For Courtney Parecki, the hardest part about going in-house after seventeen years of firm litigation is not taking every case to the courtroom. It’s where the vice president of claims and legal services at Steward Health Care earned her stripes, it’s what earned her partnerships in three different firms, and it’s where, traditionally, she’s sought the right outcome for her clients.
“I spent a lot of years thumping my chest and saying, ‘This case is nonsense and we’re going to try it,’” the VP explains. “But when you go in-house, there are so many other factors you have to take into account in terms of what’s right for the business. My gut instinct has always been to win for my client, but in-house, that doesn’t always mean pushing forward with a case.”
Parecki came to Steward Health Care in May 2022 after doing a significant amount of medical malpractice defense for the organization in her last outside counsel role. Her now-manager was seeking someone to join the organization who understood the space well and could work directly under him to support its captive insurance practice.
The ask came at the right time for Parecki. After seventeen years, the litigator says that while she was always learning something new, she felt like she’d had virtually every experience she could in private practice. Having spent so many years in strictly medical malpractice work, an in-house role would give the chance to broaden her practice and learn what it’s like to have a single client, though one with countless stakeholders.
But the skills that landed her in the role also aren’t necessarily the ones that mirror in-house mastery, and Parecki is working on it.
“I’ve just never been someone that’s easily bullied by plaintiff’s attorneys,” Parecki explains. “I don’t roll over. I’m a little bit fiery, and I think I can let my emotions and notions of right and wrong take over at times. That’s not always right for the business, and I think I’m growing there.”
Parecki left law school unsure of where she belonged in the legal world, but was able to spend a year clerking for a federal district court judge in Arizona. That clerkship came about as a result of the young attorney traveling to Arizona to run a marathon and a chance meeting with a judge who was the father of her law school evidence professor.
“I’ve run exactly one marathon in my life, and I was able to schedule an interview with my professor’s dad at the same time,” Parecki explains. “It was quite an experience. He was so sweet and almost grandfatherly to me, but really hard on the attorneys who appeared before him in court. It made me a little terrified to practice law, honestly.”
The VP’s early struggles and fears are important to highlight because, despite them, she flourished. Eventually, her interest in healthcare—she initially was a premed undergrad—gave way to a wide range of medical malpractice work. It took time to figure out where the lawyer belonged, as it does for many, but once Parecki found her niche, there was no amount of fear that could keep the attorney from becoming a litigation expert.
Having acted as a partner for so long, the lawyer has strong recommendations for those leading their own teams of lawyers.
“I struggled a lot with trying to balance seeing areas where people needed to improve and having those hard conversations that too often could fall on the side of hurt feelings, and I wasn’t being clear about my expectations,” Parecki says. “As an associate, I remember feeling blindsided in annual reviews where I would think, ‘Why didn’t we have this discussion six months ago?’”
She continues, “I’ve been on both sides, and know those discussions can be challenging, but you have to work hard to be clear with your people about how they can improve, and how you can help them along the way.”
It’s clear that Parecki has thought a lot about her own burgeoning leadership, but at present, she’s happy to work as a lone wolf on behalf of Steward Health. Every case can’t go to trial, but should she need to take one there, plaintiffs better be bringing something legitimate to the table.
The Colors of Calm
For someone with Courtney Parecki’s spark, it’s interesting to note how she spends her free time. The mother of two daughters loves to throw on some mindless television and pull out her colored pencils. Art relaxes the VP, and it’s always her go-to leisure activity.
“There’s just something about coloring that puts me at ease,” Parecki says. “If I’m not walking or getting some exercise, I’m probably working with my colored pencils. It may seem silly, but it’s just something I love.”