Sarah Rochman came to McDermott as a summer associate in the Healthcare Practice Group. During her subsequent seven years as an associate in the Miami office, she developed an appreciation for the business aspects of the law and learned how to use creative structures to get to “yes.” She left the Firm to go in-house to Pediatrix Medical Group as assistant general counsel. Today, she is deputy general counsel at Solaris Health Partners, where she is a self-described “jack of all trades.”
How did the people and training at McDermott help you transition into an in-house counsel role?
My years of training at McDermott were invaluable to making the transition. At McDermott, there is an emphasis on client service and on being available and dependable. And of course, things moved at an incredibly fast pace. When I went into the corporate world, right away, people were impressed with and appreciative of my responsiveness and efficiency. I would respond almost immediately when I got an email, rather than sitting on tasks or letting things pile up. Everything I learned at McDermott, including the emphasis on getting tasks done in a timely manner, was tremendously beneficial to the transition out of law firm life.
How do you manage the broader scope of issues that come up as in-house counsel without the support you would have at McDermott?
In Big Law, you have access to many specialists, and you are taught to rely on those people. But after leaving McDermott, I started to realize that I can be self-sufficient in all areas of the law. At Solaris, I’m one of two lawyers in a small legal department, and while we do have resources at our disposal, and I do still reach out to McDermott, I try to use outside counsel to learn about issues. Once I feel like I have an issue under my belt, I handle it on my own. To be successful in-house, you have to be a jack of all trades. Roles exist that allow you to be a specialist, but most of the time, especially if you want to get to a general counsel role, you have to be comfortable with a range of issues, from labor and employment to reviewing a lease.
Tell us a little bit about what you do at Solaris.
My days are hectic and super varied. We have about 17 or 18 practices right now—I can never keep up with the exact number because we’re always acquiring—and about 4,500 employees, 625 of whom are providers. I deal with a mix of issues (not all in the healthcare realm), from preparing employment agreements to cap table issues to spearheading legal aspects of new company initiatives. I always have an eye on how the law, and the various federal and state healthcare regulations, could come into play. But I probably spend most of my day explaining legal issues to non-lawyers. When lawyers go in-house, I think they are used to talking to other lawyers, so they speak in legal jargon. You really need to explain what is happening in layman’s terms and make sure your colleagues understand so they can follow through on your advice.
How did your experience at McDermott shape your career path?
As a summer associate in the Healthcare Group, I was exposed to all the dealmaking and the business side of law. It showed me that lawyers who are focused on coming up with creative structures (and not just on giving the easy answer, which is usually “no”) can make a difference. The merging of business/dealmaking and the law became something that I brought with me. I always want to figure out how, if there is a legal way to do it, I can get to “yes.”
What are you most proud of from your time at McDermott?
I am most proud of the recruiting work I did when I was at McDermott. I went to my alma mater, the University of Florida, every year to recruit new lawyers, many of whom are still at McDermott today. When I go to alumni events and see those people, I’m so proud that I helped bring them there, and I’m thrilled to see how successful they have become. Even though I am not at McDermott anymore, that makes me feel like I am still contributing.
Considering an in-house role? Here’s Sarah’s advice:
- Glean everything you can from the specialists at McDermott. This knowledge will make you feel more confident when you confront related issues later.
- Stay in touch. My former colleagues at McDermott have become great friends, and the Firm’s connections and client roster will also benefit you during your career.
- Don’t fall back on legal jargon when explaining issues. Meeting colleagues at their level will help them understand and make them more likely to come to you with questions and issues.
- It’s always easier to say “no,” but consider diving deeper to truly understand the issue. That is integral in coming up with creative solutions to help your company get to “yes” when solving problems.