What began in 1876 as a small, family-owned drug store in Paris, Illinois, has grown to a $20-billion-dollar biotechnology company with offices in 17 countries and customers in every corner of the world. Corporations that size can be notoriously bland.
But this past June, when several dozen 2013 LCLD Fellows checked into Eli Lilly’s Indianapolis headquarters for a Fellows Learning Experience, they found a company that prizes diversity as a catalyst for innovation, and a workplace so multicultural and diverse that 52 languages are spoken in the company cafeteria.
“Eli Lilly and Company thrives on innovation—new ideas, scientific breakthroughs, bold solutions—so for us diversity is a major business imperative,” Senior Vice President and General Counsel Michael Harrington told the visiting Fellows. “We need people from different backgrounds, with different perspectives, who can solve problems in new and different ways. Someone’s going to find a cure for cancer, and we want them to be working at Eli Lilly. It really doesn’t matter what they look like.”
With Harrington, an LCLD Member, as their host, the Fellows were given a rare look inside Lilly’s corporate playbook via in-depth briefings, panel discussions, and presentations, along with a VIP tour of company headquarters.
The day included a forum of senior attorneys from Lilly’s Legal department, who described their career paths, offered advice, and discussed their practice in the areas of antitrust, oncology, and pharmaceutical patents, which are the vital signs of a company known for such life-changing medicines as insulin, ephedrine, polio vaccine, prozac, methadone, and penicillin, as well as a wide array of medical technologies and research.
“To make a difference, you have to get comfortable at having uncomfortable conversations. That’s what leaders do.”
“Wherever you land in the legal profession, take ownership of your career,” counseled Vice President Doug Norman, Lilly’s chief patent attorney. “It’s up to you to let others know where your interests lie.”
“What’s the first thing you look for in an outside counsel?” one of the Fellows asked.
“Creativity,” Norman replied. “I’m looking for someone with the imagination to take known scientific facts and achieve a desired legal result.”
Other Lilly executives expanded on that theme, offering an overview of the pharmaceutical industry and insights into Lilly’s strategy for innovation and success in a highly competitive marketplace.
The company’s HR director, Mark Ferrara, outlined Lilly’s Diversity and Inclusion initiatives and described how important it was for Lilly’s top executives to educate their Board of Directors on these issues.
Tony Ezell, Vice President and Chief Customer Officer, offered a word of advice for attorneys seeking to change the status quo on diversity or any other significant issue: “To make a difference, you have to get comfortable at having uncomfortable conversations. That’s what leaders do.”
For their part, the Fellows came away grateful that Lilly opened the doors to them.
"I’m looking for someone with the imagination to take known scientific facts and achieve a desired legal result."
“This was a fantastic experience, and much beyond what I expected,” said 2013 Fellow Lica Tomizuka of Faegre Baker Daniels. “I heard a lot that will help me in my career. I was also fascinated to learn so much about Lilly’s business, and to hear about their challenges and solutions. This is one very impressive company.”
The night before the Learning Experience, the 2013 Fellows were welcomed to Indianapolis with a reception hosted by LCLD Member law firm Barnes & Thornburg LLP.
Don Belt is Communications Director of LCLD.