Despite having a law degree, a Ph.D. in economics and a distinguished health care background, Carol M. McCarthy can still laugh at herself.
That's good, because her new colleagues at the Baltimore law firm of Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver jokingly selected a Goodwill Industries motif for her office furniture.
She also chuckles about the first time she tried to visit her 10th-floor office in the Bank of Baltimore building and wound up on an express elevator to the 17th floor instead.
Practical jokes and newcomer gaffes notwithstanding, Mrs. McCarthy is excited to be at Ober, Kaler, which recruited her aggressively.
Before coming to Baltimore a few weeks ago, Mrs. McCarthy had been president of the American Hospital Association, a Chicago-based trade group for 5,500 U.S. hospitals and medical facilities.
Mrs. McCarthy headed the AHA for 10 years before joining Ober, Kaler, whose health law department has a national reputation.
She had a number of job offers after announcing her desire to leave the AHA.
Some of those jobs were outside the practice of law, she said. But she chose a law practice because this is a pivotal time for health care law, according to Mrs. McCarthy, who earned her law degree from Temple University in 1986 and her doctorate in economics from New York University in 1978.
"If you look at health care, revenues have been very key in driving the formation of the system," she said. "What's happening now is that legal issues are coming forward as really shaping the system."
With health care reform being advocated by politicians and business leaders, it's important to forge a legal framework that makes it possible to deliver health care at reasonable costs, Mrs. McCarthy said. Toward that end, some laws need to be changed and challenged, she added.
"Lobbying is one way to change the laws, but also working through the courts on particular cases -- there are other ways to change laws," she said. "It's through legislation, regulation and litigation that you have a chance to make a difference."
Having swapped Chicago for Baltimore, Mrs. McCarthy and her husband, Michael P. McCarthy, are settling into a house they bought in Roland Park.
In the fall, Mr. McCarthy is scheduled to teach urban history at the University of Baltimore.
The McCarthys have two children, Claire, a pediatrician in Boston, and Catherine, who is in Baltimore and working toward a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Maryland.
An avid playgoer, Mrs. McCarthy said she looks forward to delving into the Baltimore-Washington theater scene.