Enriching the ‘Generalist’ Toolbox

Corporate Counsel Dan Healey uses his unique journalistic perspective to pursue legal solutions and help global communities.

Growing up in a family ingrained in the law field, Dan Healey was born with a naturally legal-inspired brain. Before going to law school, however, Healey took some time to exercise his journalistic muscle. During undergrad at Williams College, he double majored in English and American Studies and founded a political and cultural magazine. He went on to work as a financial editor at a pharmaceutical trade journal, where he worked for two years, and was editor-in-chief of the Virginia Law & Business Review at UVA Law.

Dan Healey, Pfizer

Unbeknownst to him, the journalism world gave him an entirely new, keen perspective about the legal field. Eventually, he learned how to set the tone and strategy for cases based on what he saw was presented successfully inside a court or on Capitol Hill. So, when it came time for Healey to go to law school, the overlap between his new and old skillsets proved beneficial.

“There are a lot of similarities between being an editor and being an in-house lawyer,” Healey explains. “In both, you’re synthesizing and presenting information. But you also become a generalist. In both roles, you have to have the ability to learn a new subject and be able to apply it to a pre-existing skillset to learn it and present it well.”

After working for the pharmaceutical journal, Healey developed an interest and appreciation for the healthcare industry, where there is an “intersection of law, policy, and business.” After law school, he took the information he learned and brought it to Pfizer, where he now serves as in-house counsel. At Pfizer, much like Healey, the legal team excels at being generalists. Healey says, “You need this broad skillset and breadth of experience to be able to do a job well and work for the future of a healthcare company.”

Healey’s team uses this generalist mentality to apply legal approaches to subject matter with which they may not have been previously familiar. At Pfizer, many of the cases that its legal team handles every day are multi-dimensional: “So, with each of those cases, we have to think about all those different dimensions simultaneously.” Healey says, “Having exposure to all of them at one time or another gives us a frame of reference to think about a more structural way to approach it.”

Whether working with Pfizer’s in-house or outside counsel, approaching novel legal concepts as a generalist has allowed the legal team to not only understand the different phases of litigation as they occur, but it has also sharpened their judgment, problem-solving, and communication skills. For Healey, these steps occur in his embedded journalism perspective, allowing him to look holistically at a case as it unfolds: “It’s interesting to look at the industry as a reporter because you’re dealing with it objectively and seeing how these interlocking pieces in the industry interact.”

Just as his journalism background lent itself to his dynamic, yet objective, problem-solving approach, his other personal experiences have also taught him about how to carry projects through to fruition. After three years in private practice, he and a friend went on a camping trip to visit several national parks. After that, they made the trip into an annual tradition with the goal of visiting every national park in the United States. At the same time as this goal gave Healey an opportunity to experience places he had never been, it also taught him how to be systematic, deliberate, and goal-oriented in general—skills that drive his professional work every day.

As a member of the Legal Division’s Pro Bono Steering Committee at Pfizer, Healey channels these skills as he works with his team to create attainable goals in supporting different pro bono opportunities. During the 2018 election, the legal team partnered with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to staff a hotline that voters could call for election day assistance. Additionally, last year, Healey traveled with several other Pfizer lawyers to teach a legal research and writing course at the University of Zambia in Lusaka, in partnership with DLA Piper. “Our goal was to help a concurrent generation of international lawyers,” Healey explains. “It was a fascinating experience to learn how other legal systems work and meet lawyers in that country.”

Though pro bono work may be difficult to merge into the schedules of in-house lawyers, the legal team at Pfizer encourages and prioritizes these opportunities to use their skills to impact the world around them. Personally, these opportunities have inspired Healey to be cognizant of the political and social aspects of his work.

“I look for a Washington dimension inside my work,” Healey says. “I want to maintain a sense of involvement in issues where I see different political or policy dimensions come into play. The healthcare and pharmaceutical industry is always going to be relevant and important and interesting; being in the industry certainly gives me an eye for the greater impact our work makes.”

As Healey grows in his career and strives toward his goals, he maintains his acute awareness of how the work he helps Pfizer impacts the communities around him—the world he wishes to experience entirely. With every goal he reaches and every opportunity he takes, Healey adds another skillset to his abundant toolbox, saving them for the next time he can make a difference and help move health forward.

Congratulations to Dan Healey on his well-deserved recognition as an American Healthcare Leader. Bradley is proud to partner with Dan and Pfizer in their commitment to funding programs that provide public benefit, advance medical care, and improve patient outcomes. We believe that all people deserve to live healthy lives.