“I was raised by parents who were teachers. They inspired my desire to help people, do good things in the world, and instill knowledge,” said Ward and Smith, P.A. attorney Devon D. Williams.
Passed into law in 2010, the ACA was a confusing amalgam of 13,000 pages of rules and regulations that represented the most sweeping change in the nation’s health care system since LBJ’s Great Society. The ACA remains dynamic with constant changes coming from politicians and policy experts.
“Most employers have to rely entirely on their legal counsel for guidance in employee benefits laws,” said Williams who focuses on health and welfare benefits such as health care benefits, compensation packages, bonus structures, retirement and pension programs.
“There are a lot of good people out there running reputable businesses and they want to do the right thing and offer their employees benefits. But it’s hard to know what the right answer is with the ACA,” said Williams. “There is a lot of gray area, but at the same time, there often is an answer that is more right. I like helping employers navigate the gray area and find the right answers.
“What I like about labor and employment law is I get to advise clients on a broad spectrum of laws,” Williams continued. “It keeps me on my toes and I like that.”
Young Prosecutor Williams is from Cleveland, North Carolina and knew her career path at an early age. “When I was in second grade, my class took a field trip to the Rowan County Courthouse. We acted out a mock trial and I was the prosecutor – I loved it! I ran home that day and told my parents that I was going to be a lawyer when I grew up.”
Williams briefly strayed from her goal when she earned her undergraduate degree in business marketing at the University of Maryland. She was a member of the women’s softball team.
“I was pretty good, I guess,” said Williams. “I enjoyed the competition and I enjoyed my teammates.”
Williams then returned to her goal of becoming a lawyer by earning her Juris Doctor from Campbell Law School. When she joined Ward and Smith, she had to work backward to learn the parts of the ACA already passed into law and forward to digest the on-going changes in the law.
“There’s more to health and welfare benefits than just knowing the ACA,” said Williams. “ERISA and other regulations also come into play, which supplement the requirements of the ACA. I do kind of like the ambiguity because you have to dig a little deeper to find answers. Even those enforcing and making the laws aren’t quite sure how it’s all going to play out.”
Williams’ practice includes working with most firms large enough to offer employee benefits and in a wide variety of industries from construction companies to financial institutions.
What’s on the Radar?
The ACA remains dynamic with constant changes coming from Congress and federal agencies. Williams said the firm’s employee benefits practice group stays current on changes and proposed changes to the ACA by participating in industry conferences and roundtables and through direct contact with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Labor, the IRS, and the other federal agencies overseeing the ACA.
“I was at a conference this week in D.C. where we spoke with the regulators who are developing and overseeing the ACA about what is coming down the pipeline, what issues they have heard about, what issues they currently are addressing, and what’s not even on their radar yet.
“I thrive knowing that people can rely upon me, depend on me, and feel comfortable turning to me to for help with understanding the complexity of the law as it relates to employee benefits,” Williams continued. “At some point in the day, we all need softball questions, but I enjoy the hardball questions as well.”