We asked Andy Rittenberg, vice president, commercial legal and compliance officer at Gilead Sciences Inc and the winner of the Compliance Innovator of the Year award at the 2018 Global Counsel Awards, his opinion on what it takes to be a successful in-house counsel, the best way to advise senior leadership and what winning the award meant to him.

Describe your current role (responsibilities, size of team, structure).

I’ve had the privilege of working for a growing company since I joined Gilead Sciences more than 12 years ago, and have been able to take on a range of exciting responsibilities during that time.My team currently has almost 40 members and provides legal support in relation to the pricing, reimbursement and access to our company’s products, business conduct in North America, Asia and the developing world, as well as international compliance oversight, including core compliance functions such as monitoring, auditing, and training.

What led you to a career in-house?

I find it incredibly rewarding to work at a company that prevents and cures diseases, addressing unmet medical needs around the world, and that has legal needs that are both complex and important to the achievement of the company’s mission. I wanted to be a part of that.

In your current role, what is the most challenging situation that you have faced? What are the most significant challenges that in-house lawyers are likely to face over the next few years?

I believe compliance will remain central to the role of in-house lawyers for the foreseeable future.My company operates in a highly regulated environment where the rules are complex and evolving, and the consequences of non-compliance are significant.

Are there particular types of legal issues that you routinely refer to outside counsel? And what kind of matters do you tend to handle in-house?

We don’t really ‘refer’ matters to outside counsel in the sense of asking them to handle things for us.It’s always a partnership.We truly value our outside counsel partners and find it most helpful when outside counsel has a deep understanding of our business and can immediately appreciate what we are trying to accomplish.That applies whether it is litigation, an investigation, or helping us navigate complex legal/compliance issues as part of our day-to-day business.

What do you consider to be the essential qualities for a successful in-house lawyer?

We build credibility through deep substantive legal expertise, understanding the business and persuasive communication.It’s important to find practical solutions but also to be able to say no when the situation warrants.

What’s important for in-house counsel to consider when advising senior leadership?

See answer above.

How does the legal department contribute to your company’s growth?

We both solve problems for the business and, through the compliance element of our work, help the company avoid pitfalls. I’m glad to work for a company that values our contributions, even when they are hard to measure.   

With regard to your industry, are there any significant developments worth highlighting?

The pharmaceutical business is a highly regulated industry.Today there is an intense national debate over price and how medicines are accessed and reimbursed.That keeps my team busy along with traditional enforcement related to financial interactions with third parties such as healthcare professionals.

If not a lawyer, what would you be?

I would have been a marine biologist.

What did winning a Global Counsel Award mean to you?

It’s a reflection of my team and the compliance function as a whole being integrated into the important work Gilead does every day to deliver medicines to people in need.