Q&A with Jane Pine Wood on her return back to her first home: McDonald Hopkins


McDonald Hopkins is a destination firm for attorneys looking to grow their careers and work in a culture comprised of collaborative and determined professionals. Jane Pine Wood, of our Healthcare Practice Group, is a testament to that statement.

She began her legal career at the firm more over 36 years ago and was instrumental in creating our Laboratory Practice Group. During her time at McDonald Hopkins, she became such a force in the healthcare legal field that she left private practice to become Chief Legal Counsel for BioReference Health, at that time the fourth largest laboratory in the United States. After almost eight years in that role, she wanted a change and craved a return to where it all started for her: McDonald Hopkins.

How did you get into healthcare law?

I started with McDonald Hopkins in 1988. I was a lateral and hired to join the real estate department. But after I'd been here for about six months, one of our existing clients, who was the president of the American Pathology Foundation, needed a speaker for a presentation at APF’s national conference. Rick Cooper, a partner who has since retired, was going to give the speech and had a death in the family. He asked me last minute to take his plane ticket and said, “Jane, can you go give this talk for the American Pathology Foundation?” I knew nothing about health law, nothing about pathology or laboratory services. But I gave Rick’s speech for him at this conference. At the end of the conference, other physicians came up to me interested in having the same presentation at their own society meetings, and I thought, "Well, I suppose so. Why not?" So that's how I got started doing health law work. It was very, very fortuitous.

Also, very importantly, this was in 1988 when two of the pivotal pieces of legislation for laboratory and pathology practices came about. The Stark Law and the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988, which is the licensure basis for all laboratories, came into effect. We needed someone who would read these laws, get up to date on them, become an expert in them, help and advise clients, and at that point, I was a second-year associate with the firm. I was the likely candidate to spend the time reading these multiple-inch-thick regulations.

Your practice has evolved over the years. What would you say you specialize in now?

I'll call it the before and the after, what my practice was like until 2016, which is when I left McDonald Hopkins to go in-house at BioReference Health and then the after is at the end of January when I rejoined McDonald Hopkins. What I had been doing, up until 2016, was being a regulatory healthcare attorney. I represented a wide variety of health care providers, physicians, laboratories, hospitals, surgery centers, imaging centers, nursing homes, home health agencies. I had the whole array of health care providers that I represented. Also providing substantial support to our M&A group, because certainly our merger and acquisition group does a lot of laboratory M&A work. Since I've been back, I have done work for some non-pathology and non-laboratory health care clients, certainly my services are not limited to the pathology and laboratory area, but  I'll say that still is where most of the focus is. Since I've returned, probably about 90% of what I've done, if not more, is in that pathology laboratory area. But having been in-house for seven and a half years, both as in-house legal counsel and also a member of the executive committee, the governing body of BioReference, it gave me much more of a business aspect to what's going on. I think that's what I have to offer to clients even more now. I've always thought of myself as a very proactive business advisor. What I can say now, though, is I've actually been in the shoes of most of our clients and recognize that it's one thing to give advice and to give advice with a pretty good understanding of the client's business, but it's another thing to give the advice and then have to get buy in within the company implemented, pivot and make modifications where necessary when there are unintended consequences, live with the consequences, etc. I believe I have a much more nuanced approach to the business needs of our clients.

What led you to return back to McDonald Hopkins?

I had a wonderful tenure at BioReference Health. However, my husband and I are empty nesters. Our permanent home is in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. My husband is a surgeon on the Cape. I was in New York because I worked across the Hudson River in New Jersey. During the work week for the last seven and a half years, I was living in New York City and then on weekends my husband and I would travel back and forth, either he would go to New York or I would go home to the Cape. After seven and a half years of living in different states, not just different cities, but different states, I thought it really was time to make a change.

When I started looking at what my options were, I just thought back to my wonderful career with McDonald Hopkins. McDonald Hopkins gave me the flexibility to build a rather unique practice area. I was the first attorney at the firm to work remotely. I started working remotely in 1993, before the internet even. I was an associate, starting out, working remotely and I was able to build a very successful health law practice. I helped build the health law practice group, got elected to our board of directors, I was a part of the firm’s compensation committee. I was able to progress through the leadership ranks as well as build a practice due, in large part, to the flexibility McDonald Hopkins afforded me. Secondarily, it’s the people with whom I work with at McDonald Hopkins, many of them were dear friends and continue to be. You know, part of coming back to McDonald Hopkins was following up conversations I would have with former colleagues  just chatting and catching up. It felt as if I never really left.

You played a key role in establishing the Laboratory Practice Group at McDonald Hopkins. Knowing you laid its foundation, what is it like to come back years later and see the growth of the group?

It's been fascinating to see where things have gone and also where things have developed. At the time I left, our Data Privacy Practice Group was still relatively new. Growing but new. I come back now seven and a half years later and what has happened, you know, as as HIPAA has expanded, as technology is expanded, as data breaches have become an everyday occurrence, there’s a huge explosion in that area. 

Back in the day, a lot of advice that we would offer to our laboratory clients was in the merger and acquisition area. It’s still very active, but it’s more up and down. In the last seven and a half years, there has already been a tremendous amount consolidation in the pathology and laboratory marketplace. So while there's still opportunities for clients to go through M&A activity, many of those have already happened. You know, there are fewer clients in private practice.

I think it just a reflection of what happens in health care today, which is more and more consolidation. The margins in health care, particularly in laboratory, medicine, are incredibly thin. It's almost like thinking of Walmart and Target. They do well because they are able to have the volume on very thin margins. The same thing is true in health care, particularly laboratory pathology medicine.

What do you think has been the biggest change at McDonald Hopkins from the time you left to now and what are you surprised that hasn’t changed?

I will say again, sort of following up on what we just discussed, probably accelerated by the pandemic, and that is the flexibility in terms of work style and the professional approach to the law practice. I mean, when I left, there were a handful of attorneys working remotely, I could count them on one hand. Now I come back to the program and I realize I'm on a conference call last week with all the remote attorneys, and the whole zoom screen is filled with people and their faces and little boxes of everyone who's working remotely. It’s the recognition that one does not have to be sitting in an office to be a successful attorney. But at the same time, I think Jim [Giszczak] and Jim [Stief] are doing this quite well, they’re recognizing that to keep the culture of the firm going, simply having a lot of remote attorneys who never touch base and never work together isn’t going to work either when it comes to building that culture. I didn't work by myself. There’s a difference between working remotely and working by oneself. The great thing about McDonald Hopkins is the people as well. And I think that ties into not working by oneself, because I could be on the phone with people in the health group or the M&A group, or the tax group or the litigators, and any time and we'll sit and talk. We have a great conversation. Yes, when I see them in person, that's fantastic, but being a phone call or an email away did not mean that I didn't have a great interaction with people who weren't just professional colleagues. I developed very, very close friendships with many of them and that last part is part of what pleasantly has not changed with McDonald Hopkins.

Many people close to you know you’re an avid traveler but can you expand on that fun fact?

Clients of mine who do know me, usually one of the first questions is “where have you been lately,” because my husband and I and our children, have always have traveled extensively. My kids were the ones in preschool and kindergarten with backpacks going throughout Asia or Africa or South America. I’ve always worked remotely, which meant I worked remotely from other countries as well. In most of my career at McDonald Hopkin, I have spent 6-10 weeks out of the country. I just got back from Indonesia. I'll be back in Indonesia in July. I'll be in Chile later in the fall. Earlier this year, right before I joined McDonald Hopkins, I was in Ecuador. We do a lot of travel, which includes scuba diving, hiking, and backpacking.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I have more appreciation for how McDonald Hopkins handles its client relationships, how the attorneys work together. In my role as in house counsel, I worked with quite a few other really fantastic law firms and very prestigious law firms, but I was surprised how often attorneys in those law firms did not consult with their colleagues in the same firm. As someone who had been in private practice for almost three decades, had worked closely with my colleagues, I recognize that I don't know all the tax laws, I don't know all the employment laws. There many things I don't know about. I would say for all my colleagues at McDonald Hopkins, before we give advice to a client, we think through and touch base, if warranted, with one of our partners to make sure that we gave a very complete response and then looked at all the angles.  I was surprised with how many firms, when they were providing advice to me in my role as chief legal counsel  the response would be:  Oh, I got to go check with someone on that. Or they would provide a response without really thinking holistically about the situation. Not all of them, but I was surprised how often it happened. And I think that's an important aspect of McDonald Hopkins that I'm not sure I had ever communicated to clients in the past because I didn't appreciate it. I thought that's the way all law firms worked. And now that I've come back and I'm speaking particularly with new clients or prospective clients about what we do, I emphasize, we're not going to over lawyer anything. We're not going to throw three lawyers on something if only one is needed. But we will work to make sure we give a holistic response to what your problem is. 

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