Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law The Journal: Transactions & Business (PLJ) recently spoke to Arnold Pinkston, Corporate Vice President and General Counsel of Edwards Lifesciences Corporation, about the top goals for the law department
PLJ: How is the legal function structured at Edwards Lifesciences?
Pinkston: To handle the broad legal challenges and needs of a global health care company, the law department is organized in a matrix. Each of our attorneys has a functional home (such as patent, regulatory, human resources, and commercial), and each is a member of several legal teams we have formed to support our various business units and functions.
Our non-attorney professionals, including a senior manager of legal operations, are critical to our team. We also supplement our internal team with skilled external attorneys and service providers. All of our professionals are trained to recognize and respond to the legal issues most relevant to Edwards.
PLJ: What are the top goals or areas of focus for the law department?
Pinkston: At Edwards, our purpose is to provide innovative solutions for patients fighting cardiovascular disease. That purpose is articulated in detail in our strategy and in the tools we use to execute that strategy. In a recent survey of our global team, 90% of Edwards’ employees said they think about patients as they make decisions in their daily work. We know that if we can save and improve patients’ lives, Edwards and all of its stakeholders, including our communities, employees, and shareholders, can thrive.
Read the full interview in the December 2021/January 2022 issue of Practical Law The Journal: Transactions & Business.
As a member of the executive leadership team, I serve on Edwards’ governing body, which is responsible for building our corporate strategy in alignment with our corporate purpose. Each year, we are charged with ensuring this strategy is enforced, implemented, and modified, as needed, so we can continue to provide long-term value and deliver on our mission of providing innovative solutions to our patients.
As General Counsel, I focus on making sure that my law department teammates are closely aligned with Edwards’ strategy and that they have everything they need to succeed. While all departments at Edwards are integral to executing this strategy, the law department is uniquely tasked with supporting our mission through an expert understanding of the laws and regulations that guide our industry.
Our law department addresses a very diverse set of legal challenges, with many of our valuable contributions relating to health care regulation and compliance, intellectual property, and corporate governance.
PLJ: How does the law department avoid being perceived as the “office of no” while still ensuring it helps Edwards avoid liability?
Pinkston: Fortunately, Edwards’ business leaders and legal team are closely aligned. We are all committed to serving patients and doing so in compliance with applicable laws, as well as Edwards’ ethical requirements. Moreover, because our attorneys are steeped in the businesses they serve, our legal and business teams are better able to collaborate and find innovative solutions to best serve our strategy and purpose.
PLJ: If not an attorney, what would you wish to be?
Pinkston: I would be a good golfer and a great chef, if you permit me to imagine that I have talent in these areas.
PLJ: What is the best career advice you have ever received?
Pinkston: Do not take on a job or task for which you are not qualified to succeed. Continue to learn new skills and practice the skills you have, with an eye focused on contributing value.
PLJ: What advice would you give to a prospective general counsel?
Pinkston: Know your company’s strategy. To succeed, you must contribute to it. To be fulfilled, you must believe in it.
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