Lawyer, Heal Thy Doctor
Oklahoma City’s Linda Scoggins is just what the doctor ordered for her health-care industry clientele
Published in 2014 Oklahoma Super Lawyers magazine
on October 9, 2014
Updated on November 3, 2014
Q: What field of law did you start out in?
A: Litigation support, as most associates did in the early ’80s, because there was a lot going on in Oklahoma. That was the time of the oil bust. The boom was still going on in ’81, and then in ’82 there was the bust. The Penn Square Bank failed in ’82. There was just an unbelievable amount of litigation. Nearly all new associates were thrown into the fire of litigation.
To give you an idea of how the legal profession was booming at that time, when I was hired by Andrews Davis, I was one of 10 new associates, and the firm went from 50 to 60 in that one year in the summer of ’81. I believe that everyone in my graduating class [at the University of Oklahoma] had a job lined up or knew what they were going to do by February of the year we graduated, which is a far cry from today’s situation.
Q: How did you end up in health care law?
A: Like most attorneys, I got involved just because of circumstances. The firm I worked for next, Spradling, Alpern, Friot & Gum, had a lawyer with a master’s in public health who was doing some health law. In the mid-’80s, health law was a new area. There were no sections of health law in the state bar or anything like that. She had a case pending before the health department. It was a Certificate of Need hearing for a health care facility.
She went on maternity leave literally the day before the hearing was scheduled. So I became involved in representing a hospital client. My practice just grew from that over the years. That was my first foray into administrative litigation. Now I represent dozens of physicians and clinics and have always represented nurses. For a number of years, I was outside general counsel for the Oklahoma State Medical Association prior to the time that they hired in-house counsel.
Q: And you co-founded your own firm in 2002.
A: It was formed as Scoggins & Cross. Laura Cross was a registered nurse and had gone back to law school after 20 years as a registered nurse, so part of her desire as a lawyer was to help nurses understand the law. We represented nurses if they were in trouble with the state licensing board. I was more litigation-focused and she was more transactional-focused, so it was a perfect situation in terms of being able to best represent our clients. After Laura Cross passed away in 2008, I continued that work.
Q: You didn’t start out as a lawyer.
A: My first profession, so to speak, was as a marketing research analyst. I had majored in economics and statistics. I quit work when I had my first child, then I started working on my MBA. I did not finish my MBA before I started law school.
Q: Why the switch to law?
A: I had always been interested in the law but had gone in a different direction because of getting married and having children. Then, after a divorce, I decided I would go back to what I thought I would be interested in when I was in college, but didn’t pursue. My boys were 3 and 6 when I started law school. I thought it would be a good profession for a single mother of two. I’m not so sure I was right about that.
Q: What drew you to law in the first place?
A: I was from a small Oklahoma town, Durant. It was a nice hometown and I have wonderful memories, [though] I was anxious to move on, like a lot of teenagers are, and go to college. There was one woman in this town who was in her 60s—this one woman who practiced law. That kind of stuck in my mind as a little girl. I [also] had a woman pediatrician as a child—and there weren’t that many women doctors when I was a child. I was always interested in professions in which I saw women as pioneers.
Q: What did your parents think of this?
A: My parents never told me there was anything I couldn’t do. I never recall them saying, “Girls don’t do that.” They didn’t have much formal education. My dad did not even graduate from high school. He had a small motel at one time. He had service stations. He also had a ranch and raised cattle. Before I started school, my memories are of hanging out with my dad. When he went to the bank, I went with him. When he went to the stockyards to either buy or sell cattle, I went with him. They were successful enough and determined that their children were [properly educated]. I didn’t know you had a choice not to go to college.
Q: And did you face any hurdles as a pioneer?
A: The only obstacles I encountered were maybe the newness of having so many women in the profession. Most men were fine with that, but there were some men that just thought it was a threat. I think they were in the minority. I just always worked hard and tried to do a good job. Also, I had good mentors, which is the key, and I’ve tried to do the same thing for women below me.
One of my mentors was a woman who ended up being the first woman on the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Her name was Alma Wilson. I played tennis with her before I even started law school. I felt like Oklahoma City was much more progressive than, say, Dallas during that time period. We would hear about litigation going on in Dallas with some of the big firms and women alleging that they were discriminating against women graduates of SMU, for example. In Oklahoma City there were already women partners at large law firms.
Q: Can you tell us about a memorable case or two?
A: In my very first case as a young associate, I second-chaired a  civil rights case against a city and a variety store. We sued the city of Lawton and T.G.&Y., alleging that these three young men had been falsely arrested and incarcerated in the city jail because of allegations of shoplifting—allegations that were never pursued. We were able to find evidence that they did not shoplift. We were able to keep T.G.&Y. in the case, and I considered that my first victory, keeping them in under a Civil Rights Section 1983 action, because that’s supposed to be just government actions. We said there was a nexus between T.G.&Y. and the city of Lawton because T.G.&Y. relied on the city to provide its off-duty policemen as security guards. Therefore, T.G.&Y. could also be held liable under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act. Somewhere, that is a published opinion. Working on a case such as that in federal court as your very first case out of law school was a wonderful experience.
Q: Why was it so important to keep T.G.&Y. involved?
A: Because then you could get punitive damages. Also, you are limited against a municipality in the amount of damages. We didn’t get enough damages to go beyond that limit, but we did get some additional punitives out of T.G.&Y. They appealed to the 10th Circuit. We prevailed; it was affirmed at the 10th Circuit. They petitioned for cert to the Supreme Court and cert was denied.
Most recently, I represented eight hospices from four different states challenging a government regulation … in federal courts in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama. We prevailed in those cases and the federal government had to rewrite their regulation, which involved how they were reimbursed for the services they provided. Reimbursement is limited for hospice care. A lot of hospices are providing free care because of that. We just wanted to make sure that their reimbursement was being calculated correctly.
Q: So your efforts affected reimbursement in all 50 states.
A: That’s correct.
Q: Impressive win. Have there been days when you’ve felt like a doctor?
A: There have been days that I have told a doctor client that I will not try to deliver a baby if he or she will not try to tell me how to practice. [Laughs] That’s one of the nice things about representing doctors. They are extremely intelligent, and that’s also sometimes one of the downsides of representing doctors. But no, I’ve never felt like I could do their job.
Q: What advice would you give attorneys just starting out?
A: Be ready to work hard if you want to be a success, but I think I would advise them to be a little bit better than I was about work-life balance. I believe they are. The young lawyers coming up now are about the ages of my children. I sometimes wonder if the reason that the 20- and 30-somethings are so aware of the need for work-life balance is because they observed their parents not having a work-life balance.
Q: Just this year your firm merged with Doerner, Saunders, Daniel & Anderson.
A: I’m looking forward to the additional resources that come with being back in a large firm at this point in my career. This firm is one of the oldest in Oklahoma. It was founded before statehood. This is something new in my life, after practicing for 33 years, so it is exciting. It’s always nice to have something new. You never get too old for that.
This interview was edited and condensed.