Paul Cushing is the head of the Litigation and Compliance Section in the Office of General Counsel at Partners HealthCare. He is also the Secretary and coordinates legal services for Partners Continuing care, which includes the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network and Partners HealthCare at Home. Paul is a member of the BBA’s Executive Committee and Council. He has served as Co-Chair of the BBA Ethics Committee and the Annual Meeting Steering Committee, and he has served as a member of various other committees. He is also a member of the BBF Society of Fellows and its recruiting committee. Paul is on the board and is a past president of the Northeast Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel, and is a founder and past chair of the chapter’s Ethics Committee and its Diversity Committee. He is a frequent panelist for in-house counsel events and has taught as an adjunct professor at New England Law | Boston.
1. You’re a longtime member of the BBA’s Ethics Committee and have served multiple stints as Co-Chair; why has this been something you return to, and how has it helped to shape you as a leader?
The Ethics Committee is an important committee in my mind because it serves as the Association’s sounding board for ethical issues. It provides an opportunity to stay abreast of developing issues in ethics and offer ethical guidance to the Association with respect to its various initiatives. For example, the committee recently provided guidance around some modifications to the Lawyer Referral Service and also contributed hypothetical questions and answers to be used in the CLE training to be offered to new lawyers. Currently, the committee is reviewing proposed changes to the Model Rules. Occasionally the committee also can serve as a resource to members of the bar who might be encountering a thorny ethical issue in practice.
I like being a part of a committee that helps to promote the ethical practice of law. The rules of professional conduct are the soul of our profession and ensure that we deal with clients, the courts, and adversaries with honesty and integrity. The rule of law depends on the trust that the public places in us as lawyers, and the professional rules facilitate that trust. The work of the committee helps to keep me grounded in these issues. Ethics isn’t something that you learn once and put aside – it is essential to daily practice, both in private practice and in-house practice.
Leading the Ethics Committee reinforced for me the importance of process. Issues that come before the committee can be challenging and at times controversial. Providing all voices an opportunity to be heard, and making sure that the substance of people’s input is vetted properly and respectfully is essential to achieving durable outcomes that are well supported. I have discovered that the BBA has very good procedures in place to enable thorough process and is very consistent in the way that it deals with challenging issues in the context of carrying out its mission. Each committee has a charter that guides its decision making.
I also learned the importance of fairly distributing the work of the committee. Because much of the work of the Association is done on a volunteer basis by busy professionals, committee chairs need to find ways to spread the work appropriately to achieve good results. I think we’re pretty good at that on the Ethics Committee. I have found that those who volunteer their time are incredibly dedicated and engaged with the work of the Association, so everyone seems to recognize the need to pitch in.
2. What have you found most surprising as head of Litigation & Compliance within the legal department of a Healthcare organization that might not be expected?
I wear two distinct hats in the organization – and they compete for my attention on a daily basis! The first is as head of the Litigation & Compliance Section within the legal department. We have a very substantial compliance infrastructure throughout Partners, and our section provides legal support to those teams in connection with all manner of compliance issues, from billing and reimbursement, export control and other day to day compliance issues, to advising around internal and external audits and investigations regarding various aspects of our operations. The second hat is as Secretary and Client Coordinator of the PCC or Spaulding and home care entities. These are very different responsibilities that expose me to very different types of work. The variety, complexity and volume of issues are challenging in both of those roles, as you’d expect. What I have found pleasantly surprising, however, is the incredible thoughtfulness and responsiveness of our client base. They invariably take a keen interest in the legal process and have a respect for lawyers. They give generously of their time and knowledge to help solve the problem at hand. I attribute this to the basic nature of our clientele. They are problem-solvers dedicated to the mission of our institutions. If you give them a task, they do it and do it well, and they typically do it quickly.
What I like about the litigation and compliance role is that it presents opportunities to help clients manage and reduce risk. These issues can be distracting and we work had to minimize the disruption to people’s mission critical work. I also like the variety of issues and clients in that role, which takes you to different institutions and departments throughout the system. By contrast, the Secretary and Client Coordinator role aligns me with a business and affords me the opportunity to advise senior management and the board in more of a general counsel capacity. It involves general issue spotting and sometimes jumping in and doing things you haven’t done before. You have to be flexible, able to think on your feet, and creative.
3. What benefits has sitting on a wide variety of BBA Committees provided? What have you learned?
I would say that through involvement with BBF activities like the Society of Fellows and the Adams Benefit Committee, as well as the Annual Meeting Luncheon Committee, the Executive Committee, and Council, I have a greater understanding of how the pieces fit together and a greater appreciation for the mission of the BBA and the BBF combined. As a member, I don’t think I was as tuned in to all the Association and Foundation do in service of the profession and in service of the community. I also have a greater appreciation for the depth of talented and dedicated lawyers involved in the work of the Association and Foundation, as well as the terrific staff , all working together to carry out the mission. The Association has an influential voice in the community and uses it to have a positive impact on access to justice and diversity issues, jobs for youth, legal services, and important legislation. The Association truly does a lot, but in a focused way and with an eye on consistency.
4. How would you describe your time as a leader in the classroom to new generations of lawyers – i.e., as an adjunct professor at New England Law | Boston?
I enjoyed teaching immensely and plan to go back to it when time allows. Preparing the syllabus and organizing the course material was a challenge and very satisfying once it took shape. Then being in the classroom and engaging with young budding lawyers and teaching them with the benefit of my own experiences and war stories was really fun. I found teaching negotiation skills particularly satisfying because I saw opportunities to help shape the students’ perspectives on the profession and our role as lawyers. This included promoting civility in the negotiation context as well as generally. I also was impressed with New England School of Law, which has an accomplished faculty and administration, and the students are engaging.
5. Anything else you want to share about leadership?
To be an effective leader, you have to be a good listener first. You have to consider the views of others and then be prepared to make sometimes difficult decisions in a way that is respectful and confident. Process is so important. When you make a decision, people will better understand it and be more willing to support it if they have had input, even if they might disagree with the ultimate decision. The people you are leading need to feel respected and they need to feel led.