Greg Jackson’s Strong Legal Backbone

How NuVasive’s Greg Jackson helps keep legal supporting innovation

San Diego-based NuVasive, a company that specializes in spine, spine medical device, and minimally invasive spinal surgery technology is powered by innovation. When it comes to matters of the spine, NuVasive’s technological breakthroughs include a patented Lateral Single-Position Surgery which enables surgeons to treat more patients in the lateral decubitus position.They’ve also invested heavily in state-of-the-art technology to help combat early-onset scoliosis and adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. The NuVasive TLIF Portfolio provides the requisite tools surgeons need to plan surgery, access affected levels, restore disc height and alignment, provide optimal fixation, and deliver graft material. The company seems intent on being an innovator and not merely an adopter.

Greg Jackson NuVasive
Greg Jackson, NuVasive

For NuVasive’s senior director of legal affairs and litigation Greg Jackson, innovation is where the company needs to spend the majority of its efforts, and it’s his job to make sure NuVasive is able to swing for the fences in this arena. “As we continue to evolve the technology, legal is there to support that process,” Jackson says. “Legal is here to protect the organization to make sure it remains compliant and effective, so the focus for the business can be innovation and developing the type of technologies that continue to help patients.”

Jackson came to NuVasive in 2016 after accumulating law firm experience at Bowman & Brooke and DLA Piper, among others. “I had fantastic mentors very early in my career right out of law school who harped on the value of being a true advocate for your client, being responsive, and putting yourself in the shoes of your client,” he says. He believes his law firm days offer him empathy for working with NuVasive’s outside counsel as well as reminding him that not all outside counsel knows the different and often more diverse role that an in-house position entails.

Finding meaning in his work is not difficult for Jackson. In fact, he says he wishes the company would have been around long before its 1997 founding. Jackson’s father, a retired Marine Corp colonel, underwent an extensive spine surgery whose aftereffects make innovation at NuVasive even more personal to Jackson. “It fundamentally changed his life in a negative way because he didn’t have a good experience,” he says. “The technology just wasn’t there yet. Had NuVasive been around at that time, it could have been much different.”

The surgery was extensive and quite invasive, and Jackson says his father’s back was essentially filleted open during the operation. “His activity level and ability to do things were severely impacted.” Jackson says. It was the first time he’d ever seen his father wince in pain, and that image still sticks in his head and keeps him focused on the company’s mission. “I’ve seen how it can change someone’s life. I get why it’s important,” Jackson says. “One of NuVasive’s primary focuses is in innovation concerning minimally invasive approaches to get to to the spine.” Although those methods may not be able to help his father at present, Jackson says it gives him a personal connection to those who NuVasive is able to help.

It’s a different kind of personal connection, though, that brought Jackson to NuVasive. After serving as outside counsel for a number of years for the company, Jackson says he jumped at the chance to come to NuVasive to take on an in-house position. “I was always impressed with the people and the technology here,” Jackson says. “Where the company is going and what it wants to accomplish was something I really wanted to be a part of.”

Jackson says that going in-house has provided him a more rewarding and individual connection to his work. “What I really like here is that you learn about the business in a much more meaningful way, and then you work with the different business interests to drive results,” he says.

The variety of responsibility means that Jackson doesn’t often get to go too far in the weeds, but this has also allowed him to learn when his involvement is necessary and when a task can be delegated. “There are times when you need to take a hard line and times when you need to be creative with your solutions to help the business meet its needs,” Jackson says.

He says that the culture on his own team owes a large debt to the culture he’s seen at the company at large. “Everyone here knows the company, and they believe in it,” Jackson says. “There’s a lot of institutional knowledge, so it’s been easy to work with everybody.”

The legal team isn’t without challenges, however. Data privacy, big data, and working toward more value-based healthcare solutions are top of mind for the legal department right now. “You also have to be strategic in how you position yourself in the market,” Jackson adds. “This is a cool role because you’re looking at the whole industry and what you, as a company, can do to try and move the ball forward.”

Jackson says that legal’s goal isn’t to get bigger, just to get better, and that everyone on his team understands the goal. “I enjoy the challenge and look forward to growing with the organization,” he says. “I hope to be part of something special as we continue to roll out new technology.”

The Leadership Benefits of Lacrosse

While attending Penn State University, Greg Jackson was team captain of the varsity lacrosse team. Jackson admits that, although short-lived, the experience helped shape him and his approach to leadership. “In hindsight, the most valuable takeaway is that I look at the relationships I’ve made and incredible bonds I made with my teammates,” Jackson says. “It taught me that you’re only together for a short period of time, but you go through a lot and get to know each other.”

That experience has been replicated at NuVasive, in part, because Jackson says it’s so apparent that everyone is committed to the same goals. “When I think about the team we have, there’s a really strong bond that bleeds over outside of work with the people here,” Jackson says. “We’re there for one another and make sure that we support each other. If you can build that kind of atmosphere, it’s amazing.”