Business Q & A

A conversation with Gary Ayers

Had it not been for the threat of a couple of broken legs, Gary Ayers might have been a clergyman.

Instead he's a partner at Foulston Siefkin's Wichita law office, specializing in health care, employment and commercial litigation.

He said he approaches law — and life — with a strong moral view.

"It's important to our clients, obviously, to win a lawsuit, but it's also important that we do it with integrity."

Ayers, who will mark his 30th anniversary with Foulston Siefkin in November, was a youth minister in college. Between college and law school, he was youth and music minister at the Baptist church in Mulvane, his hometown.

"Halfway through law school, I thought about going to seminary," he said. But his mentor threatened to "break my legs if I quit law school because I hadn't finished anything up to that point.... And then when I got out of law school, my wife had gotten admitted to graduate school, so somebody had to go to work."

Ayers and his wife, opera singer Charleen Ayers, have two children, a son in school in Oregon and a daughter at Kansas State University.

Why law?

"I love to research and write, and that's what most of the law is. I think secondly, I love the whole process of law. I love the system of advocacy; I love our system of justice; I love the constitution; I love our judicial system; I love our political system. I don't love politics, but I love the representative system.

"I saw 'Paper Chase' (in the early '70s), which was the old movie with Kingsfield, the professor at Harvard Law. I walked out of 'Paper Chase' and said, I'm going to law school."

Are lawyers responsible for the high cost of health care?

"We attorneys have an indirect impact on health care, in that, because of us, the health care community practices defensive medicine, which leads to probably more testing than the physicians and hospitals would otherwise do, but for the fact that they're always looking over their shoulder. That's an indirect cost.

"I think the more direct cost is probably all of us — the patients — all of us overutilize medicine because the system of insurance encourages us.... If it doesn't cost us anything, we're incentivized to use it more."

What part of your job do you most enjoy?

"To give you the Bob Foulston answer, I enjoy all of the law. I say that sincerely, because to me it's all interesting. I find municipal court interesting and family court interesting. I find the state courts interesting and the federal courts interesting. I just find the whole problem-solving part of the law interesting.... Clients come to us with a problem, and the challenge is to help the client with the problem that they have, whether that's commercial litigation or the health care area."

Health care takes about a third of your time. What do you see as the biggest challenge?

"If you're talking about patients, I think patients are going to have to worry about how they're going to pay for health care and how much it's going to help them and whether they're going to have access....

"I think the doctors and hospitals are going to have to immediately worry about... whether they're going to have the kind of reimbursements that make it profitable for them to stay in business....

"Hospitals first and doctors second are going to see an increase in auditing.... I think the doctors and hospitals are going to be between a rock and a hard place."

What would you tell attorneys just starting?

"How much fun it's been.... I've never regretted going to law school and ending up here at Foulston Siefkin. I'm amazed that for three years of law school you can have such a — just a small investment early on can pay great dividends for years."

How did you and your wife meet?

"The most interesting thing about us is that we met at Worlds of Fun, in the show at Tivoli playhouse. It's a musical revue where you sing and dance.... Our daughter performed there this summer."