“Trust your instincts. Take feedback from other people, but never drown out that voice that’s telling you what’s right for you.”
That’s a lesson Christin Bassett, group vice president and deputy general counsel at Rite Aid, learned after making a shift from a successful private practice career to an equally fruitful in-house career. She currently serves as acting general counsel and corporate secretary at the health care services and retail provider.
Bassett was partner of a Philadelphia law firm for two years, building on her experience in commercial, intellectual property, and product liability litigation matters. In that role, she went on to co-coordinate the defense of more than 1,700 cases in the city’s mass tort program and manage matters as a first-chair attorney. She was living a young lawyer’s dream, heading down a path to becoming a trial lawyer and supporting efforts that would generate business. But, along the way, she realized that dream wasn’t hers.
“I realized I wanted to focus on the project management piece of it,” she admits. “There were a lot of folks I trusted, including mentors and sponsors, who just didn’t get it. They thought, ‘You’re on this path, you’re doing well, you need to just keep going.’ But I pivoted based on what my instincts were telling me, and I’m grateful for making that decision.”
And it paid off. Bassett went on to several in-house roles, where she gained greater leadership responsibilities, legal expertise, and opportunities to drive legal teams toward success. Since joining Rite Aid in 2021, she created a litigation team from the ground up and is working to build up the entire legal department. Her focus has also been on improving relationships with key outside counsel while reorganizing her department to match the business’s needs.
As an in-house leader for the likes of companies like AstraZeneca and Aetna, she has often managed diverse teams comprised of new employees and individuals who have more years of company experience under their belt. For Bassett, an important part of doing that successfully is to appreciate each team member and what they bring to the table.
“I make sure that everyone is respecting each other and their opinions because the perspective can be very different but that’s what helps get to the best outcomes,” she explains. “When you have all those perspectives weighing in, there are no blind spots. Someone isn’t missing something because they’re too new to the team or because they aren’t thinking about something in a new way.”
Bassett began her journey with an unmatched self-awareness and hunger for self-improvement. In college, she majored in English and political science, with dreams of becoming a doctor. However, after volunteering at a hospital, that changed. “I realized quickly that I didn’t have the emotional stomach for it because I became too attached to patients when I was visiting with them,” she recalls. “So, I started thinking about exploring law.”
She obtained a law degree from the George Washington University Law School and was hired as an associate at Morgan Lewis. During her four years in that role, she gained substantial experience working on briefs, appeals, and other fascinating legal issues, but she wasn’t getting many opportunities to go to court, take depositions, or run her own cases. That ultimately drove Bassett’s decision to leave the firm and head to Reed Smith LLP, where she began as an associate and became partner in just three years.
Her desire to be better drove many of her career decisions as an in-house lawyer too. She had been at Aetna for seven years when her leadership role was eliminated. At that point, she wasn’t sure what her next steps would be. “I had been applying for litigation leadership roles because that’s what I had always done my whole career,” Bassett reflects. “Companies were coming back and asking if I wanted to be a GC or in a more senior role. I was wondering what they saw in me that I didn’t see in myself.
“I wondered if I was avoiding nonlitigation roles because I was scared, and that wasn’t a satisfying answer,” she adds. “So, I intentionally chose to pursue a nonlitigation role next.”
Following that resolution, Bassett went on to become a corporate attorney for Otsuka Pharmaceutical, an experience that made her an in-house legal generalist and prepared her for where she is today.
“Christin is a thoughtful, forthright, solutions-oriented leader,” says Tracy Zurzolo Quinn, partner at Holland & Knight LLP. “She builds strong relationships with her outside counsel, legal and business teams, and has the confidence to both give and receive constructive feedback. Her team-focused approach to leadership leads to well-informed strategic thinking and decisions that serve her clients’ business needs well.”
She advises young attorneys to take a similar approach to navigating decision points in their careers.
“There might be points in your career where something might not feel like an opportunity but don’t reject it because it’s different or a change,” Bassett says. “Keep checking in with yourself about what you want out of your career, and trust yourself through the process.”