Landing a Health Law Fellowship Right Out of Law School: An Interview with Katy Baum, NDLS 2019

Last week, I stopped by Rush Medical Center to meet with 2019 NDLS alumna, Katy Baum. Katy is a Legal Fellow at Rush Medical Center, which is her first job out of law school. It is becoming increasingly common for hospitals to hire legal fellows fresh out of law school so I really enjoyed learning more about her fellowship and how she started out her health law career in such an interesting place! If you’re interested in health law or in building your career in Chicago, I think you will learn a lot from this interview.

KMB: What brought you to law school?

KB: My initial career goal was to become a healthcare administrator. My dad is a physician, so I grew up around the industry. But my second year at Texas A&M-College Station, I took a business law class and became very interested in law.

KMB: What made you decide on Notre Dame for law school?

KB: I met a Notre Dame Law student, Hannah Weger, while at Texas A&M. Her influence, Notre Dame Law School’s mission statement, and my visit caused me to fall in love with the place. I was not interested in choosing my law school based solely on its strong health law program because, while I knew I was interested in health law, I also wanted to explore different areas of the law. The small town environment of South Bend felt similar to College Station and I had a sixth sense the place would be a good fit.

KMB: Tell me about your 1L year. Did you maintain your interest in health law throughout your first year?

KB: The first year, it was easy to become distracted by others and their ambitions—which is exactly what happened to me.  However,  eventually I found my way back to my core interest in health law. My 1L summer was a choice between a Public Defender internship in my target market, Dallas, and an in-house opportunity at a major health system in my home town, San Antonio.  I choose the health system. The GC there has since become, and continues to be, an influential mentor.

I was a slower paced law student and struggled my first year—which was the best thing that could have happened to me. It gave me a reality check. I was ready to tackle the world before I had the necessary skills to do so.  As I worked to raise my GPA, I also focused on  developing critical legal and professional skills I would need to effectively practice health law.

KMB: How about your 2L year?

KB: My second year, I worked hard to integrate myself into the healthcare industry. I joined organizations like the American Health Lawyers Association and the ABA’s Healthcare Fraud and Compliance Interest Group.  In fact, to find the firm for my 2L job at a small healthcare firm in Dallas, I used the Texas Health Lawyers Association website.  I identified an attorney from that firm I wanted to meet, we had  coffee, and the next thing I knew, I had a 2L summer job. I had a great experience at that firm but there was no space for me to join the firm after graduation. I spent the other half of my 2L summer at the United States Attorney’s Office in San Antonio, working on False Claims Act issues related to the healthcare industry.

KMB: How did your job search go 3L year?

KB: It was difficult to find a healthcare group in Texas that was hiring 3Ls—although my search criteria was certainly narrow. My best friend, another 3L, was also frustrated with her job search so we job searched for each other by periodically sending job postings we thought the other would be interested in! She was the first person to introduce me to health law fellowships.  It turns out that AdvocateLurie Children’s Hospital, and RUSH all have health law fellowships that are usually open to graduating 3Ls. These fellowship programs are relatively new and are great entry-level paths to kick off a health law career.

Some fellows wind up at firms after their fellowships while others pursue further in-house placement. The most recent Lurie Fellow is at McDermott now. From my research, McDermott, McGuire Woods, K&L Gates, and King & Spalding all have fantastic health law groups in Chicago.

The University of Michigan, Stanford, and Temple University Hospital also offer health law fellowships.

KMB: How did you get the RUSH opportunity? Did you just apply and they called you?

KB: I applied online in January. The application opened in January but I didn’t hear until mid-February. After applying, it was coming time to decide what bar I was going to take. I didn’t want to disqualify myself for the fellowship by applying to take the wrong bar exam and I didn’t want to do late bar exam registration because the price nearly doubles. So, I called RUSH’s HR and asked what bar I should apply for to keep myself in contention for the job. That outreach landed me an phone call with the attorney who runs the fellowship program, and that contact turned into an interview.

The online application portal is difficult so if any 3Ls are applying, make sure to let me know so I am aware of your application.

KMB: That is crazy that just an administrative call to ask a question landed you the interview! How did the process go from there?

KB: Absolutely. There is lots of interest in these fellowship programs and who knows what would have been the fate of my application had I not followed up! I was unconventional in that all of my interviews happened by phone. I had three interviews total, which included a group interview with many RUSH attorneys and then a final interview with the Deputy General Counsel of RUSH. Ultimately, I was lucky to receive an offer for a two-year fellowship at a hospital in Chicago—something I had only dreamed of!

KMB: How is Rush’s legal team structured?

KB: RUSH is structured like a small law firm. RUSH has roughly 15 attorneys. There are two primary leaders: the General Counsel who oversees both Risk and Legal, and the Deputy General Counsel who runs risk, bioethics, claims management, and medical malpractice. Then there are a few senior general counsels. Under the transactional and regulatory Senior General Counsel there are two mid-level attorneys. Underneath them are the two fellows: myself, and a fellow who is in the second year of her fellowship. The program initiated in February so we are the first round of Fellows!

The leadership team here is really passionate about developing the next generation of lawyers so it is a great place to work. They go above and beyond by taking time to explain assignments, assign hands-on projects, and invite me to many internal and external events. One that sticks out is a recent Women in Power event at a large firm. It was a great networking opportunity and inspirational evening as a fresh lady lawyer.

KMB: Do you take law student externs over the summer and during the semester through the Chicago program?

KB: Yes. Lots of law students clerk at RUSH. We take about five students per semester but only 1-2 full-time. The summer externs are all full time, but we may have fewer than five.  If students are interested in working here for summer 2020, they can touch base with me.

KMB: What kinds of issues are you working on at RUSH?

KB: There are lots of research projects. Many regulations—specifically the Stark Law—have undergone reform so I have been tasked often with outlining and explaining these changes to our team. I also review agreements for regulatory compliance, draft notice letters and contract provisions, and review our internal policies for compliance—all under the supervision of another IL attorney, of course. One of my favorite parts is serving as an Adjunct Instructor for the Health Care Systems Management program. This means I have the opportunity to help two other attorneys in our office teach master students the subject of health law and ethics.

KMB: Do you have any idea what your plans are for after your fellowship?

KB: I recently found out I passed the Texas bar (yay!). Where I go post-fellowship is still to be determined, but I hope to either find another in-house position or go to a firm—either in Texas or Chicago. There are certain requirements to waive into the Illinois Bar, so I may have to take the Illinois bar…but, right now, that is a problem for future Katy.

Katy is interested in speaking to Notre Dame students interested in health law. If you want to be put in touch, let me know and I’ll make the connection! You can email me at katelynn.mcbride@nd.edu.

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