LEADERSHIP IN LAW 2020: John Ryan

IL photo/Eric Learned

Aside from being the leader of one of the nation’s top health care practices, John Ryan is an Eagle Scout. He called on that training a few years back, administering CPR to a man who had collapsed in an airport. Afterward, he made sure every lawyer in the firm received lifesaving training. That kind of forward thinking may explain Hall Render’s transformation since his election as the firm’s president and managing partner in 2012. Under his leadership, seven of the firm’s offices have opened. Ryan also is active in community service, from helping shape emergency medical policy to his involvement with local arts through the Penrod Society.

What do you think have been some of the keys to your firm’s growth under your leadership?

The one leadership mantra that has influenced me the most through our firm’s national growth has been: have a plan, and be prepared to double your effort to push through adversity in executing the plan. This mantra applies to almost every aspect of life, but as it relates to our growth, it acknowledges the fact that having a plan is better than having no plan. With a plan, our entire firm, from the senior leadership to our newest lawyer, knows what we are collectively trying to achieve. In our instance, it is to become the preeminent health law firm in the country. Then we can all contribute in various ways to supporting the plan: knowing the business of the industry we serve, delivering high quality services that you would expect from the preeminent health law firm, building and adding top level talent across the country, managing expenses to keep rates competitive, etc. But in addition to having a good plan, it is equally important to be prepared to push through adversity. There will be days when we miss out on a top talent recruit or when a new office opportunity falls through; there will be days when the challenges of running a business day-to-day will distract from the bigger plan; and there will be days when there are reasonable differences in opinion on what is the best course or next step. In those instances, doubling your effort to push through the challenges in order to keep the ship pointed in the right direction becomes paramount to the firm’s long-term success.

How do you find time for bar and community involvement?

I have always believed that you find time to do the things that matter most. When I graduated from school and began my career, I did so with a goal of going back to contribute to all of those organizations that helped me through my early years. This led me on a path to serve in leadership and governing roles for my church, my high school, my Boy Scout troop and my fraternity, among others. Along the way I have volunteered for other organizations I am passionate about. In each instance, finding time was the easy part; it is easy to find the time when you sincerely care about the cause.

What has been the most personally rewarding aspect of your legal career?

The most rewarding aspect of my legal career has been to serve with everyone else in our firm in an effort to influence and guide the future of health care. This not only leaves me feeling professionally rewarded, but also rewarded in bettering the great communities around the state of Indiana and others across the country.

A colleague recounted how you once revived someone using CPR. How did that experience impact you?

I have been involved in three events in the past five years that have involved life-threatening circumstances where I was placed in the position of delivering first aid. In each instance, I am reminded of how fragile life really is, that we must never take life for granted, and that we must make every day count. In the most recent instance, I witnessed a man collapse in the Salt Lake City Airport with a likely heart attack. Together with two other bystanders, we provided the man with CPR and also deployed an AED device until airport paramedics arrived and took over his care. In as much as my entire career has been in health care, this event nevertheless also gave me a new appreciation for first responders and all medical personnel and the high stress under which they work.

What attracted you to health care law?

In a bit of irony, I had no preconceived attraction to health care law prior to joining Hall Render. In fact, I did not know that Hall Render was singularly dedicated to health care legal services until my first interview for a law clerk position. Now, in fairness, I was interviewing before many firms – including Hall Render – had a website. There were also no forms of “social media” at the time, unless you consider the editorial page of the newspaper as social media. With this context, I would nonetheless answer this question today the same way I would have at the start: It is the attorneys and staff at Hall Render that attracted me to health law. When you work with good people as I have had the pleasure of doing at Hall Render over these past 25 years, the type of work you are doing is not as material.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be patient. With a classic Type A overachiever personality, as most of us have in the legal profession, I spent my early years in this profession never satisfied with the pace of my professional advancement. Now 25 years into this profession, I have found this profession is better pursued as a journey and not a race.

What do you most like to do when you have free time?

My most important things outside of work are family and exercise. I revel in family vacations, soccer carpools and lake time in the summer. With the time that is left, normally at 5:30 a.m., my exercise passion is cycling. I biked just over 6,000 miles in 2019 and have my eye on matching that goal in 2020.

Who is someone who mentored you, and what did you learn from them?

I have been blessed to have amazing parents who have actively mentored me my whole life. My dad has been an especially influential mentor, professionally and personally. Professionally, he is the reason I chose the legal profession. During his career, he was an attorney who worked extremely hard in city and state government and in private practice, but he still found time for family and community, and that has guided me throughout my entire career. He taught me the importance of working hard and being dedicated to your work. My mom took time off from work when she was raising me and my siblings, and she mentored me in the importance of friendships and enjoying life. I can only hope that I mentor my children in the same virtues as well as in the importance of work/life balance.•

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