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Committee Spotlight: Sherie Edwards of Small Law Department

ACC: Tell us about your background and your law department.

Sherie Edwards: I joined SVMIC in 1998 as a claims attorney. In my current role, I serve as in-house counsel and am also responsible for human resources, regulatory and corporate compliance, corporate services, and government relations. My second full-time job, according to my fiancé, is bar involvement. I’m not only active in ACC’s Small Law Department (SLD) Committee but also the ACC Tennessee Chapter Board; Tennessee Bar Association (board member); Nashville Bar Association (chair of the Sister Cities Committee); and the American Bar Association (vice-chair of the TIPS Medicine and Law Committee). I also serve on various community boards. I am a graduate of Nashville School of Law (1996) and Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management (MBA, 2012). My professional passion is mentorship of young attorneys and attorney wellness; my personal passion is watching my grandson play hockey and spending time with family, friends, and my dogs.

SVMIC is a regional provider of healthcare liability insurance for physicians and their practices. In addition to insurance coverage, we offer risk management education and medical practice services on legislation like OSHA and HIPAA.

Sherie Edwards

ACC: What interested you in the in-house practice of law, and how did you come to be in your current position?

Edwards: I didn’t start law school until I was 31 years old. In my second year of law school, I found myself divorced and a single mother of three children under the age of 13. Although I started law school with the intention of going into criminal prosecution, I found that I love business/ transactional practice and being in-house fit better as a single mom. My first job out of law school was as the director of risk management for a community hospital, which gave me the opportunity to network with several healthcare liability defense attorneys. When the claims attorney position opened at SVMIC, I was encouraged to apply. Nineteen years later, I am still happy with that decision.

ACC: What is the single greatest challenge that your law department is facing today, and how are you dealing with it?

Edwards: I am the law department! Although all of our litigation managers are attorneys and we have attorneys in other areas of the company (risk education and IT), I am the only attorney who actually functions in a traditional attorney role. With all of the different hats I wear, I sometimes fear something will fall through the cracks. I deal with this by making elaborate to-do lists in color-coded planners, calendars, and project-management spreadsheets. I’m also not reluctant to let my CEO know if a legal project is outside my scope of expertise requiring outside counsel (such as intellectual property). In October 2017, you were elected as chair of the Small Law Department Committee.

ACC: How did you initially get involved?

Edwards: I am honored and humbled to serve as chair of such a great committee. I joined ACC and the SLD Committee in 2011, and attended my first ACC Annual Meeting in Denver of that year. At the 2012 ACC Annual Meeting, I decided to attend the SLD business lunch. Everyone was so nice, and Nicolle Schippers had such great energy that I knew I wanted to be involved. I asked her how I could help, and she asked me to take on the webpage. After that, I moved into membership, then programs, and then leadership.

ACC: What are some of the ways that the Small Law Department Committee provides value to its members?

Edwards: We try to make sure that the topics for our monthly legal quick hits (LQH), our webcasts, and our roundtables are of interest to our members. Sheri Fanaroff, our eGroups chair, reviews the eGroups list on almost a daily basis and let’s us know what topics are hot every month. Jacquie Lindsay, our online learning chair, works with ACC and our incredible sponsor, Meritas, to plan and execute our webcasts and roundtables. Kristen Chittenden, our vice-chair, works with Meritas to line up LQH speakers. We all work closely with Kim Heinrich at Meritas to make sure our written resources (Top 10s) are timely. Finally, through the use of surveys, we ask our members what topics are important to them. We really depend on our members to talk to us!

ACC: What substantive practice issues does your committee address?

Edwards: Attorneys in small law are the utility players of the legal world; we play several different positions and we do it all well! Our substantive practice issues are as diverse as the companies for which we work. That’s why it’s so important for us as leadership to listen to our members and get them the resources they need.

ACC: How has the Small Law Department Committee helped you in your career?

Edwards: On a professional level, the resources I have through ACC in general and SLD in particular are important to my practice every day. I also know that I have a vast network of over 6500 SLD members whose knowledge and wisdom I can draw upon through our eGroups. Personally, some of the closest and best friendships in my life are a result of networking through SLD. Being a member of SLD has enriched my life immensely.

The information in any resource collected in this virtual library should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on specific facts and should not be considered representative of the views of its authors, its sponsors, and/or ACC. These resources are not intended as a definitive statement on the subject addressed. Rather, they are intended to serve as a tool providing practical advice and references for the busy in-house practitioner and other readers.