Cooley professor spearheads master's program in insurance

By Sheila Pursglove Legal News Lisa Sewell DeMoss got her start in law with assistance from Ben Franklin--when at age 12, she opened a law school tuition savings account with a $100 gift from an uncle. "I was the first lawyer among my extended family and at that time, few girls considered law as a career," she says. "Like most students with no direct connection to lawyers, I assumed all lawyers were trial attorneys, which suited me very well, personality wise." An associate professor at Cooley Law School in Lansing, DeMoss is Director of the Master's of Law Program in Insurance, a partnership with Olivet College; students participate in Olivet's Insurance MBA curriculum while applying the insurance business learning to related legal challenges. "Cooley law students are incredibly energizing," DeMoss says. "They require me to challenge my own views and knowledge as we work through the legal topics together." Her students also represent a wealth of diversity in terms of background, perspective and world knowledge, something she feels the insurance industry has so far lacked. "I believe students who choose the Insurance Law LL.M degree will be particularly well prepared to qualify for insurance sector jobs now and in the future," she says. Insurance law is a good field that offers many different opportunities in government, corporate and private practice settings, she says. The legal work spans areas of regulatory/administrative work, claims litigation and transactional activity, and attorneys can further specialize based on insurance product classification to focus on areas such as property and casualty work, life insurance, reinsurance, workers compensation and more. DeMoss got her start on the ladder by earning her bachelor's degree summa cum laude at Michigan State University; her major in multi-disciplinary social science in the Honors College, included courses in philosophy, political science and sociology. "Despite the vague description of my degree, it's served me very well in my professional life," she says. Quantum logic course formulas and values came in handy when taking notes in law school and during trial; political cartoons make a point in her law lectures; she draws on the great philosophers for insight into legal principles; and a statistics course provided a foundation for understanding and developing valid audit samples in her work as a corporate compliance officer. DeMoss, who earned her juris doctor at Wayne State University Law School, has always been connected to insurance. "My father was a life insurance marketing vice president and within our home, I was exposed to many wonderful, caring and outgoing insurance professionals. So, I knew somewhat intuitively, that insurers make great clients." After a stint as a law clerk in the Detroit office of Fitzgerald Peters Dakmak and Bruno, DeMoss was hired as an associate in the firm's litigation section and began her career as an insurance defense attorney. "I was hooked on the variety of the subject matter and particularly, the medical aspects of the personal injury claims," she says. "I was also privileged to try many cases in state and federal courts around the country on behalf of the firm's national commercial, life and disability insurers." DeMoss, who made partner in 1980, enjoyed the challenges of private practice - "and I'm forever indebted to my law partners for their willingness to mentor me through my blunders as a new attorney," she says. She notes that while business development, client cultivation, and revenue generation are a few points of practice distinction that many corporate lawyers take for granted, corporate counsel will never experience the special bond formed among business partners collectively striving for the success and reputation of their law firm. Most of DeMoss' professional career was in the legal department of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, where she started as a trial attorney in the litigation department and worked her way to the General Counsel's office. Her clients represented a broad diversity of perspective and professional backgrounds. "As we struggled together through the legal challenges of large corporate enterprise, every day presented new opportunity to learn and grow as a legal professional and corporate executive," she says. DeMoss then became a health care consultant, providing strategic advice and risk management for health care entities under health care reform. A career as a consultant is probably the goal of many corporate executives, she says. "My experience in this area has been very satisfying and enabled me to make useful business connections in different areas of health care ventures." Health care reform is a hot topic, with all eyes on the upcoming decision of the Supreme Court in the pending constitutional challenges to the Affordable Care Act. "Regardless of that outcome, there will be continuing political pressure to dismantle all or major portions of the legislation based on cost and philosophical objections," DeMoss says. "If the legal or political challenges succeed, we'll revert to a very difficult situation in which health insurance will be affordable for only those whose employers contribute a major portion of the premium cost." With little or no political will to address the cost of health care, as costs continue to rise, employers will transfer greater portions of the cost of their health care programs to employees, causing even employer-sponsored health care plans to become unaffordable to many families, she notes. "Although private insurers, as well as CMS, are adopting innovative reimbursement models on an experimental basis, health care providers appear to be embracing change slowly and apprehensively--with good cause given the magnitude of investment in their medical degrees, and concerns over their independence" she says. "So, in my opinion, it would be an unfortunate lost opportunity as a country if we allow the pendulum of reform to be blocked rather than modifying its course along the continuum of cost, access and quality improvement." DeMoss stays very involved in the healthcare field by serving on the Board of Visitors of the Oakland University School of Nursing. "My work brings me in contact with accomplished health professionals from hospitals and allied health providers as well as many dedicated and inspiring nurses throughout the community," she says. Recently appointed to the City of Rochester Board of Ethics, DeMoss also serves as Secretary-Treasurer of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Foundation. "I'm lucky to work with legal colleagues and friends from around the metropolitan area who serve with me on the Detroit Metro Bar Foundation Board," she says. "I've been connected with the Detroit Bar throughout my entire legal career, almost all of which - until I began my work with Cooley--was spent in the City of Detroit." A native of La Jolla, Calif., DeMoss has lived in Alexandria, Va., and Indianapolis, as well as in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Her husband --whom she met in torts class at Wayne Law--has his own practice in Clinton Township. Their daughter is an associate with a large firm in Detroit; one son is a commercial real estate broker in Chicago; and another son teaches history and government at the International Academy, West Campus. In her leisure time, DeMoss enjoys tennis, golf, sailing, running, spending time with her two dogs, and frequent trips to a second home in Tucson. Published: Mon, Jun 11, 2012

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