HB Attorney Profile: Hannah Brennan

View Hannah's biography

Why did you go to law school? What inspired you?

I went to law school based on my interest in the international access to medicines movement. In college, I majored in economics and international relations, but I was also pre-med. After taking a lot of biology and chemistry classes, I realized I was not interested in medicine, but, rather, public health policy.

In my final year of college, I looked for a thesis topic that would combine all three disciplines: economics, international relations and public health. I ended up writing about the effects of U.S. free trade agreements on access to medicines in Latin America. In comparing intellectual property protections in Mexico (which is a member of NAFTA) and Brazil (which has no free trade agreement with the U.S.), I found more stringent protection of intellectual property rights has a staggering, but unsurprising impact, on pharmaceutical industrialization and drug pricing. Brazil’s decision not to adopt rigid intellectual property laws has allowed it to craft its drug policies around what is best for access, rather than what is best for patent holders. Learning about these issues – the struggle to balance different policy priorities – led me to law school.

What’s something about practicing law that you didn’t learn in school?

Although law school clinic did teach me some about the type of strategic thinking that litigation entails, it was not until I came to Hagens Berman that I really appreciated the gaming aspect of law. My law school focused on theory, which I have found to be extremely helpful in my practice as a lawyer. Nonetheless, my short time at the firm (the first firm I have ever worked at), has provided me with education in strategic aspects of law; how to communicate with opposing counsel, how best to frame requests of the court; the impact of the pacing of litigation on outcomes.

What do you enjoy most about working with the Boston office on the firm’s cases?

Everyone in the Boston office is deeply committed to our case work, not just because they like litigation, or antitrust law, or holding corporations accountable, but because they are committed to the public health goals that animate our field of litigation. I deeply respect and admire the Boston attorneys’ devotion to improving access to affordable medications. Tom Sobol has been a leader in this regard, and his enthusiasm for public health policy permeates the entire office.

I also enjoy working in a law office were women hold an equal number of leadership positions as men. Lauren and Kristen set the tone for the office in many ways, and watching their leadership makes my own easier to envision.

What practice area do you work in most?

I work on pharmaceutical antitrust and RICO cases primarily.

What’s something the Boston partners have taught you during your casework with them?

I have primarily worked with Kristen and Tom, so I will direct this answer toward them.

With respect to Tom, first, it's hard not to mention how much he has taught me about the U.S. healthcare system. I have taken a lot of health policy classes and worked with a lot of people in the health policy fields, but very few know and understand the intricacies of the FDA, PTO and Hatch-Waxman like Tom. It is hard to overemphasize how complicated health regulation and law are in the U.S. Sometimes, when I’m reading an obscure set of comments on an old FDA regulation, I think there is no way Tom is going to know the details of this, and I’ll have to explain it after I’ve studied it. But then, sure enough, he knows it and ends up explaining it to me. Relatedly, because Tom oversees all the cases in our office, I often expect that he will have to delegate studying and writing up certain minutia to associates like me. But I’ve yet to understand the record in a case better than Tom. Even though he’s running an entire office, he’s still reading through 500 pages of FDA citizen petitions and drafting up the paragraphs of the complaint that explain them.

Watching Kristen has really been an education in how to manage a large team and push each distinct group within that team to produce their best work. I first worked with Kristen on the Celebrex litigation, where a number of different groups each had to produce distinct but interdependent pieces of work. Kristen manages to strike the very difficult balance between delegation of work and ensuring a high quality of work comes out of each team. She appears to do this by knowing every aspect of a case better than most people on the discrete teams do themselves, and then pushing them, through her own understanding, to edit their own work to more effectively communicate their arguments. She also knows when to tell the different teams to communicate with one another and when one group’s work will be useful to another’s. Another thing I really appreciate about working for Kristen is I never feel left out at sea; she always give me a clear understanding of my assignment and her expectations, which is invaluable as an associate. And if issues arise when I’m writing, Kristen is always happy to work, step-by-step, through the issue with me. Having Kristen next door to me has been a huge windfall in my favor.