Buchanan for Tammany, but the former co-chair of the firm’s health law practice left in March to join Stevens & Lee.
“It’s kind of ironic that I’m here now and he’s gone,” Washlick said.
Milavec’s hire will be a bit of a homecoming. He had worked at Buchanan as a young associate in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He also used the firm as an outside counsel while he served as general counsel at Shadyside Hospital and West Penn Allegheny Health System. Prior to that he was associate counsel at Albert Einstein Healthcare Network. He also founded two health care businesses.
Aside from having firsthand knowledge of the firm, Milavec said he was excited to rejoin Buchanan as it has strong connections with health systems across the state.
“There was an opportunity for me to have the bigger platform I need and have the backup I need,” he said.
Milavec’s practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions work, asset and stock deals and financing for hospital systems and large physician groups.
“How hospitals grow and develop and build new buildings and add new services is part of the practice I happen to really enjoy,” he said.
Washlick’s practice has focused on commercial transactions for large physician groups or hospitals in mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, governance and compliance issues. He has a strong emphasis on the tax component of those deals.
He said there is still a lot of consolidation going on in the industry. Health systems are taking stock of whether they have the appropriate governance structure and are determining accordingly whether they might need to merge or if they are the target of an acquisition.
Many health systems have gotten so big that their boards consist of hundreds of people and include several subsidiaries. The chain of command has become crippling, Washlick said, and he is seeing a number of systems review their governance structure now that they have grown.
Another hot area on the corporate side of health care is joint ventures, Washlick said. Hospitals and physicians are looking to find ways to partner, though those marriages aren’t always easy, he said.
Washlick said his practice has certainly been impacted by the health care reform legislation and its uncertain future. But he said so much of the law’s intent has been implemented by both the government and health care institutions that he doesn’t see things being turned around. The one thing the U.S. Supreme Court might do in its rulings on the challenges to the health care law, which are expected any day, is overturn the mandate that everyone have coverage. That, Washlick said, is only a small piece of the bill.
Along with a rise in joint ventures, Washlick said he is also seeing an increase in entrepreneurial health care startups. These businesses are run by business people and not physicians, and the owners often have goals of going public and an exit strategy in place from the start, he said.
Both Washlick and Milavec are joining Buchanan as shareholders.
Cozen O’Connor CEO Thomas A. “Tad” Decker said Washlick is a very good health care lawyer and he wished him well. Decker said Cozen O’Connor has senior partners who do corporate health care work full time and a few more junior partners who do the work full time.