Emerging Pharma Leaders 2012 - Pharmaceutical Executive


Emerging Pharma Leaders 2012

Pharmaceutical Executive

Shannon Thyme Klinger

VP of Legal and Intellectual Property, and North American General Counsel, Sandoz Inc.

Some might say Shannon Klinger's path was set in stone before she was even born. "My grandfather was a lawyer," she says. "I remember when I was a child, sitting in his office with all of his old and dusty law books, thinking that being a lawyer must be a really interesting job because you get to read a lot." This experience, along with her father's career as a physical therapist, influenced Klinger's college coursework. She studied psychology, and thought long and hard about whether to go to law school or med school. But fate stepped in and helped make that decision easier: "I discovered during a volunteer stint at a local hospital that when I saw other people's blood it made me want to pass out—and sometimes I did," she remembers. So—law school it was.

A litigator by trade with a focus on complex healthcare matters, Klinger made partner with the law firm of Alston & Bird, and while she was there, had an opportunity to do some work for Barr Pharmaceuticals (since bought by Teva). This eventually led to in-house work as VP of Compliance at Barr. "It was a risk because once you're a partner in a law firm, you have a set career path. And doing anything other than continuing to build your practice and generate business takes you outside of your comfort zone."

Next was a stint at Solvay Pharmaceuticals, which was later bought by Abbott. Finally, in March 2011, Klinger landed at Sandoz Inc., the US subsidiary of Sandoz, part of the Novartis Group, where she is now VP of Legal and Intellectual Property, and General Counsel of North America. Sandoz, a generic pharmaceuticals manufacturer, offers a unique environment for Klinger to lead a team she's proud of, with legal, IP, regulatory affairs, and government affairs reporting to her. "What's important is making a difference in the teams I manage," she says. "It's important that every day, every week, every month, every year, the people who work with me get better; they hold me accountable to make them better. We're constantly talking about career paths and their own journeys. And I think that in the fast-paced pharmaceutical environment, in many legal and IP departments in particular, those kinds of conversations aren't happening."

Looking back over the past 10 years, Klinger notes that mergers and consolidation are an increasingly larger part of the reality in pharma. "It's not just about how we can more creatively address the legal challenges of our organization," she says. "It's about how we can use legal innovation to generate actual revenue and return for the organization. Whether this comes in the form of strategic litigation settlements, or actively seeking IP protection for generic product development, or acute attention to risk mitigation strategies, thinking outside the box is critical if you want to be a best-in-class function."

"In the past 10 or 15 years, it's become critically important as a lawyer and a leader not just to demonstrate functional excellence, but to be strong in the strategic understanding of your business, to leverage that understanding to establish a concrete value proposition for each of the functions that you manage, and to deliver year-over-year excellent ROI," Klinger continues. "And for me, that's what makes being in our industry a lot of fun, because it means that I have to have the business acumen and the strategic focus, and day by day what I do changes constantly because I'm in an incredibly dynamic environment."

Ultimately, Klinger's destiny is something that's tied to both her personal and her professional life. "People ask, 'What do you want to be remembered for?' For me it's not about being a lawyer or a general counsel or even a strategic business partner—whether it's interactions with friends and family, the causes I choose to pursue, or the way I approach every day in the office, I want to make a difference," she says. "I'm fortunate to work for a company that not only generates good return to our shareholders—but whose mission is to make the lives of patients better. And when you're having a bad day, that's a pretty easy mission around which to rally."

—Jennifer Ringler


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