There may or may not be health care reform in the offing, but it seems fairly clear that the future still looks rather bright for health care related employment.
Despite a national unemployment rate holding steady for these last two months at 9.7%, in February, according to the Wall St. Journal “the health care sector added 12,000 jobs. That continues the series of monthly job gains that has made health care an economic bright spot since the start of the recession.”
Health care is a trillion-dollar industry  that has grown exponentially over the past 10 years with very little sign of slowing. The demand for legal services has tracked the growth of the industry,  and, as a result, attorneys calling themselves “health lawyers” have grown from a small core of specialists to a large and diverse group of individuals who are as likely to specialize in bond issuance and tax planning as in torts or food and drug law. Moreover, the increasing regulation of health care has created substantial need for lawyers specializing in compliance with a vast array of federal, state and local regulations. Where 15 years ago most health law was done by small, specialized law firms, today many of the nation’s biggest law firms have thriving health law practices.
Significantly, although officially published in the Winter of 2009 ( 14 New York State Bar Association Health Law Journal 73 (2009) ), Professor Bard first published those words to SSRN in February of 2008–prior to the onset of the Obama Administration and the rising priority of Health Care Reform and regulatory enforcement. Because of these rising priorities, her words are no less true than when they were written, and have arguably gained an even greater currency since.
Ever since President Barack Obama gave health care reform a prime spot on his agenda, hospital, pharmaceutical, medical device, and insurance interest groups have been digging in, with the expectation of a battle to come-the kind that requires lawyers.
Changes have already begun. New federal regulations like a genetic discrimination shield law and new digital privacy security standards have been enacted. The U.S. Department of Justice and Health and Human Services launched a healthcare task force in May. “There’s going to be more oversight about how companies spend government grant funds for research and clinical trials,” says Frederick Robinson, the head of Fullbright & Jaworski’s Washington, D.C., health law practice, which advises clients like Zimmer, Inc., and Walgreen Company. “Also, as health care providers apply for stimulus funds, there will be new compliance challenges to get the money.”
As a result, law firms have a new appetite for health care lawyers.