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They’ve Got Next: The 40 Under 40 - Kristen Riemenschneider of Arnold & Porter

July 14, 2021, 8:46 AM

Please describe two of your most substantial, recent wins in practice.
I specialize in life sciences license and collaboration agreements. I have worked on many groundbreaking products, including two of the first approved gene therapies. In 2020, however, my work focused almost entirely on Covid-19 countermeasures, invoking my unique subspecialty advising on the IP rights associated with U.S. government-funded research and development. In the last year, I worked with more than two dozen companies as they sought U.S. government funding to support research, development and manufacturing scale-up, including two of the major Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers. I represented these companies in negotiations with BARDA, DoD and other government entities, resulting in deals for the U.S. procurement of hundreds of millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccines and millions of doses of Covid-19 therapeutic antibodies.

What is the most important lesson you learned as a first-year attorney and how does it inform your practice today?
“Be useful; learn a skill or develop a niche area that nobody else in your firm has.” As a first-year lawyer, that advice seemed nonsensical; I could not imagine that, in a firm of 1,000 attorneys, I could develop a skill set nobody else had. But, the law is vast and nuanced, and with a little bit of directional guidance from another friendly partner, I was able to develop a niche practice focused on the IP issues that arise in U.S. government contracting. This niche practice represented—in pre-Covid times—perhaps 15% of my practice. But, because I am recognized, both within and outside my firm, as one of the “go-to” people in the U.S. on these matters, the skill set has opened doors to numerous clients that I might otherwise not have met. And, in 2020, this niche practice was the key reason I was retained to support more than two dozen Covid-19 projects, including AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine contracts—a project I certainly never could have predicted as a first-year lawyer, and one which is likely to be the most memorable project of my career. As a result, I give every first-year lawyer with whom I work the exact same advice.

How do you define success in your practice?
Doing good, solid legal work is necessary, but not sufficient for success in a life sciences licensing and collaboration practice. Unlike the role of a litigator, or even an M&A lawyer, my job is to work constructively with our client’s counterparties, because the parties’ joint objective is to enter into an arrangement in which they will work together for 10, sometimes 20 years. It’s unproductive for all involved if that relationship begins with a hostile, contentious negotiation. As a result—generally—my job is not to hold up a deal until our client has negotiated the best possible contract document, but rather to help the client work through an acceptable risk/benefit profile and get to a deal that works. Thus, I consider myself successful when I am viewed as a trusted, practical adviser, and recognized as an integral member of the client’s deal team.

What are you most proud of as a lawyer?
In the last year, I’ve negotiated roughly two dozen Covid deals with the U.S. government, including deals for the government’s purchase of hundreds of millions of doses of two of the leading Covid vaccine candidates. These deals were among the most high-stress of my career, given the world’s singular focus on ending the Covid pandemic. We were working with Operation Warp Speed under incredibly compressed timeframes, using novel contracting vehicles created for weapons—not pharma—procurements, in a deal construct with no precedents or guidance. We worked around the clock day-in, day-out, to come up with creative solutions to get vaccine and therapeutic candidates available to the U.S. population as quickly as humanly possible. But this work wasn’t done in a vacuum—I, like everyone else, have been at home, in quarantine, for the last year. My husband is an essential worker, and has been at work most days during the pandemic. My three elementary school age children have been at home, doing virtual school, since March 2020. So, I did what likely is the most challenging work of my career, from home, simultaneously acting as teaching assistant, IT support professional, recess monitor, playmate and guidance counselor.

Who is your greatest mentor in the law and what have they taught you?
Steve Parker, a former A&P partner, who launched the Harraseeket Foundation. Steve was an excellent life sciences attorney and was intentional about the directions he took his practice. (Incidentally, Steve was the partner who gave me the “be useful” advice in my first year.) But, Steve remains my greatest mentor because he was always very clear that there is much more to life than being a skilled lawyer. He was pointedly present in his family’s life and active within his community. He left work on time to attend his sons’ baseball games. He attended Bible study before work. At 58, Steve left Big Law—in the prime of his career—to establish a nonprofit dedicated to helping young adults find their life’s vocation. Steve taught me to think about my role in the world, to prioritize goodness, and to keep my priorities straight.

Just for fun, tell us your two favorite songs on your summer music playlist.
“What About Us” by P!nk: P!nk knows how to write a solid rock anthem and is a reliable go-to for me on any playlist. But, I love this song in particular because it speaks to, or maybe for, the people who feel ignored or forgotten. Big Law continues to struggle with DEI issues and as a woman in Big Law, I’m no stranger to some of those issues. Some days you just need to blast some music and sing out your frustrations!

“Run the World (Girls)” by Beyonce: The lyrics of this one speak for themselves: “This goes out to all the women getting it in, you on your grind/ To all the men that respect what I do, please accept my shine… How we’re smart enough to make these millions/ Strong enough to bear the children (children)/ Then get back to business.” Working mamas get the job done!

To contact the reporter on this story: Lisa Helem at lhelem@bloombergindustry.com

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