Nurse-turned-attorney has pulse on health law

Elizabeth Shaw, class of 1999

Elizabeth Shaw can discuss pulmonary rehabilitation with as much fluency as she addresses health law and its current trends. A former coronary care nurse, this charter graduate of Florida Coastal School of Law has successfully blended a career in health care with a passion for health law.

Specifically, Shaw represents physicians and health care providers, home health agencies, health care clinics, diagnostic imaging centers, pharmacies and clinical labs and handles corporate work in transaction and regulatory health law. She also assists clients in analyzing and structuring complex health care transactions to comply with applicable laws, including, but not limited to, Stark, Anti-Kickback, Fee-Splitting and Patient Self-Referral laws. Key transactions include the combination, sale and acquisition of physician practices; formation of physician networks; preparation of employment agreements and responses to Medicare and Medicaid audits. Shaw also is a frequent lecturer and author on various health care topics and is a member of the Health Law Section of The Florida Bar, the Health Law Section of the Jacksonville Bar Association and the American Health Lawyers Association.

“As I was preparing for law school, I really wanted to build on my experience,” said Shaw, a former St. Vincent’s nurse and Coastal Law’s first board-certified health law attorney with the local firm Reznicsek, Fraser, White & Shaffer, P.A.

Shaw is not alone in her career strategy. A growing number of professionals from fields outside of law have been pursuing a second career in the legal field. Last fall 45 percent of Coastal Law’s incoming class was age 25 years or older. The percentage of students who came to law school aged 30 or older was 11 percent.

Current Florida Coastal School of Law student Bobby Ingram, for example, has enjoyed a long, profitable career in performance music through his band Molly Hatchet. But an interest in the details of contract law drew him to the field, and he is now pursuing a degree (see story on page 11).

Whether it’s the music business or health care, knowing an industry inside and out can help second-career attorneys stand apart in their practice. Speaking their clients’ language is another perk. For Shaw, her health care experience has made it easier to communicate.

“I think clients are very comfortable with me, especially when dealing with reimbursement issues, informed consent, and discharging a patient from practice — any of those things that tend to happen at a doctor’s office or at the hospital,” said Shaw. “They can use medical terminology and don’t have to explain it to me — it gives them a good comfort level.”

After graduation, Shaw worked briefly for a local practice before employing her new skills at Memorial Hospital where she was hired as director of risk management. In that role, she provided legal opinions to the hospital and medical staff and represented the hospital at depositions, mediations and trials, among other responsibilities. Later, Shaw moved into private practice health law. Since 2006 she has been at Reznicsek, Fraser, White & Shaffer.

But career success and satisfaction aside, Shaw admits this isn’t the easiest of times to be practicing health law. Representing physicians has become increasingly difficult because of the consolidation of health care providers.

“There is an increase in hospitals purchasing physician practices and employing the physicians,” she said. “With the Affordable Care Act, they’re really pushing for these integrated delivery systems where the hope is to decrease cost and increase quality of care. So you see more and more physicians who are selling their practices.”

Regardless, there are still plenty of areas for Shaw to apply her experience and health law expertise. She represents individual providers before various boards and helps physicians who are forming multispecialty groups to maintain control of their practice.

“When you’re presented with a set of new challenges,” she said. “You just expand your scope.”