Not all attorneys work in private practice. In fact, some don’t work for legal entities at all. Atlanta-based attorney Bisa F. Ajanaku is one of them.
A graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law and an active member of both the Association of Black Women Attorneys and the Gate City Bar Association, Ajanaku is the associate general counsel for Grady Health System, the premiere trauma center and largest public academic hospital in Georgia. In this role, she provides advice and strategic solutions for the healthcare system. She oversees litigation cases, contract compliance, medical malpractice and personnel legal cases for over 5000 employees.
In addition to her work at Grady, Ajanaku also works with The Lawyers Forum, an innovative mentorship initiative for young attorneys.
Here, TNJ.com caught up with the busy counselor who, according to industry insiders, has earned a reputation as a “formidable litigator and negotiator.”
TNJ.com: What do you like most about your law career in the healthcare field?
Bisa Ajanaku: What I like most about my law career in the healthcare field is that I have an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of our patients and our employees. The things that we do on a daily basis – revise policies and procedures, educate and advise physicians, ensure compliance – makes it safer for our patients. I know that my work has a real impact. Most attorneys do not get to experience that type of fulfillment. That’s a real gift and I am truly grateful.
TNJ.com: What’s a typical day like for you?
B.A.: There is no typical day at Grady. I know better than to plan my day in advance. We are on call 24/7 to help resolve any issues that our employees or physicians may have. If I am not fielding calls regarding consents or the like, I am reviewing contracts or responding to discovery requests. We also educate our employees and physicians regarding legal issues. There’s never a dull moment. I really love my job.
TNJ.com: Why did you choose to be an attorney for a healthcare organization versus being in private practice at a law firm, being a public defender, etc.
B.A.: When I started my career as an attorney with a large law firm, my first cases were medical malpractice cases where I represented my current employer, Grady Health System. I really learned my craft representing the Health System – it was such rewarding work for me. So I jumped at the chance to come in-house and work at Grady. Also, Grady is so important and essential to Atlanta, this city that I have loved for more than 25 years – it feels like home to be part of this organization.
TNJ.com: Tell me about your work with The Lawyers Forum.
B.A.: The Lawyers Forum is in its infancy stages. It’s a concept that I and my significant other, an attorney and mediator, created to address what we see as a need for a less formal organization to mentor and educate young attorneys. Ideally, the Lawyers Forum would fill in the gaps where the formal bar associations leave off. We hope to foster an open, accessible environment for new and seasoned attorneys to interact and support one another.
TNJ.com: What advice do you have for law school graduates looking to explore the various career options in the legal profession?
B.A.: Make sure that this job is what you really want to do. It is a lot tougher than when I began my practice to find a place where you fit. I think law students should take advantage of any opportunity to intern to weed out what does not work — you need to be sure. Firms and employers do not have much time to invest in training – they need new attorneys to be productive a lot sooner.
TNJ.com: Do you deal with a lot of malpractice cases? In most cases, who usually wins – the patient or the hospital?
B.A.: I’m a litigator, so yes, I do deal with medical malpractice cases pretty frequently. To be honest, you do not see many “wins” with this type of work on either side. For the most part, these cases settle. One party gives up more than it planned, and the other party accepts less than it planned. Mediation is an incredibly useful tool in these types of cases where the stakes are so high.
TNJ.com: Has Obamacare changed the landscape with regard to what you do for the healthcare system?
B.A.: I believe it has. I think that Obamacare has really broadened our mission – we must ensure that we provide quality healthcare and service to our patients. We are finding new, innovative ways to fulfill that mission. It’s progress and that is good for our patients.