Alumnus Greg Brown celebrated his one year anniversary as Vice President & Regional Counsel of the East Bay Region at Sutter Health this past July. He joined the organization after almost ten years at Legacy Health in Portland, Oregon and seven and a half years at Gardner, Carton & Douglas where he started as a summer associate in 1995. Greg tells about his in-house career and shares something you might be surprised to learn about him.
How and when did you come to join the firm?
I spent half of the summer of 1995 at Gardner, Carton & Douglas (n/k/a Drinker Biddle & Reath) and half at Foley & Lardner. I really enjoyed the summer program at GCD and had an offer from the firm to join the healthcare group. It knew it was a great opportunity to work with excellent lawyers and I thought it would also bring exciting business opportunities.
Did you have any mentors at the firm?
Yes. In particular, Ed Bryant, Bill Roach, and Bernadette Broccolo come to mind. They each taught me so much about dealing with different types and levels of clients. I have to say the entire group was really great. They sent you out on the front lines early in your career and that was really exciting as a young associate.
Can you recall what prompted you to leave private practice for an in-house position?
I got to the point in my career where I thought I needed to decide whether I wanted to try and stay at the firm and pursue partnership or go in-house. I wasn’t considering going to another firm. I really enjoyed working directly with clients and so I explored a few opportunities. One came up in Portland and my wife and I just decided to take a risk and move across the country. I’d say it worked out pretty well. I was with Legacy Health for over nine and a half years.
You moved to San Francisco and joined Sutter Health a little over a year ago. How did that opportunity develop?
I’ve wanted to be general counsel of my own health system for some time and at Sutter I’m GC for the East Bay Region. Sutter is also a larger health system, has a national reputation and the job comes with more responsibilities. Moving to the Bay Area was attractive too. I initially learned about the opening through a former colleague that I worked with in Portland. You can’t discount the value of networking. I think it’s much harder for younger associates to understand the importance of networking and keeping in touch with former colleagues and friends but it truly is essential.
Tell us more about your current role.
The East Bay Region includes five hospitals, a physician foundation and multiple subsidiary organizations. I manage another attorney, a paralegal and an administrative staff and we also rely upon many subject matter experts within the Office of General Counsel. I advise the Board and each of the affiliates within my region. Most of my focus these days is on business operations and transactions, governance, regulatory compliance, and physician relationships.
What types of matters do you outsource?
Sutter has about 50 attorneys in the Office of General Counsel. It’s a pretty strong team and we try to handle most things in-house. We outsource the majority of litigation, including professional liability and antitrust. California is a very regulated state so we also outsource a lot of licensing issues that come up.
July marks your one year anniversary at Sutter Health. What has been the most challenging part of the position thus far?
Learning a new organization and learning who is responsible for what, who needs to be included in what, and where the formal and informal lines of communication lie. The subject matter work is pretty similar to what I’ve done throughout my career. Learning how to navigate through a new and more complex organization has been more challenging but it’s also fun and exciting.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
One thing some might not know is that I married another firm alumnus and we have three kids. We met at the firm but didn’t start dating until after she had left the firm.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
We are still trying to learn all that northern California has to offer so lots of camping and biking and short trips around northern California.