A Legal Superhero:
Mitzi George McLean of the Justice League for DaVita.

After a series of jobs working for private firms and insurance companies, attorney Mitzi George McLean landed at DaVita Kidney Care a little over two years ago and is now Director, Associate General Counsel.
But in a company where health care is the main goal, McLean says she still feels welcome as an attorney given the company’s inclusive nature.

“We [the legal department] build relationships with patient-facing teammates so that when they need us, they know who to call,” she says, and terms herself part of the “Justice League for DaVita.”

I grew up outside of Chicago until the latter part of my junior year in high school when I moved to Mississippi: My mom was from the Chicago suburbs and my dad was from Mississippi.

I no longer have a Northern accent – until I am with the Chicago side of the family for a week. Then my husband says, “I forgot I married a Yankee.”

I am extremely close to my dad, and we moved back to his hometown, and I did not want to get too far away. I am wild and ambitious but also daddy’s girl. And I realized that I did not appreciate Chicago winters.

I knew at a pretty young age I wanted to be an attorney. I had no idea what that meant or how to make that happen.

Even graduating from law school, I don’t think I had a full understanding of the world of jobs with law degrees. I was basically exposed to plaintiff attorneys and insurance defense. Only later did I learn about corporate law, in-house counsel, etc.

I was always just inquisitive and frankly, quite argumentative. I was exposed to the law through my parents’ divorce and my dad had the perspective that even if you don’t practice law, knowing the law and how it applies to you can be helpful. People can fall victim to the justice system if they don’t know how the law works and how to help themselves. In general, knowledge is power.

Neither parent was an attorney. My dad was a smart man, and he took college courses but did not get a degree. He just had a thirst for knowledge. I was the first person on my dad’s side of family to go to college and obtain a college degree, and the second person on mom’s side. So, when I say that growing up, I did not know what an attorney was, I’m not joking.

I was at my first in-house counsel job and I had a lawsuit where the two sides were just completely at opposite ends of the spectrum from an eval standpoint given what the other side wanted and what we were willing to pay.

I had never been in this situation before and was looking for a mock trial, independent consultant type company. I’m not sure exactly how I heard about Magna; maybe it was a recommendation from a colleague.

I ended up doing my first mock trial with Magna and was hooked.

The insight and perspective of prospective jury members is what you need to solidify your eval -or understand where you’ve gone astray.

The jury members are typically from the general area, so the idea is you really get a group of people who are similar to the ultimate jury pool.

It did in the sense that the jury solidified a concern that existed regarding the Company’s financial exposure. It demonstrated that there was the potential for financial exposure that we, as a collective team evaluating the case, had not fully accepted as being “reasonable.” What we were able to clearly demonstrate post-mock is that juries, although valued and appreciated, are not always “reasonable”.

Yes, it also showed we were off course as it pertained to our trial strategy and afforded us the very important opportunity to course correct. There were a couple of things that we had not planned to spend a significant amount of time addressing and the jurors believed them to be extremely important and confusing. Conversely, there were a couple of things that we thought were important and intended to focus a large amount of time and energy on, and the jurors almost completely disregarded them.

The case did not go to trial. It settled. But the mock trial led us to a fair settlement. And by “fair” I mean, something that neither party loved but could live with. It has been my experience that if anyone walks away from a settlement feeling extremely happy or enthused about the outcome, they definitely got the best of the other party and it likely wasn’t a “fair” compromise.

Six total; about one or two a year but a little more frequently in the past two or three years.

Evaluating the cost and exposure of claims and litigation post-Covid has been extremely difficult. We are seeing demands and judgments across the country skyrocket, making it increasingly more important to use any and all available tools that may aid in evaluating costs and exposure. By we, I do not mean DaVita – but businesses and organizations generally. It very frequently feels like $10 million is the new $1 million.

Not really. When you’re young(ish), you don’t really know why you’re doing what you’re doing. I thoroughly enjoyed business classes and appreciated that having a Master’s Degree in business would not hurt me at any juncture – even if I did not know exactly how it would help. The goal was always to go to law school and become an attorney.

After accepting my first in-house position, I was told that having an MBA is what set me apart and why I received the job offer. The fact that I had an MBA led them to believe, rightly so, that I had an interest in understanding the business and it would make it easier to foster relationships with non-legal business colleagues. A large part of any in-house counsel role I’ve held has been being a good partner to key stakeholders, which requires providing sound legal advice (options) for achieving business goals and objectives while minimizing legal risk. I personally do not think you can be a good partner to key stakeholders if you attempt to provide legal advice in a vacuum, whether that be a result of a lack of understanding or appreciation of the realities of business operations.

Just helping people. When people think of corporations, they forget these are not just companies being sued.

DaVita is large company, but I’ve worked for extremely small LLCs. Either way, a company is a fictitious face of people that have come together to do something. When you file a lawsuit, you’re not just suing a company without a face behind it.

But I think sometimes when we sue a company, we forget those companies are made of imperfect people who are making decisions on less than perfect information, sometimes the best they can.

For example, if a patient or family member sues DaVita, our team members have sometimes been working with those patients for years, 15 hours a week. They take it personally when you say they did something wrong because they have learned to love and care for this patient, and they are hurt by it. They deserve a shot at clearing their name and being heard.

To put it simply, they had a job and I saw an opportunity with a larger company and potential for lots of growth.

The biggest factor for me is that I had been, up until DaVita, in-house counsel with insurance companies and I was fearful of being pigeonholed as a corporate insurance attorney when my skill set was transferrable to any organization given the need across the board to handle risk management, investigation, labor and employment issues, etc.

In other words, I could do those things anywhere but did it at insurance companies previously.

For me, it would probably be the culture. DaVita – the name literally means “Giving life” and has a rich and deep culture surrounding the safe provision of lifesaving dialysis care. Although doing that is clinical in nature DaVita does an extraordinary job at ensuring non-clinical teammates, like myself, understand how important our roles is in the collaborative business process.

My experience has been that not every company makes the effort to incorporate the legal department into the corporate culture the way DaVita does and there are instances in which legal departments operate as though they are a separate entity. I am not suggesting that one approach is correct, but I can say that I appreciate being a valued member of the business operations and being included in such a rich and fulfilling way.

I don’t know. I am always looking for opportunities for personal and professional growth and want to be prepared for the next step. But perhaps to a fault, I focus on doing the best job I can in the space where I am operating and do not typically think enough about the next opportunity and career move.

I had family in Nashville and visited and it was a growing place where it seemed like there would be opportunities. It seemed like it would be a hub for the South and it has become that.

There’s not a lot not to like about Nashville except how fast it’s growing. There is diversity in the people and in the political thinking, and in different perspectives.

Very few people who live in Nashville are from Nashville, so it is a melting pot. They bring their own unique style of thought and background. It makes for a lot of fulfilling relationships and friendships. There is a coming together of newcomers. Everyone here is friendly and maybe too chatty from the viewpoint of someone who grew up in Chicago. I mean, some people I meet want to tell me everything and I’m thinking to myself, “I don’t even know you. I just met you at Target.”

I think mine. Happy to share the recipe: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/pulled-pork-2399361