Health Law Alumnus: PJ McCann ’09, Boston Public Health Commission

PJ McCannPJ McCann, who has long had an interest in policy and local government, used his Northeastern law co-ops to explore a broad range of related opportunities and possibilities that exist within that space. In doing so, he began to see all the ways in which local government impacts policy.

After finishing law school he applied for a policy analyst position in the Office of Intergovernmental Relations at the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC). He was attracted to the position because it was not a traditional legal role; it offered the opportunity to flex his legal research and writing skills, while at the same time allowing him to focus on the connections and motivations of the various stakeholders involved in influencing and making public health policy. Within his new role, McCann found that he was well qualified to dig deeper into the policy questions he and his team faced. His legal training provided him with the tools and understanding necessary to assess and articulate the limits of authority and ability of the BPHC to address myriad issues. He found himself asking the questions, “What can we do? What can’t we do, and why? Is there a policy that we need to change to achieve our objective?” McCann’s efforts to flag these issues ahead of time often meant that his team could be better prepared to advance policies promoting health and health equity in the long run.

After two years, McCann was appointed assistant general cosunsel in the General Counsel’s Office, where his portfolio expanded to include more traditional legal work, such as public health litigation, while keeping one foot in the policy world. He has also served as the agency’s interim chief of staff and was named deputy general counsel in 2016. One of the most important lessons he has learned during his tenure with the Boston Public Health Commission is the vital role consensus building plays in shaping policy.

“Especially in local government, the process can be just as important as whether or not you’ve found the perfect answer,” McCann reflects. He quickly found that in his new role, there was a benefit to broadening the number of people with whom he regularly engaged — it meant that he could explore different policies and relationships, test out different approaches for communicating with and influencing others and hone health policy and strategies before a final draft was ready.

What keeps McCann motivated and excited after all this time? As he explains it, “In state and local government, there’s never a dull moment. There’s never a ‘mission accomplished’ moment on an issue, because there is always a new idea or new approach to address an existing or emerging problem.” Additionally, there is always a new way to learn how to tell your story — to more effectively communicate who you are, what you are doing, why you are doing it and how it can be done together. McCann stresses that this is also an important lesson for law students and young professionals: Learn how to communicate in a way that resonates with people who are not experts and may be unfamiliar with your work. This skill will be of immense help when building coalitions and networks throughout your career.

Health Law Alumnus: Scott Mays '05, MultiPlan

Scott Mays

Scott Mays ’05 claims to be an “accidental health lawyer.” Despite the fact that his first co-op was with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, he walked the path of joining a firm after graduation, where his practice mainly focused on financial securities and litigation. After stints at a few firms, Mays realized that an in-house role might be best for him. Though he had not practiced health law a day in his post-grad life, Mays applied for a position with the legal team at Tufts Health Plan (THP) in the fall of 2013. During his interview with THP’s general counsel (then, Lois Dehls Cornell ’86, another NUSL alum!), Mays emphasized that his skill-set in other areas of legal practice, such as being able to work through complicated legal and regulatory issues, was highly transferrable to any role, including one that was more health care content-focused.

His argument proved successful and he joined the THP legal department. During his time at THP, Mays was able to oversee a diverse portfolio that gave him insight into how day-to-day practices impact policies that affect people’s health outcomes. He was able to work on transactional and regulatory issues, as well as taking on some of the organization’s smaller litigation challenges. At one point, Mays’ portfolio evolved such that he began to oversee more of the human resources issues, while at the same time he was taking on more responsibility as legal support for sales and contracts activities. His portfolio was challenging and allowed him the opportunity to gain tremendous knowledge and insight into how a successful health insurance organization operates and serves its employees and members. As Mays puts it, he “woke up happy to go to work” every day.

Mays recently joined a new company, MultiPlan (a national health care cost management company), as an assistant vice president, assistant general counsel and director of client contracting. Similar to his time at THP, Mays has a mixed, though more narrowly focused, portfolio that includes counseling the sales department and overseeing contract and transactional work related to clients. His new role also allows him to expand upon his management skills as he now oversees a team of attorneys. MultiPlan is more national in scope, so he has been able to meet and negotiate with people and companies from across the U.S., which has deepened his understanding of how health care coverage and insurance products differ across region and population.

In looking back over the trajectory of his career, Mays never thought his career would be focused on transactional work – and certainly not in health care – rather than litigation, but his work continues to be challenging and fulfilling in unexpected ways. “Never say never. Remain open to exploring new opportunities. You do not know how things might change and lead to something new and different,” says Mays.

Mays offers this advice to young legal professionals looking to go in-house: Employers are looking for people who are first and foremost good lawyers. It is helpful to have some interest and background in the subject matter an organization oversees, but the foundation of strong legal skills needs to be in place. An organization can teach the content, but it cannot teach someone how to be a good lawyer. And, do not forget to focus on those “soft skills” (i.e., communication, critical thinking, leadership) that are often overlooked! “The most important people in the room are not necessarily the smartest subject-matter experts. That expertise does not always translate to the success of the company, and leading the whole team to success,” he says. Successful lawyers need to assess what else they have in their toolkit and gain skills that go beyond content and technical skills.