Law school came later for Gretchen Randall than many of her fellow classmates, who had made it their next step immediately after college. Randall spent eight years in marketing before deciding to apply to law school, having been continuously impressed by the in-house legal team at conglomerate company Honeywell. She says spending time in the working world prior to law school made for neither a better nor worse path than that of her classmates, but it did give her a very different lens with which to approach her impending career.
“When I was in school, I couldn’t wait to get back into the working world,” Randall explains. “I had gotten a chance to experience more, and I think the broader your horizons are, the more peripheral vision you have. Everyone looks ahead, but different experiences really help widen that vision.”
That focus on breadth also applies to the skill set Randall has built out through both firm and in-house roles as the current general counsel at Smiths Medical, a division of Smiths Group. The attorney is helping her team stay lean by working smarter, all the while passing along the mentorship that she herself benefited from while rising through the organization.
Mentored to Mentor
Randall’s eventual arrival at Smiths wasn’t on a whim. While in private practice, she had come to the company on secondment to work in-house. She had been working at a firm but quickly remembered the team atmosphere of the corporate environment that had propelled her into law school in the first place. “When the secondment ended, I wished I did not have to leave, and that’s when I decided I was ready to go in-house.”
Randall credits great leaders for helping her better define her legal path, particularly Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Ethics and Compliance Adam Jones and Smiths Group General Counsel Mel Rowlands. “I try to pick my jobs by the bosses that I will have the opportunity to work for,” Randall explains. “I gravitate to people who, even though they may not know it, I really consider my mentors. Adam was that for me when I first came here; having a chance to work for him helped shape how I grew and developed as an in-house attorney.”
The GC says that she’s intent on providing the same informal mentorship she’s benefited from at Smiths to others who are finding their way. Her own breadth of experience lends her credibility on subjects from commercial law to compliance to risk. “Everybody you come in contact with can benefit from hearing a different perspective, and I know for me that it has had an impact,” the attorney explains. “I hope it helps expand people’s sphere of thinking to just be presented with another viewpoint or way of doing things.”
In coming to Smiths, Randall says having the opportunity to take on a variety of new challenges is precisely why she’s wound up in the GC chair. “Even though it could be scary because it wasn’t something I’d done before, it’s meant so much to me that I’ve been able to take on new opportunities, which really prepared me well for this role.”
Moving Faster by Moving Smarter
Randall says the legal team continues to focus on ways of moving faster without any additional lawyers on board. “That essentially comes down to two pieces,” the GC explains. “Technology and strategy. We’re always looking for tools that might help us consolidate and streamline our workload, from better ways to complete due diligence to how we store contracts. We have some things in the pipeline that will hopefully aid us with that.”
The strategy piece, however, plays a wider consideration. “There has definitely been a call from the business to do things faster, and I am all for it,” Randall says. “But we’re not adding a production line of attorneys. There’s got to be a better process in place to make these things work with no additional people or time.”
As the medical division embarks on strategic planning for next year, the GC says her team is performing an exercise to determine where best to place their legal focus. The team is taking this approach to ensure lawyers are able to focus their time where their knowledge and experience can make the most positive impact on the business.
“We’re looking at the playbooks and templates we can create so people can help themselves and don’t feel like they have to come to us with every single contract,” Randall says. “We’re always trying to figure out how to streamline and make things work better and more efficiently with the resources that we have.” The more time the legal team has to spend on high-level strategy, the faster they’ll be able to enable business results.
Working lean is something the GC is quite accustomed to. The mother of two multisport children and a triathlete in her own right, Randall is used to having too much to do with no time to spare. When she’s not running a legal team, she’s just running.
DuVal & Associates PA:
“As Gretchen’s outside FDA counsel, and having been inside counsel, I know that counseling in a regulated environment is very sophisticated. Gretchen is a quick study, pragmatic, with keen insights and the organizational skills necessary to navigate difficult regulatory waters while doing the rest of the GC job. She is a pro.”
–Mark DuVal, JD, FRAPS, President and CEO
“Gretchen’s tireless diligence and experience are key to the success of her organization. We are proud to call her a friend and a client.”
–Armani Vadiee, Partner