As a result of the success Baker Donelson saw with remote working during the pandemic, the law firm is adding attorneys outside its geographic footprint when their experience meets client needs.
The first remote hire for Baker’s Chattanooga office is attorney Robin Barber, a Louisville, Kentucky, resident who has joined the firm’s Health Law Group.
Barber brings experience in establishing and leading in-house legal and risk management departments for senior-living providers. She’s also familiar with senior-living insurance and risk-management matters.
Here, Barber discusses the unique aspects of her job with Baker, from working remotely, to shifting to working for a law firm, to the possibility of someday making Chattanooga her home.
How did you connect with Baker while working as an in-house attorney in Louisville?
“Before I joined Baker, which was last week, I was the chief legal officer for Trilogy Health Services, a long-term care provider. I was with them for three years. Prior to that, I was the general counsel for another assisted living provider in the Louisville area.
“Not only was Baker outside counsel to my former employer, but in my role as in-house general counsel, I used Baker for years and established working relationships with some of the firm’s attorneys. They reached out to me regarding an opportunity they had for a senior attorney with gray hair and experience in health care work.”
Have you ever worked for a law firm?
“I’ve been in the health care sector for the last 25 years, which is 98% of my career. But I initially worked as an associate at a law firm in Pennsylvania.
“I then had an opportunity to go in-house for a company in the assisted living space. That was when people were actively developing those types of facilities because they were relatively new.”
Are you enjoying being with a firm again?
“It’s a big shift. This opportunity was tremendously attractive to me because of where I am in my career. I’ve been in-house for so long. Although I loved every minute of it, it can be a little isolating.
“It was also attractive to me to be able to join a great firm like Baker, given all the attorneys and resources it has. I’m looking forward to collaborating more with others in my day-to-day work.”
With the exception of during the pandemic, is this your first experience working remotely?
“Trilogy was very old-school in that it wanted its employees to be in the office, collaborating, even though some other companies were open to people working remotely.
“But when COVID hit, the company was forced to allow people to work remotely. I think I demonstrated to myself as well as the company that it was a good fit for me.”
How is working remotely a good fit for you?
“I feel like I’m more productive, but that’s my personality. I’m a bit of a desk jockey. I’m also fairly introverted and comfortable with not having the hustle and bustle of an office around me.”
Will you be visiting Baker’s office in Chattanooga?
“I do want to visit the Chattanooga office as often as they invite me, but even outside of that, I would like to get down there every couple of months. It’s a beautiful drive.”
Why brought you to the law?
“It was pure happenstance. My undergraduate degree is in mathematics, and I was working as a corporate statistician for a large manufacturing company. It was as thrilling as it sounds.
“I felt like a cog in a wheel, and was questioning where it was leading because the person for whom I was working had been in his role for 20 years, and it was just him and me in our department. My older sister suggested I go to law school.”
“I don’t know if ‘reserved’ is the right word, but I’m a good listener and write fairly well.
“I earned my law degree at a satellite of Widener University Delaware Law School. My first job was with a law firm in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. That’s where I was exposed to general corporate and transactional work, which I liked.”
Tell us about your immediate family.
“I have a husband who’s retired and three stepchildren who are grown. They all live in Pennsylvania, so we have strong ties there.”
You’re living in Kentucky, working in Tennessee and still have ties to Pennsylvania. So, who will you be rooting for on Saturdays this fall?
“I’m a Penn State fan because I was born and raised in State College, Pennsylvania. That’s also where I went to undergrad. But I have a twin sister and a nephew who just started going to Purdue University [in Indiana], so I’m considering aligning with the Boilermakers just to make things interesting.”
Working from home can feel like you’re always on the job. Does anything pull you away from your desk?
“To the extent that I have free time, I try to spend it working in my yard. While we were home last year, my husband and I grew a garden. So, we have a garden and a bunch of trees in our yard now.”
You’re spending time in Chattanooga virtually, but have you ever physically been here?
“I was in Chattanooga for the first time last week. I think it’s beautiful. I grew up in a valley surrounded by mountains, so it reminds me of my childhood.
“And the people at Baker couldn’t have been nicer. I don’t know if it’s southern hospitality or something else, but they made me feel like we’d known each other for a long time. I knew some of them from working with them, but that was the first time I met some of them face-to-face.”
Since your husband is retired and you’re working for Baker in Chattanooga, why not move here?
“I moved to Louisville in 2006. When the company for which I was working relocated its headquarters from Pennsylvania to Kentucky, I agreed to relocate here sight unseen. Since then, some of my family has relocated to Louisville, so my roots have grown deeper.
“Right now, working from home is a good fit for my family and me, but Louisville is not our final destination. Someday, we’ll retire where there are mountains. Chattanooga certainly fits that bill.”