The Insider

Matter of Choice
Superlawyer John O'Quinn might be one of the pro-choicest attorneys around, but he's bailed out from the board of Houston's Planned Parenthood. The reason: a possible conflict of interest if his firm were to represent plaintiffs against the makers of the contraceptive implant Norplant and agencies that distribute it -- such as Planned Parenthood. No such suit has been filed in Houston, but Peter Durkin, Planned Parenthood's executive director, believes one of O'Quinn's partners may have been involved in the groundwork on a Norplant suit. Durkin says Planned Parenthood suggested that O'Quinn might want to resign from the board to avoid any potential conflict, and he did so a few months ago. Since January, Planned Parenthood has received 49 requests from law firms for information about patients who received Norplant at the agency's Houston clinics. Three of those inquiries have come from O'Quinn's firm; most have emanated from the firm of Jim Adler, who advertises himself as "The Injury Lawyer" or, en espanol, "Abogado de los Lastimas."

O'Quinn didn't return a call for comment, but Durkin says he will be missed for his fund-raising and advocacy abilities. "As a board member, John was exceedingly good," says Durkin.

And as a former board member?
"I hope if they are looking at getting into this, that he will give some pause to it, because I think [Norplant] is a good contraception option that should be available to people."

Be True to Your (Medical) School
Cutthroat competition between hospitals in the Texas Medical Center for managed care contracts with HMOs has had some unpredictable consequences. For instance, when Methodist Hospital snatched the Prucare pact away from Hermann Hospital, it left the University of Texas Health Science Center in a strange bind. UT uses Hermann as its teaching hospital and clinic, but it also contracts with Prucare to provide one of several health care plans for its doctors and other employees. Thus, UT staffers who work at Hermann but are signed up with Prucare will now have to truck over to Methodist for treatment. Even more aggravating to UT officials is the fact that Methodist is the teaching hospital for UT's rival, Baylor College of Medicine.

"A sorry state of affairs," lamented Dr. Jeffrey Katz, the chair of UT's hospital and practice plan, in a letter to employees urging them to switch from Prucare to OneCare, which uses Hermann facilities. "Every employee that selects Prucare ... has a hand in directing money ... to Prucare and Methodist Hospital. This is an intolerable situation." Meanwhile, the sign-up period for health care is on for UT employees, who are having to choose between Prucare, which is cheaper for many of them, and being true to their school.

The Boogie Way
All you young lawyers just starting out might want to consider this tip from state Senator John "Boogie" Whitmire on melding a legal and political practice. As first reported in last week's Press, Whitmire and one of his legislative staffers, Pat Williams, maintain their private legal offices in the senator's district office at 803 Yale. The renovated house-turned-office is operated by 803 Yale Street LLC, whose incorporation papers list a Laurence Kagan and Darryl Edelman as managers. The state pays $1,950 a month to 803 Yale Street LLC for the senatorial office space, while Whitmire and Williams each pay about a tenth of the total rent for their two law offices in the building. Thus, if you become an elected official (or just a legal toady to one), you too can have a lovely legal office in a stately Heights Victorian, just five minutes from downtown and all for a mere $243.40 a month!

The Insider is compiled by Tim Fleck.


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