Bringing Her Experiences Back to Flint

How Diplomat’s general counsel is using her position to redefine the Michigan city

Christina Flint grew up near Flint, Michigan, where she works to this day and, coincidentally, shares the same name. But on one of her trips to visit her father as a child, she found herself traveling on an arduous, multi-day journey from Chicago to the heart of Mexico.

“I had motion sickness, and I’m sitting in the back of this van with a family my father knew, but that I didn’t really know,” Flint recalls. “They were speaking a lot of Spanish, and I didn’t know much Spanish at the time.” Because Flint was too young to cross the border alone, her parents took the opportunity on this particular occasion for her to carpool the entire distance with family friends.

Although the drive was trying at the time, Flint now looks back on her mother’s decision to put her in that van with gratitude—and not just for the free ride. It was after arriving in Mexico, she says, when the light bulb went off. “I thought, ‘Wow, people live extremely differently than I do in Michigan.’ My father was also a vegetarian, which—twenty years ago at least—was an enigma. Everyone thought it was very bizarre, and that made me wonder why he was eating that way and why it was considered bizarre,” Flint says. “That experience was my first stepping stone in being fascinated with health, how different cultures impact individuals’ health, and how law and policy can play into it.”

Today, Flint is the general counsel for Diplomat, the nation’s largest independent provider of specialty pharmacy services, headquartered in a former General Motors building in—coincidentally—the city of Flint, Michigan. She has now come full circle and uses those valuable insights she acquired through her travel experiences in order to enhance both her organization’s legal function and the surrounding community in which she was raised.

“Knowing that there are different ways of living gives you a different perspective. It gives you a unique way of problem-solving and of seeing people,” Flint says.

Flint was brought on as Diplomat’s second attorney in 2012. After the company’s IPO in 2014, she quickly climbed the ranks to general counsel in October 2016. “If you come in-house at a large company with an established legal department—one that’s public or one that’s private—you are likely coming on to work in a particular practice group, and you stay focused in that area and become the expert,” she explains. “I’ve done the opposite, which is to venture into new areas of law that coincide with the evolution of the business. As a result, I’ve had the chance to oversee nearly a dozen acquisitions, attend to the requirements of a large syndicated credit facility, issue the proxy statement, work closely with the board of directors on corporate governance matters, and tackle a variety of other issues that crop up with a growing company.”

Flint considers herself fortunate to have worked directly under the previous general counsel who acted as a mentor by including her in higher-level legal projects, which other general counsel might simply handle alone. “More than that, I think it was involving me in the smaller, nuanced issues that would come up. By including me in those situations, I was able to think about how I might handle them, in comparison with how someone more experienced handled them,” Flint says. “I always admired how swiftly he would make decisions on things I didn’t even know he had experience in. He was able to provide decisive answers and guidance to the executive team. That, to me, was true leadership.”

Rather than sourcing a securities lawyer from outside the company during the IPO process, Flint’s predecessor noticed her aptitude for analysis and ensured that she was able to expand her skill set through tangible experience.

“It’s not like we’re stuck here. We’re all choosing to be here, and that creates a true sense of community that you might not find in a more conventionally prosperous city.”

“We of course were supported by outside counsel with great expertise in navigating compliance with SEC laws,” Flint explains. “But I had been at the company for a couple of years, so when we went public, I was able to take my knowledge of the company and apply it to new legal issues. That allowed me to move into more advanced roles and backfill my positions to now being a team of six attorneys. That also really honed my leadership skills, because I’ve been able to show newer attorneys what we do at Diplomat. I realized that others were relying on my experience and guidance, and I’ve been fortunate to find energized and strong talent to lead and support my transition into a leadership role.”

In addition to tackling the more traditional responsibilities associated with being general counsel, such as managing corporate governance issues, watching over SEC filings, overseeing licensing, and managing other attorneys in various initiatives, Flint also serves on an advisory committee for Diplomat’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team. This is a function of the organization aimed at sharing the company’s health-centric philosophy and bettering the Michigan city through local community involvement and initiatives.

“As a committee, we help the CSR team decide which opportunities would have the most impact on the city, specifically,” she says. “The CSR team is the touchpoint between Diplomat and the community.” Past projects include funding the development of walkable, green spaces throughout the city, actively partnering with organizations to spark the downtown Flint area’s revitalization efforts, and working with the local health community to support programs that encourage the city’s residents to live an active and healthy lifestyle.

From delivering materials for a bilingual education program during the summers of her youth to recently becoming a board member of the local YWCA, Flint has spent a lifetime seeking to better the community.

“There’s a desire to dispel the negative narrative commonly associated with the city of Flint,” she says. “Of course, the city has faced so many challenges. Many people relied on jobs from the automotive industry, and as a lot of those jobs are no longer there, it has contributed to real struggle. But there’s also a lot of liveliness here. There are great restaurants emerging. There’s an immaculate golf course, and there are a lot of hardworking, down-to-earth people. It’s not like we’re stuck here. We’re all choosing to be here, and that creates a true sense of community that you might not find in a more conventionally prosperous city.”

Many people might leave their hometown and never look back. But Flint has instead planted the seeds of inspiration—gleaned from her travels to Mexico and study abroad experiences in Spain—back into her company and community. “I love living in a small town, but you definitely have to get out and see what’s outside of the small town. Then, you can bring that experience back with you,” she says.