2018 Lawyers Of The Year: Jennifer Evans

Law Week’s Lawyers of the Year are chosen for their standout achievements in their legal work, community involvement and business achievements. The 2018 awards go to five attorneys, profiled on the following pages, who have excelled in litigation, transactional work and law firm leadership.

With the kind of growth and change Polsinelli’s Denver office has experienced in the past few years, it’s fair to ask whether its managing partner has time to even practice law.

But even with her administrative responsibilities and community involvement, Jennifer Evans maintains she is still a “100-percent practicing lawyer.”

“My hours aren’t always where I want them to be,” she said with a laugh, “[but] any good lawyer will tell you they could always work more.”

While overseeing the workings and recruitment of a law office that has become a magnet for laterals, Evans represents health care providers, including physicians, hospitals and manufacturers, mostly in issues involving reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid. “A really short description of our practice is, we help our clients get paid and keep their money,” she said. Her role is to help providers navigate the myriad reimbursement rules “so they can pay attention to their patients and their clinical work, and we can worry about the details.”

Evans and her health care regulatory team have built a reputation for successfully defending health care providers having run-ins with the government, whether it’s on issues dealing with the anti-kickback statute, fraud and abuse investigations or alleged reimbursement rule infractions.

Governor-elect Jared Polis recently appointed Evans to serve on his “Boldly Forward” transition committee for health and human services. She and other members of that group will help determine who will head various state agencies in the new administration.

Evans was always going to be involved in the health care field one way or another. In high school she considered becoming a doctor, and after deciding that wasn’t for her, she looked at other roles around the periphery of patient care. After receiving her bachelor’s at the University of Colorado but before she went to law school there, Evans worked with health care policy on Capitol Hill. She was Ben Nighthorse Campbell’s legislative assistant for health care when he was in the U.S. House of Representatives and then the Senate. She afterwards charted a legal career through positions at DaVita, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, and then Faegre & Benson before joining Polsinelli in 2011.

The appeal of her practice, Evans said, is that she gets to be part of a supportive industry even though she’s not a clinician.

“I’m a health care person first. I’m just coincidentally a lawyer.”

The passage of the Affordable Care Act and its shifting litany of reimbursement rules have only made health care lawyers all the more necessary to providers over the past decade. 

“Health care is so tricky,” Evans said. “It would be easy to be a bad health care lawyer because there’s so much complexity [in the regulations]. To be a really great health care lawyer, or to even be a passing health care lawyer, you have to know so many different things and think about all of them at once: The corporate structure, the licensing structure, how the government pays, how the government looks at relationships between parties.”

Her approach has been to not only help providers with the regulatory issues they bring to her team but also help them account for all of the other potential issues surrounding them. “It’s really good when we can come into an arrangement at the beginning, when people are thinking about doing something new in health care, and help them get all the puzzle pieces lined up correctly so they can move on, take care of their business and not have to worry about it in the future.”

2018 was a big year for Evans in part because of the growth she’s helped foster in the Polsinelli Denver office, a standout among the 21 locations the Am Law 100 firm has across the U.S.

Just over two years ago, Polsinelli moved into the new 23-story building in downtown Denver that bears its sign atop its southern face. At a time when other BigLaw firms everywhere started shifting into smaller office spaces to slash their overhead, Polsinelli placed a big bet on its Denver location. The firm began fiscal year 2018 with 65 attorneys, and today the lawyer headcount is 93. That hasn’t quite filled up the new office spaces, “but we’re in good shape,” Evans said. “We didn’t overcommit ourselves.”

To put it in perspective, Evans remembers Polsinelli Denver having about 25 attorneys total when she joined it back in 2011 — fewer than the net gain the office just had in a little over a year.

Evans has played a significant role in identifying talent to recruit to the office and conferring with other shareholders to determine which attorneys would have the best fit there. 

“The great legal talent in Denver has really enabled us to bring additional people into Polsinelli,” she said.

The first female attorney to head Polsinelli’s Denver office, she describes her office managing partner role as helping her colleagues serve their clients, and trying to provide logistical support to whoever shows up at her office doorway.

“My responsibility here [is to] …  make sure if someone’s working on a challenging project for a client, that we pull in extra resources for them and make sure that we get a great output.”

Evans said her involvement in other firmwide positions, not to mention community functions, helps her bring a broader perspective to roles as office managing partner and health care lawyer. She currently sits on Polsinelli’s board of directors as has served on a handful of the firm’s committees. Outside the firm, she’s had leadership positions at the Denver Public Schools Foundation Board, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women. She and her husband co-chaired the DPS Foundation’s annual Achieve Gala last year, which set a fundraising record for the event, she noted, and the organization hopes to set a new one next year.

“It’s been a fun year,” said Evans, whose 2018 was perhaps as remarkable for her work outside her busy practice as it was for her practice itself.

— Doug Chartier

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