Richard W. Westling, Member of the Firm in the Health Care & Life Sciences and Litigation practices, in the firm’s Nashville and Washington, DC, offices, was quoted in Healthcare Risk Management, in “Work Carefully with Counsel to Ensure Best Results.”

Following is an excerpt:

The best approach to the relationship between the compliance officer or risk manager and legal counsel is to view it as a partnership, says Richard W. Westling, JD, an attorney with the law firm of Epstein Becker Green in Washington, DC.

“Each partner has to understand his or her respective role and its limits. Communication, respect, and trust are the keys to any effective partnership,” Westling says. “Taking the time to communicate and to build a respect and trust will go a long way toward making the compliance officer/risk manager relationship with counsel successful.”

Often, an individual serving as a risk manager or compliance officer is trained as a lawyer. That might seem like it would foster a good relationship, but often it has the opposite effect, Westling says.

“Despite that training, that individual is not acting as a lawyer when serving in their risk management or compliance role. It is important to take off the lawyer hat and to leave the legal analysis and opinions to legal counsel,” he says. “Failure to avoid this mistake can adversely affect the existence of attorney-client privilege, which generally does not cover communications by an attorney who is not employed in a legal function.”

Distrust between the two parties, for whatever reason, is a time bomb, Westling says. If either counsel or the compliance officer/risk manager believes they are not in this effort together, the relationship is doomed.

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