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Alumni profile: Tom Fahey

Tom Fahey (JD ’80) is a well-known figure in the Chicago health law arena and something of a star among DePaul’s health law students.

As managing partner of Nixon Peabody Chicago, Fahey currently advises hospitals, health systems and financial institutions on complex health care-related finance, strategy and compliance issues. His 35 years of direct involvement in health care law make him one of the most practiced attorneys in his field.

Fahey insists on attributing some of his career success to good luck.

As a third-year student at DePaul Law he was hired by Hinshaw & Culbertson Partner William R. Kucera (JD ’68), now recognized as a pioneer in the Chicago health care field. Fahey joined the Chicago headquarters at a time when, he says, health law was barely a specialty. He took a split assignment between Hinshaw’s litigation group and the firm’s newly formed health care group.

A few months into his position, he recalls, the health care boom hit. Fahey signed on to the firm’s health care group full time along with three other lawyers. Just four years later, his group had grown to 20 attorneys.

“I was fortunate that the specialty started evolving. Prior to that time, corporate attorneys did the health care work,” said Fahey. “As the unique needs of the industry resulted in significant regulation, the specialty was born.”

Fahey started the health law practice at Ungaretti & Harris in 1989, and was the firm’s managing partner from 1997 until this year. In February 2015, the innovative, full-service firm merged with national firm Nixon Peabody. Fahey also joined the Nixon Peabody management committee. The 700-lawyer firm creates a national footprint for his work with Ungaretti & Harris and includes offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai and London. The firm recently was named the national Law Firm of the Year in Health Care Law by U.S. News and World Report.

“I’ve had the fortune of being involved in many of the health system affiliation and consolidation activities that have occurred throughout Chicago,” he said. “We’ve been involved in a number of the transactions that have created the health systems that currently exist. We maintain a very active practice in the financing of those health systems as well. So, I take pride in having been at the table as a number of those transactions have occurred and continue to occur.”

Fahey said he is inspired and excited by the challenges he faces on a daily basis and the constantly evolving nature of his field.

“The field of health law really requires practitioners to be lifelong learners in terms of keeping up with it all. It’s a very challenging and exciting area to practice in because you are combining corporate skills with the understanding of health care entities’ regulatory framework that impact the transactional work.”

Fahey also shares his knowledge through regular presentations and panels, including the Illinois Association of Health Law Attorneys’ 32nd Annual Health Law Symposium and Crain’s Chicago Business’ Fourth Annual Governance Forum.

At DePaul, Fahey says he received all of the training he could hope for in becoming a studied corporate student. He remembers his time on the editorial board of the DePaul Law Review​ as particularly formative—and a place where he made lifelong friends.

Fahey maintains his connection to the law school as a member of the Mary and Michael Jaharis Health Law Institute​ advisory board. He has served on the board since its inception.

“I’ve evidenced some great support from the deans, administration and some great hands-on work from the institute leadership,” Fahey said. “Particularly in the last few years, I have seen it really find its niche. The institute has gained tremendous credibility and, as a board member, I’m very proud of the strides it has made in terms of what it offers its students and the community.”

He also continues to invest in DePaul’s promising health law students.

“Nixon Peabody has been pleased with the clerks we’ve hired from DePaul’s health law program. We’ve also hired DePaul graduates to become associates here. We’ve been very pleased with the training those students have received at DePaul in the health law specialty.”