Mindset key for winning Roche lawyer

By Megan Brodie 3 years ago | In Companies, Legal, People
  • 3 years ago
Shiara Mutukisna

28 June 2021

Having an ‘enterprise mindset’ and being ingrained in the business is the secret to success for an in-house legal team, Roche’s Head of Legal and Compliance Shiara Mutukisna says – and she should know, having now taken out the Lawyer of the Year in the Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals and Biotech category for two consecutive years.

Speaking with MedNews following the announcement of her second win in the Lawyers Weekly Corporate Counsel Awards for 2021, Mutukisna said her team was “very connected to the business”, with a team member appointed to partner with each business aspect.

“Having an enterprise mindset is really important,” Mutukisna said. “You really need to know the business well, which is what I feel our team does. We get to know the products, we sit in on meetings so we can provide advice that’s meaningful.

“Whatever we introduce is very much tailored to the business. We co-create policies, we don’t just roll them out – I think that’s been a differentiator. We are also early adopters of digital technology and use an analytics tool to plot where we spend our time, trying to spend most of it in areas strategically aligned to the business.”

Looking back over the past year, Mutukisna said a highlight has been her involvement in a new agreement that forms part of Roche’s Shining Towers initiative to progress personalised medicine in Australia – an area Mutukisna firmly believes to be the future of healthcare and which she finds to be both exciting and fulfilling.

“I drove negotiations for the aspirations study agreement from an Australian legal perspective,” she said. “It was quite involved because, with those kinds of study agreements, IP really comes into play so it took quite some time but we managed to get to a place where we were really happy with the documents. I think it was a really good example of collaboration.”

Pharma and diagnostics

With her team servicing both the pharmaceutical and diagnostics aspects of Roche Australia, Mutukisna said Covid presented unforeseen challenges that required strategic thinking and working closely with the business, but her team’s management of these challenges was crucial in both her winning Lawyer of the Year 2021 and her team taking out Team of the Year in the same category.

“We had members of the team that really drove the pandemic response. We worked with the procurement teams to manage medicine shortages and came up with objective criteria for supplying products that were in high demand during the height of the pandemic,” she said.

Roche Australia also rolled out a new agile model for working in 2020, with Mutukisna saying the framework allowed the legal team to be “much more engaged with the business than we’ve ever had to be”.

“It’s not traditional pharma anymore, it’s more healthcare with self-managed teams so we have to empower the business a lot more,” she said. “That means doing things like up-skilling teams to make quality decisions and setting guard rails for how the business operates in an ambiguous space.

“It’s important that, particularly on the compliance side, you build an ethical culture that’s sustainable. Coming out with a bunch of policies and just pointing them in the direction of the business doesn’t work anymore because you really need to have everyone buy into the ethical culture.

“I don’t think you can be successful as a legal and compliance team by being the policeman. You need to have an ethical culture that’s embedded in the organisation, not driven from the top.”

Working across sectors subject to different rules and industry codes is also challenging, she says, but stresses it is important to “demystify legal”, with Roche moving to a principles-based approach for many of its policies.

“It really helps people use their judgment rather than having a prescriptive code,” she said, while on an individual level it is important for her to be “able to pivot as a lawyer”.

“There’s a lot of new technology now that will be able to do a lot of the low-value work, so being able to position yourself for the next big thing is important,” she advised.

“I guess the crux of it is that we are more than just the legal team, we’re a trusted advisor for the business. We get pulled into conversations really early, and a lot of the time the advice we provide is not legal. It’s more about using your legal skills as a partner for the business.”

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