I have represented doctors and hospitals, their nurses and other employees, for almost 30 years. Most of my career has focused on defending my clients in medical malpractice cases. The people I represent are dedicated health care providers who work hard and tirelessly in demanding professions. Lawsuits are often difficult, frightening and worrisome for them. I am privileged to represent such good people. Moreover, I am privileged to have had this opportunity while working in the same law firm, Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard P.C., where I have great support from my partners and professional and administrative staff.
How has your practice evolved in the last few years; from your perspective, what’s in store for the next few years?
After almost 20 years practicing law from our St. Louis office, I opened our firm’s first Illinois office in Carbondale in 2003. My practice has evolved into representing smaller hospitals and physician practices in more rural communities. I really enjoy representing these physicians, nurses and other health care workers who are willing to come to southern Illinois or, in some cases, come back to this area to provide critical frontline and basic health care in a rural community where access to that care is often threatened by shortages of health care providers.
In the next few years, I predict I will be representing more mid-level providers, such as advance practice nurses and physician assistants, who are increasingly hired to fill the demand for medical care in southern Illinois. There will be new challenges for lawyers representing mid-level providers to learn about those professions in order to represent those clients well.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
Of course, it is hard for a lawyer to offer just one piece of advice, but I think a word of caution is in order. For so many new attorneys, the competition for work and clients seems to be at an all-time high. In the midst of that competition, new attorneys must stay honest, professional and well prepared, and importantly, when they need advice or make mistakes, they need to talk to more senior attorneys and seek their help.
What is the one technological device you could not function without daily?
My smart phone, hands down, is the device I cannot do without. This one device, whether using it for a phone, email, calendar, contacts, alarm, internet or Citrix, keeps me up to the minute with what is going on in my cases and lets me easily contact and quickly respond to clients and employees. In addition, the smart phone lets me communicate with my adult kids no matter their preferred communication method .whether texting, Facebook, WhatsApp or just plain email, and once in a while I even get to listen to a little music.
How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?
Most attorneys with whom I practice, whether opposing counsel or co-defendant’s counsel, are very civil and professional. There is the rare exception, but even then it is usually a courteous attorney who happens to act uncivilly on some occasion. I find that taking a deep breath, reflecting on the situation and responding professionally instead of reacting to uncivil, unprofessional conduct gives me a sense of control and often disarms the uncivil person. Being civil should not be confused with being weak; it takes a strong person to remain professional in the face of incivility.
Kathy Pine is a Shareholder with Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard P.C. in Carbondale, Illinois.