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ANALYSIS: Health Care Lawyers’ Rough Q1 Wasn’t All Covid’s Fault

June 8, 2021, 9:01 AM

Compared to the satisfaction level of other attorneys, lawyers in the health care practice area seem to be in good shape. But their job satisfaction levels over the first quarter of 2021 were down. Why? Likely due to the increased burdens of Covid-19 on these professionals, coupled with a pre-existing lack of guidance and mentorship in this practice area.

Bloomberg Law’s Attorney Workload and Hours Survey asked lawyers in May to rate their overall job satisfaction, with 0 being “very unsatisfied” and 10 being “very satisfied.” Health/health care lawyers had an average score of 6.7, while the average for all lawyers was 6.4.

However, when health care lawyers were asked to rate the job satisfaction they experienced over the past quarter in particular, they reported being less satisfied, with an average score of 6.0. (The first-quarter rating across all practice areas also dropped, to a 5.7 average.)

Few Mentors and Plenty of Stress

Why have health care attorneys been so unsatisfied recently? Perhaps because health law practices commonly cannot provide enough experienced mentors to dispense sound guidance to less experienced lawyers wishing to specialize in this area, leading to frustration and high stress levels. While this is not a new problem, the increasing burdens on these lawyers resulting from Covid-19 may be aggravating the situation and resulting in lower levels of satisfaction.

Lawyers working in this practice area may be largely on their own to figure out the nuances of guiding clients through a complicated litany of compliance issues—from HIPAA privacy to contractual employment of physicians to the tax-exempt status of non-profit hospitals—that existed even before the pandemic.

Once Covid-19 struck, health care lawyers had the additional burden of staying abreast of rapidly accumulating Department of Health and Human Services 1135 waivers so that they could properly advise clients regarding HIPAA, Medicare, and Medicaid requirements (not to mention state and local mandates).

While things have not been particularly gleeful for health care lawyers in Q1, their overall job satisfaction implies that they have retained an optimistic outlook on their careers. This is encouraging, considering that new pandemic-era challenges make health care lawyers more necessary than ever. It’s essential for seasoned practitioners in this field to offer more guidance to less-experienced colleagues to improve overall job satisfaction in this practice area for the foreseeable future.

With assistance from Bloomberg Law Senior Legal Analyst Raquel Bracho and Practice Lead Matthew Loughran.

Bloomberg Law subscribers can find related content on our In Focus: Lawyer Well-Being page.

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