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INSIGHT: Why Manatt’s Model for Blending Legal, Business Services Works After 15 Years

Oct. 4, 2019, 8:01 AM

Manatt Health recently welcomed its incoming class of 2019—an outstanding group of individuals with diverse educational and professional backgrounds including law, public health, business, finance, and public policy.

Welcoming new colleagues and integrating them into our growing interdisciplinary business is a satisfying reminder of who we are and where we have come from, as well as what we need to do to continue to provide truly differentiated services to our clients.

Some 15 years ago we created Manatt Health. The idea sprang from listening carefully to the needs of our clients and realizing their legal challenges often could not be fully resolved without a deeper understanding of their underlying missions, business needs, and strategic priorities.

This imperative has become ever more pronounced as new digital technologies and breakthroughs in life sciences change what it means to provide health care, industry consolidation and competition fuel unprecedented market volatility, and ever-evolving federal and state legal and regulatory requirements are reshaping the way our country pays for and delivers health care services.

Today, Manatt Health consists of about 160 professionals, half lawyers and half consultants with expertise in strategy, business, policy, communications, and IT. We have clients in more than 30 states, across a diverse set of stakeholders in the health care eco-system.

Rejecting the Status Quo

What defines our work is a focus on helping our clients anticipate, respond to, and in some cases catalyze change. For many of our clients, maintaining the status quo is a prescription for failure. Survival requires reinvention of their business models, formation of new partnerships, and sometimes aggressively defending innovations and business approaches they have pioneered from encroachment by a new and diverse set of competitors.

Survival also often requires that our clients redefine their relationships with their customers, their employees, their regulators, and the communities they serve.

Our own reinvention as a health care practice is a direct reflection of our clients’ rejection of the status quo. Health care is a highly regulated industry, and top tier legal representation is core to our identity and value as a firm. But our clients were (and are) seeking something more than traditional law firms offer—more market intelligence, more business savvy, a deeper understanding of their operational imperatives, stronger connections to state and federal policy making, and new ways to convey information, drive decision making, and move leadership teams through change.

Our interdisciplinary team problem solves and manages complex change processes more effectively for our clients. The professionals we recruit need to possess a diverse set of skills, a strong sense of mission, and a common passion to improve the health care system, whether it be by enhancing access to coverage and services, empowering consumers, or creating more efficient ways to deliver care.

When we ask people why they choose to join Manatt Health the most frequent answer is our mission and deep sense of shared purpose. To attract and retain this top talent, we have transformed our culture. Our law and consulting professionals are peers, each having skill sets that, when successfully melded together, produce more value for our clients than the sum of their parts.

Legal, Consulting Services Knitted Together

For us, our legal work is not an appendage sewn onto a Frankenstein-style corporate behemoth; nor is our consulting practice tucked under or subservient to our legal work. Instead, our legal and consulting services have been knitted together in a way that makes each indispensable to the other in serving our clients.

And significantly, our governance, staffing models, compensation structures and other aspects of the way we provide client services have evolved to reflect our commitment to a multi-disciplinary professional services business model.

Reinventing our health care practice was not an easy task. With it came overcoming some large obstacles, including lawyers fearing their value could be diluted, customer confusion, often caused by turf issues or siloed purchasing practices, and general market resistance, based on both perceptions as to the role of a law firm and the fact that an integrated law and consulting model is a new approach.

These obstacles haven’t completely disappeared, but we now are confident that our vision, combined with hard fought victories on how to best implement it, is working for our clients, and for our growing team. The work is more meaningful, our clients are more engaged, and through partnering with our clients we are helping to shape, rather than simply react, to the rapid change around us.

In fact, the enthusiastic client response to our new interdisciplinary model of doing business has inspired Manatt to expand our integrated professional services approach in other highly regulated industries—finance, digital technology, real estate—where we have deep subject matter expertise and important client relationships.

While each industry is unique we believe an integrated professional services model holds great promise for the future as long as we continue to anchor that model in listening carefully to our clients and giving them what they need.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.

Author Information

Bill Bernstein is a partner and the leader of Manatt Health, the health care legal and consulting group of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP. His practice concentrates on providing strategic, business and legal advice to clients in the health care industry and he has led engagements to create new business models for the organization and payment of health services, developed plans for the broad use of health information technology to support new care delivery systems and counseled numerous states on implementation issues resulting from health reform.

Patricia Boozang is a senior managing director with Manatt Health where she advises clients on the implementation of coverage, delivery system and payment reforms across government and private health insurance programs. Her clients include federal agencies, foundations, states, health care delivery systems and health plans.

Melinda Dutton is a partner with Manatt Health and has extensive public health insurance program and health care safety net experience. She helps clients—including state governments, provider groups and foundations—navigate the legal, regulatory and political challenges of the Affordable Care Act and programs such as Medicaid and CHIP.

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