Tracey Van Dillen’s start in the legal field wouldn’t be quite what you would expect. At just fifteen-years-old Van Dillen began working as a pharmacy technician at a major retail pharmacy in southern New Jersey. It was here that she first discovered her passion for helping others and realized the profound impact she could have on people’s lives by pursuing a career in healthcare. Van Dillen’s mother’s example as a single parent working full-time instilled in her a resilient and rigorous work ethic and fueled her determination to succeed.
Several pharmacists who Van Dillen worked with during her high school years noticed her passion and encouraged her to consider medical school. Soon, she was on track to become a physician and started her studies at Bucknell University as a pre-med biology major. Her time filling prescriptions and dispensing medicine from an early age inspired her to take on other healthcare-related jobs during college. She worked in a hospital pharmacy making morphine drips and crash carts for the emergency room, and also worked in a long-term rehabilitation center for a summer. She was just as adamant about her aspirations inside the classroom, excelling in her various pre-med courses and counting down the days until she could be the one writing prescriptions.
But then, she took an elective course that turned her plans upside down.
Tracey Van Dillen on Focus
“It was an environmental law and policy course, and I loved it. To me, it was it was the best of both worlds because I could still pursue a science degree but merge it with my interests in reading and writing,” Van Dillen says. “I switched my major from biology to environmental science and decided to apply to law school and jump into the legal profession.”
She had never considered becoming a lawyer and did not know any attorneys growing up; in fact, she and her siblings were the first in their family to go to college. But despite switching gears from medical to law school, Van Dillen never lost her focus on wanting to improve the quality of others’ lives.
Van Dillen attended Seton Hall University School of Law. During her time as a law firm summer associate, she worked on both environmental and healthcare matters, and the cases involving medicine were the most interesting to her.
Over the next twenty years, Van Dillen became an expert in product liability and mass tort litigation at two private practice firms and a seasoned in-house lawyer supporting the likes of Actavis, Allergan, Johnson & Johnson, and currently, Kenvue. Though Van Dillen has spent her career navigating various responsibilities and working with a wide array of clients and colleagues, the one thing that has not changed has been her ability to put people first, rooted in her days serving patients at the pharmacy.
“Being able to connect with people is critical to being successful. You can have all the technical capabilities and the best training, but if you can’t make personal connections with your leaders or the people you support, you won’t go far. If you don’t build those personal relationships, others might not even know about the talents you have,” she says.
Van Dillen credits the relationships she built in private practice and at J&J for opening doors for her. In January 2023, she became head of litigation and employment law for the consumer products business prior to the spin-off of the Kenvue business. As head of litigation and employment law, she oversees a global team of attorneys, investigators, and associates that manages commercial litigation, product liability, investigations, and employment matters. She also develops and implements litigation strategy globally for the company, which is the proprietor of brands such as Aveeno, BAND-AID Brand Adhesive Bandages, Johnson’s, Listerine, Neutrogena, and Tylenol.
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The position has afforded her the opportunity to engage in unique and fulfilling projects. “The highlight of my career has been being part of Kenvue’s Listing Day. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Being a part of establishing a new publicly traded company doesn’t happen that often. It was even more meaningful to me because I believe in and use our beloved brands, and I’m so proud to work at Kenvue.”
She has also had the opportunity to recruit for and build a new litigation and employment law team of talented, diverse professionals who have become more like family than colleagues in a short amount of time. She leads the team with a very collaborative and encouraging leadership style.
“I think strong role models are vital in early career development. Having a personal champion to help amplify your talents and contributions is invaluable, and as leaders we should aim to pay it forward,” Van Dillen says. “Pushing your team to strive for something greater and helping them to shine are the qualities of a strong leader. For new people leaders, being a good listener and championing professional development opportunities is a good place to start.”
Kenvue’s purpose, “realizing the extraordinary power of everyday care,” resonates with Van Dillen. Her values, instilled at a young age, have shaped the impact she wants to have both personally and in her field: empowering and advocating for others.
“Tracey is an amazing strategist whose commitment to safeguarding responsible innovation and patient well-being is unparalleled. Having worked with her in different roles, I am so impressed by Tracey’s inspirational leadership, and her vision, demeanor, and wit make partnering with her so enjoyable.”
–Michael C. Zogby, Partner and Co-Chair of Trial & Global Disputes