INTERVIEW: TOM PEDRONI (JHU ‘76), HEALTH LAW ATTORNEY

Tom Pedroni is a lifelong Baltimorean, having gone to high school, college at JHU and law school in Baltimore City. He considers this his greatest strength, but also at the same time his Achilles heel (not coincidentally Achilles is the name of his beloved dog). Tom has been married for 25+ years and has two adult children — both good students and college graduates.

After an appellate judicial clerkship on the Maryland Court of Appeals (the highest court in the state), he entered private law practice as a civil litigator and pretty much hated it. Tom feels he was not temperamentally suited for the adversarial nature of litigation. Notwithstanding his dislike for this area of practice, he made partner at his first law firm. Soon thereafter, he discovered law and medicine, which he absolutely adored from day one – and still adores to this very day.

Tom started taking depositions of medical doctors and medical professionals in contested mass tort products liability and medical malpractice cases, learning medical terminology and procedures rapidly and discovering how energizing and satisfying it was to do something he actually liked. Having worked really hard in this area, he soon became known for his expertise in the medical/legal arena. He discovered through trial and error that more often than not in law practice, your specialty chooses you, rather than the other way around.

Tom decided that he wanted to pursue medical/legal work as his specialty practice. Lucky for him, Johns Hopkins has a pretty good name in medical circles so he was able, through a JHU alumni connection, to get a job as senior counsel for Hopkins Hospital and Health System — which he loved until he realized that “Hopkins liked to pay staff 40% less for the privilege of working at the Mecca.”

Consequently, to support his family better, he re-entered private practice in two consecutive law firms, where he was a non-litigation partner in health law. He worked at these firms until he started his own practice in health law over five years ago. Tom’s current practice is housed in an office in the newly renovated section of Hampden in Baltimore City, not far from the Hopkins Homewood campus.

Questions:

Describe a day in the life of a health law attorney; feel free to describe your most memorable day on the job.

My most memorable day in my health law practice occurred when the new HIPAA privacy regulations were established in August of 2003. Literally all health care providers had to either establish or revise their entire privacy policies and procedures — an enormous task, to say the least. It created an incredible amount of work for health law attorneys.

What initially attracted you to this field? What are some of the rewards of this area of law and the legal profession?

My initial attraction to the area was in the intellectual stimulation of being immersed in law and medicine at the same time. Plus, I found the science of the medical practice to be incredibly invigorating.

What are some of the downsides of this area of law? How would you compare the reality of your profession to the picture you had of it while in school?

The downside to the practice area is that of barriers to entry. The area has a jargon all its own – medical jargon – and unless one practices in a highly specialized health law group or as in-house counsel to a hospital or other provider organization, it is often too difficult to establish or maintain a practice.

I had no idea what a health law practice was, or what it looked like, while in law school. Today there are good clinical programs available to law students who are contemplating entering this practice area. Twenty-five years ago, when I was in law school, there were practically none.

Do you have any advice for an undergraduate interested in pursuing this body of law and the legal profession?

My best advice if a student is contemplating entering this field of practice, is to take a good clinical program and significant course work in health law in law school. Many law schools today have certificate programs that allow students to concentrate somewhat in the area. Thus, students can gain real exposure to this practice area while in law school and be better prepared not only to practice health law, but also to predict better whether this practice area really suits them in the short or intermediate time frame.

Contact Information:

Tom Pedroni is happy to talk to students and can be reached by email at: tom@pedronilaw.com

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