Ask an Alum: John F. Lessner '93
|Associate General Counsel
UM Carey Law Affiliations:
Law & Health Care Program
The Business Lawyer (now the Journal of Business & Technology Law)
1. Describe how you arrived at your chosen career path:
Through luck, chance and helpful colleagues. I thought I wanted to work in some aspect of health law since I had a career in aging services before law school. The job market was terrible when I graduated, much like it is now, but I was lucky in that an assistant attorney general I knew from my aging services career was deputy counsel at the health department. It also helped that a friend from my law school class had taken a job as a staff attorney with this deputy counsel and recommended me for a position that became available. Those two connections were crucial in starting me on my career path in health law.
2. What is important for students to get out of law school to prepare for a career after graduation?
The ability to write well and CLEARLY and exposure to different areas of the law.
3. Describe a day on the job:
Coffee, email answering, phone call advice on various provider or facility-related legal issues, more coffee, minor crisis intervention, lunch, risk management or compliance meeting, major crisis intervention (usually around 5 or 5:30 on a Friday), go home.
4. What has been a rewarding experience for you as a professional?
I value and enjoy a collaborative approach to problem solving. As in-house counsel, I like to think I’m viewed as a valued team member that helps the company achieve its goals with the least risk and within legal and regulatory parameters. It’s very rewarding to me to be seen as a team member rather than as a member of the “department of no” which is often how legal departments are viewed - as a necessary evil.
5. What would you have done differently during law school or early in your career?
I would have taken more writing courses and taken more opportunities to develop and enhance my writing skills. One thing that still surprises me is how often I review documents and communications and end up acting as editor, to make the communication clearer, in addition to reviewing for legal sufficiency. Everyone can benefit from writing more clearly, lawyers and non-lawyers alike.
6. What are the challenges you think attorneys face professionally in the coming years and how can they prepare now?
As technology and methods of communication rapidly change, lawyers will continue to be challenged with providing advice and guidance to clients on laws and regulations that never envisioned such changes. One example is social media - the ease of sharing information has presented unique challenges for healthcare lawyers who provide advice in the areas of privacy and data security. The laws and regulations adapt much more slowly than technology. Staying current with the changes and understanding their impact will be the best preparation for lawyers as they navigate un-chartered territory.