According to the Census Bureau, more than one in three lawyers working in the United States are women. While their numbers are increasing, male lawyers still earn more than their female counterparts. But Kellin Chatfield Nicoletti isn’t concerned about the stats—Dexcom’s divisional general counsel is willing to let her performance speak for itself.
Nicoletti dropped her daughter off at school and rushed back to her home office to talk with Modern Counsel about her experience as an accomplished woman litigator turned trusted in-house advisor. “Things are changing for women in law firms and corporate positions,” she says. “You no longer have to choose between career and family.”
Dexcom, by contrast, has been supportive of Nicoletti’s dual roles as general counsel and mother. She joined the organization in a more junior role and was promoted twice in three years. Two of those moves happened while she was expecting, and she’ll welcome another in 2022. “I’m grateful to be part of an excellent company, and I’m glad that we’ve made progress as a profession and as a society,” Nicoletti says.
She’s leading a legal team that’s built to keep up with a fast-paced company. Advanced technologies like an innovative continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device have made Dexcom into a leader in diabetes care. The company’s CGM system increases efficacy and quality of life for patients who no longer need to use the outdated and painful finger prick to measure their glucose levels. Dexcom’s small sensors collect robust datasets medical professionals can analyze to improve treatment plans. These benefits, together with a ubiquitous marketing campaign featuring musician Nick Jonas, have attracted a loyal customer base and increased popularity. In 2018, the relatively young company founded in 1999 had 3,900 employees and over $1 billion in revenue.
Nicoletti originally came to Dexcom to evaluate new markets and support the medical device company’s expansion into Europe. She mastered the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and other international guidelines to advise Dexcom while building the teams and legal framework behind a new construction facility in Malaysia and new business centers in Lithuania and the Philippines. Just three years after Nicoletti’s arrival, Dexcom has expanded its direct sales footprint and has strong partnerships with distributors who are selling its products throughout APAC, Europe, and the Middle East.
A small internal team of three lawyers, two contract managers, and one paralegal—together with an effective network of outside firms and advisors—help Nicoletti manage all legal matters involved with these and other important initiatives. She’s also building out international teams that will take on an increased role as Dexcom invests more in global markets. As the company increases in size and the department increases in volume, automation of routine forms and other improvements will bring efficiencies of scale.
The size of the team and the scope of the work provides many opportunities for everyone in the department to grow as they take on new challenges and acquire new skills. Nicoletti works to make sure she and those on her team maintain good relationships with their counterparts in various business units. “We have to really dig deep and understand the timelines, challenges, requirements, and priorities of our colleagues,” she says. “If we don’t do that well, we are missing the chance to provide the kind of strategic advice that can drive results.”
The ongoing COVID pandemic makes collaboration more difficult, especially for a large company with a global footprint. Nicoletti is painfully aware of “Zoom fatigue” as employees enter their second year filled with remote meetings. In response, she’s shortening online sessions and restructuring meetings to cover specific topics in a focused way.
Nicoletti’s leadership has helped Dexcom achieve its important growth goals over the last three years. She’s thriving as an in-house legal leader when there are just 136 women GCs in the Fortune 500. However, most US law students are female. For them, Nicoletti has some simple advice. “Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way,” she says. “And know that you have what it takes.”