Bill Hall: The Picture of American Health
Bill Hall changed the state of health care in Indiana 33 years ago and is still going strong today
Published in 2004 Indiana Super Lawyers magazine
By Sally Falk Nancrede on December 1, 2004
Don’t call Bill Hall a super anything to his face.
“Don’t make me look important — it would embarrass me. I am very fortunate to be head of ‘the family’ so to speak,” says the founder of Hall, Render, Killian, Heath & Lyman, the No. 1 health care law firm in Indiana.
“I don’t think any of us do anything worthwhile without help,” says Hall, who was the first health care lawyer in Indiana.
Many of the health laws in Indiana — indeed the nation — bear Hall’s voice.
This 93-year-old attorney from Brazil, Ind., has drafted laws that cover everything from Medicare to malpractice insurance, health care for the indigent and licensing of hospitals.
It was Hall who in 1971 got legislation passed that enabled Indiana hospitals to establish a system to sell tax-exempt bonds to fund hospital building projects. Billions of dollars in bonds have been sold since then.
Ken Stella, the president of the Indiana Hospital & Health Association, has known Hall since 1968 and praises him as “one of the nation’s experts when it comes to health care affairs.” He adds,“He has represented many hospitals throughout the nation. He has worked tirelessly on the behalf of health care legislation on national and local levels.”
And Hall is still at it, driving himself to work every day in his Mercedes sedan and brown-bagging his lunch in a cloth bag cross-stitched with the monogram WSH for William Snyder Hall. A diabetic, he has the same thing every day for lunch: a sandwich of salt-free peanut butter on whole wheat bread, a can of V8 juice and a container of sugar-free applesauce.
At the Northside office, one of four the firm has in Indianapolis, Louisville and Troy, he congratulates a new lawyer who just passed the Indiana bar exam and admires photographs of staffers’ dogs that line the hallway. (Hall doesn’t trust anyone who doesn’t like dogs.)
Hall shuns today’s computers and voice mail. Even telephones are suspect. “Present methods of telephones and other communications are destroying relationships between people,” he says.
Once the president of Indianapolis’ exclusive Woodstock Club, Hall and his wife, Christine, now lead “a simple life.” They live in the College Park subdivision in Northside Indianapolis, attend Second Presbyterian Church, start their day with prayer, and love their English springer spaniel, Lance II.
When Lance I was alive, they would buy him a seat on the Concorde for their annual trips to Paris in September, but those trips have gone the way of the Concorde. Still, Michelin guidebooks line Hall’s library shelves along with his favorite reading, political history: Diplomacy and Years of Renewal by Henry Kissinger, Leaders and The Real War by Richard Nixon, The Tempting of America by Robert H. Bork, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray.
Today’s success is a big jump from September 1929, when Hall entered the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School to major in economics — only to have the stock market crash in October.
“It was an interesting time to be there to understand the economy,” he laughs. When he graduated in 1933, he didn’t return to Brazil to work in his father’s flour mill. Instead he took a job at an Eastern Texas oil field.
“I was paid 25 cents an hour, or $10 a week.The price of oil was 5 cents a barrel,” he remembers. “It was fun at that age. I lived in the oil camp, I heated my little house with a wood stove and we had outhouses.”
It wasn’t until after World War II that Hall returned to Indianapolis, where he had graduated from Boys Prep School (now Park Tudor) and settled down selling insurance. He didn’t like it, so he went to Indiana University-Indianapolis Law School at night, graduating in 1951.
But he never quite completed his credit hours.
He was one hour short. So Assistant Dean Ben Small gave this lion of health care law credit for an article he wrote, saying, “That was a lousy article you wrote for the Law Review, but I’m going to give you one hour credit for it so I can get you out of here.”
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