Paula L. Hooper, senior vice president and chief legal officer, St. Clair Health
Paula Hooper joined St. Clair last summer from Butler Health System, where she had worked since 2009 and served as vice president and CLO. Previously, Hooper had been senior counsel for litigation at West Penn Allegheny Health System. At St. Clair, the region’s seventh-largest health system and among Pittsburgh’s 25-biggest employers, she provides legal and other advice and oversight across the organization, including governance, physician contracting, medical staff matters, compliance, risk management and general corporate matters.
What’s your outlook for the legal industry for 2021? There is certainly never a shortage of legal issues, both emerging and ongoing in most areas of law. The pandemic has only served to add another layer of complexity to these issues, as well as creating novel legal battles across all industries.
Do you expect lateral movement to accelerate in 2021? Yes. I believe the past year has influenced individual’s thoughts and needs regarding one’s outside obligations and prioritization of what is most important. I believe this will result in lateral moves, as well as other moves to industries that provide job security in continuing to have work available.
Will corporations continue to use alternatives to law firms? Yes. Health care is an extremely regulated industry. Having in-house counsel as part of the senior executive team is a way to include that legal expertise in the everyday management of an organization, to improve the breadth of legal and other input received, while reducing the costs incurred in outside legal fees. That said, I continue to work with highly skilled, specialized outside counsel on certain matters, and that need will continue.
What is your most memorable case or major legal project? The AHERF bankruptcy. It was the largest health care bankruptcy to occur as of 1998. AHERF at the time was a statewide health system with many hospitals and other subsidiaries. I was just beginning my third year of practicing. Even now, almost 23 years later, I use lessons learned from that experience, particularly the importance of strong governance and management practices, to function as a stronger leader and provide better guidance in my role as a senior executive and chief legal officer.
What can the legal industry do to improve diversity and attract more diverse candidates? Women and minorities need to continue to reach out and share their success stories and serve as mentors for others. In my experience, health care has always been an area with a significant number of women in leadership. My first position included a female general counsel, with eight of the 10 senior attorneys being female. Over the years, I have been fortunate to be allowed flexibility when needed, which has only served to increase my loyalty and dedication to my organization. Perhaps the pandemic has allowed organizations to appreciate the ability to function efficiently with more flexibility.
What is your favorite depiction of a lawyer in a book, TV or cinema? Matthew McConaughey’s closing argument in “A Time to Kill” stands out as my favorite movie scene.
What attracted you to St. Clair? Health care leadership roles are very demanding, keeping every day interesting and challenging. It has always been important to me to remain in an industry for which I am extremely proud of the daily efforts and achievements made. St. Clair Health’s high quality ratings, strong financial performance and relationship as a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network attracted me to St. Clair Health. In addition, I had the pleasure of working with several of the leaders of St. Clair Health in a prior role.