Manatt recruits two for health practice as hybrid service model gains steam

The Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool are seen at sunset from inside the memorial as U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a Fox News Channel virtual town hall called “America Together: Returning to Work” about the response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic broadcast from inside the memorial in Washington, U.S. May 3, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips has brought on two new health care hires in Washington, D.C., the latest recruits to expand the firm’s hybrid legal and consulting offerings.

Linda Elam leaves her leadership role at a managed care organization to join 450-professional Manatt as a managing director, and Blair Cantfil joins as a partner from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, where she was counsel.

Los Angeles-founded Manatt has increasingly branded itself as a professional services firm with client offerings from integrated teams of lawyers, consultants and other professionals, distinguishing it from other large law firms.

The Manatt health team has more than 160 professionals. The group is pretty evenly split between lawyers and consultants, said Manatt health leader Bill Bernstein. The integrated health legal and consulting team started about 15 years ago but has “really picked up steam” in the past six or seven years, he said.

The group started out more law-centric and became more balanced over time, Bernstein said.

“The pitch in the early years for consultants to join a law firm was not that easy,” he said, “because they viewed themselves as second-class citizens.” Now, it’s become easier to recruit on the consulting side as the business model has become more understood in the market and the group has continued to hire consultants, he said.

The health group also competes against “both the top law firms and consulting firms for work,” Bernstein said.

Among other recent recruits, Manatt in March hired Dr. Darrell Kirch, the former president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, as a national advisor.

Donna Wilson, CEO and managing partner of the firm, said that while Manatt is expanding its bench in the hybrid health group, recent hires demonstrate that the firm is “accelerating that transition across the platform.”

Two weeks ago, for example, Manatt brought on two partners to its hybrid digital and technology practice from Kirkland & Ellis and Dentons.

“We think now more than ever in this post-pandemic environment, clients are looking for integrated teams, who are strategic and business motivated, and not just spotting issues, but solving issues,” Wilson said.

Elam, one of the hires announced Wednesday, was most recently CEO and plan president of Amerigroup, District of Columbia Inc, a managed care organization that serves the district’s Medicaid population. She also has held federal and state government positions, including in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ disability, aging and long-term care policy office and in the D.C. health care finance department. Amerigroup representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on her departure.

Cantfil, prior to joining Akin Gump, clerked with the HHS and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. An Akin Gump representative said the firm wishes Cantfil well in her future endeavors.

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Sara Merken