Counsel, Sutter Health in Sacramento
Area of Practice: Health Law
Year Graduated: 2007
When she entered law school, Sim Kaur planned to practice corporate law. It seemed like the most logical field to pursue for someone with a Bachelor's degree in Economics, a Master of Business Administration (MBA), and work experience at an investment banking firm. In line with this goal, Ms. Kaur completed the Tax Law Concentration at University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law and addressed corporate law issues as a summer associate at Downey Brand LLP. However, during her years as a new attorney, Ms. Kaur became interested in a related, but also very different, area of law: health law. These days, as counsel at Sutter Health — one of California's largest healthcare networks — Ms. Kaur is able to use her business expertise to ensure that the transactions she handles for her employer make sense from both a legal and a business standpoint.
Ms. Kaur began her legal career as a corporate law attorney at Downey Brand from 2007 to 2009 and then was a solo practitioner from 2010 to 2011. "I developed an interest in health law early in my career, and I started looking around for positions," she says, "I had my eye on Sutter for a while." When a position eventually opened up at Sutter Health in 2011, Ms. Kaur seized on the opportunity.
In her current role, Ms. Kaur represents Sutter Health hospitals in their efforts to contract with physicians to provide services for the hospitals. She never goes to court, and she likes it that way. "Litigation was never my interest ...," she explains. "I do a lot of contract drafting — reviewing, revising, all of that stuff. I am on the phone or on email with my clients pretty often, working through different issues regarding arrangements between the hospitals and the physicians." While Ms. Kaur's work focuses mostly on contracts, it also involves training Sutter Health hospital employees in areas of health law related to physician arrangements and drafting policies, such as workplace rules, for Sutter Health organizations. Compliance with state and federal law is an important consideration in each contract and policy that Ms. Kaur prepares. In her time outside of work, Ms. Kaur serves as Vice Chair for the Business Law Section of the Sacramento County Bar Association, serves on the board of the Sacramento Law Foundation, and is an active participant in Operation Protect and Defend, for which she recently served as Director of Dialogue.
Ms. Kaur likes many aspects of her job, among them the feeling that her work helps the Sutter Health system function efficiently, thereby giving patients increased access to health-related services. "My job is to help my clients work out arrangements with physicians in a legally compliant manner. Quite often there are challenges that we have to overcome. It's nice when we are able to overcome those challenges and get an agreement in place. In the end, the work I do enables physicians to provide healthcare to patients. It's a nice feeling being able to help our hospitals do that," she says. Ms. Kaur also feels that she can get more out of her workday because she doesn't have to worry about satisfying a billable hours requirement. "I get to focus on my work rather than on details like logging my time," she explains. Finally, she notes that her work is more predictable than that at a private firm — "I like that it's more of a steady flow of work. You don't have to worry about where you're going to get your next project from, and you get to work directly with your clients rather than through a partner or another associate."
Ms. Kaur notes that her workload can be quite intense, and thus, time management is an important skill for her and her fellow counsel. "I think people have the impression that being in-house you're basically working nine to five every day," she explains. "It's definitely a better environment than a law firm for me, but it's a lot of work, a lot of challenging work. Managing that gets to be difficult at times." She says that business and tax knowledge are also helpful background for transactional health law attorneys. "I'm using a lot of my corporate skills and knowledge doing what I do now ... [And] while I don't practice tax law, I run into tax-related issues on a regular basis. [The Tax Law Concentration] helps me understand those issues," she observes.
While Ms. Kaur's career as a health law attorney focuses on contracts, she reminds students who are interested in health law that the healthcare industry is vast and incorporates many other areas of law, including business, litigation, employment, tax, regulatory aspects, among others. "You can do almost anything in health law that you can do in other fields of law," she notes, encouraging students who might not have thought about pursuing a career in health law to explore it as an option. For Ms. Kaur, who never considered working with health law as a student, the switch from the corporate to healthcare field has provided her with a rewarding and intellectually challenging career.