Everyone has their own way of staying connected to the Moritz College of Law. Some stop by for impromptu visits, others gather for a tailgate before a Buckeye football game, and plenty look forward to returning for their annual reunion. Joseph Epps ’73 has begun returning to the law school for an annual talk about health care law, the focus of his practice over the past two decades.
“I’m excited because it is an extension of my efforts to involve Moritz in my life and my legal practice,” Epps said. “I appreciate the opportunity to share my expertise and knowledge of my specific field of law with the students at the law school. And it is good to give back to a College that gave me a great deal.”
Epps’ commitment to the College does not stop there. He and his wife, Tiffany Hathaway, recently agreed to create a diversity scholarship that will help Moritz students over the next five school years. Epps also will welcome a Moritz student to his Los Angeles firm, Epps & Yong, LLP, as a summer intern this year.
“Ohio State has done a great deal for me,” he said. “Lord knows that the training that I received at the College and the education that I was given while there has allowed me to achieve the professional recognition and accomplishments that I have earned.”
When Epps graduated from the Moritz College of Law, he never intended to practice health-related law. In fact, while in law school he had never heard of health care law. His first encounter in the field was more a happenstance than a coordinated pursuit.
The Akron, Ohio, native began his legal career in the Ohio Attorney General’s Office in Columbus, where he focused his practice on environmental litigation.
“I really wanted an opportunity where I would have a direct, hands-on experience in litigation.”
He then moved to Washington, D.C., and worked for the Office of General Counsel, U.S. Department of Energy, Research and Administration. He would later serve as a legislative counsel to the late Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum ’41. In 1977, he moved to Los Angeles and joined TRW, Space & Defense, and provided general corporate counsel and support to the firm’s defense and electronic groups. He also handled the company’s real estate transactional matters.
So when Epps was being considered for a promotion that would have included a transfer back to Washington, D.C., he used the real estate niche to secure another job. “I did so much real estate that I interviewed with a health care company as their lead counsel in real estate development of medical office buildings.” He accepted the job as vice president and senior counsel with Tenet Healthcare Corporation (formerly National Medical Enterprises).
“In order to understand the nuances of medical office building developments you invariably are going to become involved in the regulatory aspects of health care law,” he said. “In order to complete medical office building syndications with the hospitals’ physicians, I began to learn the various rules and regulations.”
It was when he was transferred to Dallas with Tenet that Epps truly received his baptismal in health care-related legal issues. He became the regional legal counsel for three different operating divisions of Tenet Healthcare: general acute, psychiatric, and rehabilitation hospitals. Epps and his legal staff were responsible for more than 50 health care facilities, providing legal advice and counsel to senior management.
“In that position, I served as the regional general counsel and furnished daily advice to hospital executives on a variety of legal issues, including patient consent issues, Medicare compliance, physician medical staff issues and virtually all other general law issues that affected hospital operations.”
He stayed with Tenet until 1998, when he started his own private practice in Los Angeles. Epps continues to provide legal advice to health care providers, specifically hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, joint venture health care start-ups and physician organizations.
“I had absolutely no idea what health care law was when I was in law school,” Epps said. “My path to where I am today is obviously a unique one. I attempt to share my experiences and enthusiasm with interested students when I travel to Moritz and speak in the fall. Although I entered the health care field this way, there are plenty of pathways and entry points to health care law.”
Epps has decided to welcome – for the first time – a Moritz student for a summer internship at his Los Angeles firm. “I want to share with Moritz students the perspective of what is required to be successful in the practice of law,” he said. “How do you act and think like an attorney? How do you behave professionally? These are things that you must consider when you are striving to establish yourself as a reputable attorney.”
Epps and his wife have committed to providing a five-year, diversity scholarship to a deserving Moritz student. Epps emphasized that the scholarship will not focus specifically on racial diversity. “It will be based, in part, upon students’ work in the community or with community-based organizations.”
The idea for the diversity scholarship sparked a few other Moritz alumni to follow Epps’ lead. Alumni in the Chicago area heard of the new scholarship and are in the process of creating a diversity scholarship of their own at the law school.
“That makes me feel great,” Epps said about the idea spurring others to give. “I am happy to do anything I can to help our students at the Moritz College of Law. We are in a highly competitive society, and I am very proud of what the students are achieving and of the College overall.”
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