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Image featuring Candace Friel in the Women of NM series

May 5, 2022

Women of NM: Litigation

Featuring Candace Friel

Winston-Salem partner Candace Friel is a commercial litigator with a concentration in the healthcare space, having represented, among others, hospitals, providers, and practice management groups in a range of disputes including commercial payor disputes, business torts, antitrust, and employment matters.  She represents and advises clients on healthcare planning and certificate of need issues. 

Why litigation?

I love the variety of cases and problems that I get to help solve as a litigator and the fact that no two days in this job are alike. Some days you are acting as an investigator and sometimes strategizing for an end game that goes well beyond a single case. It’s also important to me that I have a practice that allows a lot of facetime and interaction with my clients and witnesses and other colleagues. That really goes a long way in enhancing my personal satisfaction with my career.

A large portion of my practice is serving clients in the healthcare industry, which is constantly evolving. I have represented clients in payor reimbursement disputes, antitrust, contractual and employment disputes. I have successfully helped my physician and large physician group clients disassociate from large hospital systems to form independent practices. I also advise clients on healthcare planning and strategy and have led hospital systems through the regulatory framework required to expand their services and footprint into new geographic and service markets.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

The biggest inspiration in my life was my grandmother. She woke up every morning at 4 am and drove to a factory where she worked sanding chairs for over thirty years. But she never complained; she was grateful to have a job. She never had much, and nothing came easy—she only had a seventh-grade education and never left the tiny rural town where she was born and where I was raised. But she was hard working, generous, and faithful. From her, I learned the value of hard work and the difference between “need” and “want.”

What are key trends that you are noticing in the industry?

Changes in healthcare delivery models over the last few years have been exponential with everything from virtual visits to home-based care and the shift to value based care, all of which have had a profound impact on my clients, especially when dealing with employee staffing and practice group management issues.

Litigation itself looks so different since COVID became a part of our daily lives. It has forced us to really become creative in finding ways to help clients solve disputes. It has also forced a modernization of tools and practices that were non-existent in some court systems. Litigators and courts had to quickly adapt to virtual litigation, including depositions, mediations, judicial hearings, and trials all taking place on a virtual platform. This forced modernization was a huge steppingstone in many ways though challenges in navigating evidentiary issues, authentication, and security still remain. On balance, given the overall benefits to litigants and the courts, virtual litigation will certainly remain a helpful tool in at least some capacity.

What are some of the traits that you admire the most amongst your peers?

I am continuously inspired by the resiliency and sheer drive of my peers. I think the last two years have stretched us all both professionally and personally in ways we could never have expected. This is a challenging career in any environment, and I am especially grateful for the depth of community I feel from my fellow female attorneys at all levels both in the firm and outside the firm—it truly takes a village.

What is one piece of advice would you give to individuals who want to get into this industry?

Being an attorney is hard work. It requires a level of commitment that most don’t understand until they are already into their practice. I would encourage anyone considering this field to make sure they are willing to put in the time, pay their dues, and earn it. Once you are certain this field is for you, be willing to adapt to the times and trends and of course, the needs of your clients. If you are inflexible or refuse to see a different perspective, you will be doing a disservice to your clients and not fulfilling your true potential as an advocate.

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