Morrison Mahoney Adds Estate-planning Attorney to Its RosterWhen the Springfield office of Morrison Mahoney LLP added business-law specialist Brad Martin Jr. in 2006, the firm, which focused on litigation, and especially medical-malpractice defense and other work involving the healthcare industry, took a step closer to providing what partner Dennis Anti called “one-stop shopping.”
Elaborating, Anti said that the addition of Martin enabled the firm to assist clients not only with medical-malpractice cases, but also with myriad business issues, ranging from corporate filings to the addition of a shareholder within a physician group; from employment-law matters to regulatory issues.
But there was still one more big step the firm needed to take if it was to effectively serve all the needs of its clients, said Anti, citing the broad realm of estate planning and asset protection, which are critical matters for physicians.
And that gap was closed with the recent addition of John Shea, who concentrates his work in estate planning, wills, durable powers of attorney, healthcare proxies, revocable and irrevocable trusts, and related services.
“This is a logical extension for us — asset protection is very important for people in the medical field, and estate planning is important for everyone,” said Anti. “We’ve always had to outsource this to other firms because we haven’t had the expertise to do it.”
And much of that outsourcing went to Shea, who has spent the bulk of his career in private practice, with offices on Yarmouth on Cape Cod. He told BusinessWest that, while his arrival at Morrison Mahoney brings benefits for the firm, it should help him build his book of business as well.
“The resources and the reach of the firm are obvious advantages for me,” he said, citing its many locations and a wide service area. “The firm has a very large client base that we can pull [estate-planning] work from.”
Retracing the steps that led to the firm’s latest addition, Anti explained that, as the frequency of requests for asset-protection and estate-planning services increased, discussions about expanding the staff and bringing such work in house intensified. And there have been many inquiries about such services, he noted.
“Many of these come from younger physicians who have never been sued before,” he explained, referring to medical-malpractice cases that come to the firm. “After we discuss the case, the first question they ask me is, ‘how can I protect my assets going forward?’ This has been a huge wake-up call for many of these physicians.
“And for years, we would tell them, ‘yes, there is a way to protect your assets and develop an estate plan,’ which is a good idea anyway, irrespective of whether there’s been a medical-malpractice claim,” he went on. “But until now, we’ve had to outsource that work.”
He related the specific story of an individual who was sued for medical malpractice as a resident. “She called me and said, ‘I know this happened to me as a resident, and I’m sure it’s going to happen to me again — that’s what the statistics regarding my specialty tell me — and I have a young family, and I want to be set up now.”
When asked about what the addition of Shea means for the firm, which has more than 160 attorneys in nine offices, Martin said it obviously brings the practice much closer to that one-stop shopping designation — divorce is essentially the only service it doesn’t provide, and it has no intention of entering that realm — that many clients are looking for.
“Many of the physician groups like the fact that it’s all contained in one firm,” he said. “And it’s especially attractive to people just launching a new business; one firm can handle all the aspects of them getting started.”
Meanwhile, this most recent addition gives the firm direct access to a growth area laden with potential.
Indeed, in addition to younger professionals in healthcare realizing the importance of estate planning and asset protection, there are many older physicians now approaching retirement who have not fully addressed matters concerning their estate, said Martin.
“People would be surprised at the number of individuals who don’t have anything,” he noted, “or don’t have anything close to what they really need.”
To capitalize on this potential, the firm intends to be, in a word, proactive about this latest addition to its suite of services, as well as the full package it offers, Anti told BusinessWest.
Elaborating, Anti said that many young professionals in the healthcare field will wait until something happens — like that first medical-malpractice suit against them — to realize the importance of asset protection and estate planning. The firm will be more outspoken about not waiting for such incidents, he went on.
“We have a lot of young professionals as clients — new doctors, for instance — who are just starting out and are really focused on doing a great job and building their practice,” he said. “It is critical that we help them protect their current assets, as well as future earnings, through proper estate planning. It might not be on their radar screen, but we intend to be proactive with them.”
— George O’Brien