Heather Boysel

Heather Boysel: Life at the Top

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heather boysel

Heather Boysel’s star is definitely on the rise. She not only enjoys the distinction of being the first female managing partner of Gammage & Burnham, the Arizona law firm established in 1983 by Grady Gammage, Jr., Richard Burnham and Michael King, but at just 37, she’s also one of the youngest. And, joining an elite circle of female managing partners at Arizona law firms, Boysel was recently named by the Phoenix Business Journal to the 40 under 40 of 2019.

Based on her obvious success, one might surmise that Boysel had her eye on law from a young age. In fact, medicine was her original career path, but somewhere along the way her father and sister-both physicians themselves-persuaded her to rethink that trajectory. Based on the amazing law career she’s established at such a young age, that has proven to be some pretty sound advice that surprisingly, has also brought her full circle.

“My dad moved into the billing side of his practice, so I worked for his medical billing company while in high school and college,” Boysel clarifies. “I helped by writing demand letters to insurance companies, and so in a way I actually ended up going into the family business because now I practice healthcare law, primarily helping providers with reimbursement issues.”

Those years she spent immersed in the study of biomedical engineering however are far from wasted, as Boysel finds that knowledge and background serve her well in her thriving practice.

“It’s nice because I still get to utilize my science background to a certain extent since I’m reviewing patient’s medical records to figure out how the claim should be reimbursed, the severity of the patient’s care, what diagnoses are appropriate and things like that,” she says.

A GREAT FIT

The summer prior to completing law school Boysel clerked at the highly reputed firm where she now presides as managing partner. With Gammage & Burnham’s excellent reputation in the healthcare field in Arizona, it was a natural segue for her to opt to begin her career with them. And, as they say, the rest is history.

“Gammage & Burnham has become my home. I’ve been with this firm my entire career,” Boysel says proudly. “It’s been a really great fit for me. I made partner in 2015 and became the managing partner in June.”

Admittedly, this new position and the responsibilities that accompany it have impacted Boysel’s day-to-day routine, but she’s obviously not only well-suited but seems to be enjoying the new duties. The announcement of her recent appointment has also resulted in an avalanche of communications from fellow female attorneys and hopefuls who want to connect, share experiences or ask advice.

“Once the press releases began going out about me being made managing partner, the engineering school at ASU reached out and did a piece on me,” she says. “It was nice to reconnect with the program and talk to some of my former classmates. Also, ASU’s Women’s Law Students Association reached out. I get emails from women who either want to go into law or who are currently in law school, just wanting to talk and hear about my path.”

ON LADDER DOWN

Speaking of mentoring, Boysel, like many of her female colleagues, became involved in a very exciting program called Ladder Down. Cofounded by attorneys Beth Fitch and Allison Christian, this one-year program offers direct training and career development through a combination of coaches, sponsors and participants to empower women attorneys in an attempt to close the still-present disparity between how male and female attorneys are perceived, treated and compensated.

“Ladder Down is an amazing program in which I’ve had the pleasure and honor to have participated in over the years,” says Boysel. “They provide you with business development training, leadership training and you really get to know a group of other female attorneys who may not practice in the same areas, but it builds a sense of collegiality and we provide support to each other.

“The name Ladder Down comes from circumstances when people make it to a pinnacle and then pull the ladder up behind them,” she adds. “The goal is for us to continue to send the ladder down to bring more female lawyers up through the ranks. In many ways the legal profession has trended a bit behind the times. When you look at most firms, people at the top still tend to be the older men.”

LIVING LEGAL

Within her relatively short career, Boysel has distinguished herself in a variety of arenas. As an experienced commercial litigation attorney with an emphasis in the healthcare field, she has successfully obtained millions of dollars in payments owing to providers by health care insurers. She routinely handles medical reimbursement disputes on behalf of providers against commercial payors, Medicare auditors, AHCCCS contractors and other governmental entities.

Her extensive knowledge of the legal protections and intricacies of healthcare payment methodologies and healthcare provider liens, together with her background in bioengineering and medical billing further fuels her fluency in representing healthcare providers with reimbursement issues through administrative hearings, mediations, arbitrations and court actions.

“We work on some really exciting things,” she says. “In my early career I enjoyed a more general commercial litigation practice. For example, during the economic downturn, I did a lot of work for lenders. It was really good experience and we enjoyed some great victories.

Beyond that, her expertise also extends to litigating other commercial matters including construction, real estate and other business disputes. Boysel also brings to the table a wealth of experience related to election law and government and public affairs.

“Also, early on I worked on numerous election law cases, which was exciting and fast-paced,” she says. “Those cases move up through the court system extremely quickly. They are also typically high profile and very interesting to work on. But, at the end of the day my heart was really in the healthcare arena. Certainly, as I’ve become busier with other things, I’ve really tried to focus on the healthcare practice.”

In fact, about one year ago, Boysel became the chair of the firm’s healthcare group, which represents several Arizona hospitals.

“Managing all that and helping to build the team, definitely keeps me busy,” she says. “We actually just had a new attorney, Ben Runkle, start recently who will be working in healthcare law with me. He also has a wealth of experience in healthcare law—he actually started his career working on the opposite side of cases with me.”

It turns out Boysel and Runkle have not only the practice of healthcare law in common, but both have children the same age and in the same school and same grade.

“It’s fun, because I get to think about who I’d like to work with as a law partner long term and Ben fits the bill perfectly,” she adds. One of the things that Boysel hopes to maintain about Gammage & Burnham’s culture is its family-like environment.

GROWING STRONGER

“We’re really looking to bring in more new talent strategically at this point,” says Boysel, now wearing her managing partner cap. “I don’t think we ever want to get too large; the 30 to 50 lawyer range feels about right to maintain the culture we’ve created. Of course, we have people who will be retiring over the next five to 10 years, so we’re certainly looking bring in attorneys with the right expertise to continue Gammage & Burnham for generations to come. I think we have a solid foundation, from our culture and quality of work to the clients we have. It was nice to step into something that’s so well-built.

“I think we have a solid foundation, from our culture and quality of work to the clients we have. It was nice to step into something that’s so well built.”

Joining the team of experienced attorneys during this expansion are Julie A. Pace, David A. Selden and Heidi Nunn-Gilman, who have been working as a team for over fifteen years. Associates Demetra Makris and Daniel Marks and paralegals Eda Barroli and Stephanie Coulter are also coming aboard.

“Julie Pace is the head of that group,” notes Boysel. “She’s very wellknown within the legal community, and a very qualified employment law attorney.

“Heidi and of course associates Demetra and Daniel and paralegals Eda and Stephanie, are all tops in the field so we’re very excited to have them all join our team,” she adds. “Of course, my challenge is where to put everyone!”

ON THE HOME FRONT

As anyone in the legal profession knows only too well, balancing private and professional time can be a struggle. Boysel has certainly faced this hurdle but says that with the support and help of her husband Jason and the family-friendly culture of her firm, she’s finding a way to make it all work.

“I have two young daughters, and raising a family can make practicing law somewhat difficult at times,” she says, “but our firm has been good about work/home balance and allowing people to have a life outside the office while still providing excellent client service.”

Boysel and her husband are the parents of two delightful daughters, Violet who is 8 and Lily now 5. If you detect a particular theme here, you’re not wrong.

“We are a floral family,” Boysel says with a laugh. “Most people don’t realize that heather is a flower, but I decided to continue the theme when naming my daughters. And just to top it all off , we live on Orchid Lane!”

And while certainly having a young family keeps life busy and interesting, Boysel says with the girls now in school life has become a bit more manageable.

“We’re at the fun stage now, no more diapers and they are much more independent, which makes it much easier to get out of the house in the mornings,” she says. “My husband and I have a pretty good balancing act going. I have morning duty-getting the girls ready and off to school and he does the afternoon pickup.

“Jason owns a general contracting firm,” she adds, “so we’re both plenty busy especially with my expanded duties, but he’s really stepped up and he’s always been my greatest supporter.”

Not surprising in a household with two young children and two very demanding professional careers, there’s not a lot of time for leisure or hobbies.

“It might sound weird,” Boysel says with a soft chuckle, “but my only real hobby is planning family vacations. I spend a lot of time carefully planning any trips that we take. It’s sort of my extra-quality time with my kids. Actually, they’re kind of spoiled, because when I was a kid, we used to go to Kansas every year and drive for two days in a car.

“We’ve taken our girls to Ireland, last year to the Netherlands and next year we’ll be taking them to France. The key is to separate myself from my laptop and create some real memories.”

Her life is both abundant and busy, but Boysel wouldn’t change a thing. As she puts it, “You know that old adage, the grass is always greener? Well, I’ve decided the grass is pretty green right here!”

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