Josh Lubin tries to stay ahead of the game. The Sanofi US associate general counsel has spent twelve years at the multinational pharmaceutical company, but one of his most enduring lessons didn’t come there or even in his associate years at firm Morgan, Lewis, & Bockius. It came from playing chess with his son, Jacob.
“If I can get my son to play me in a game, he will beat me seven days a week and twice on Sundays,” Lubin says with just a touch of fatherly pride. “Players start off thinking one move ahead. When they improve, they work towards two moves. What separates the serious players from everyone else, however, is the ability to think three moves ahead. That’s what I’ve tried to apply to my law practice.”
It sounds simple in practice, as may chess, but it requires following each and every potential tributary of possibility to its endpoint. It’s why most chess players never get past the first move and why Lubin continues to amass responsibilities at Sanofi.
“Watching Josh in action is like watching Bobby Fischer survey the chessboard,” says Gary D. Friedman, chair of Weil Gotshal’s employment litigation practice group and no stranger to Lubin’s strategy. “Whether in a litigation or transactional context, Josh knows the Achilles’ heel of his opponent, shows patience while keeping his eye on the clock, is never afraid to deviate from the plan where the situation calls for it, and strikes that perfect balance between skill and intuition. Josh is playing master chess while his opponent is playing beginning checkers.”
Then Don’t Be
The AGC’s knack for increasingly widening his workload is a product of both lifelong curiosity and, maybe more significantly, a problem he was able to solve early in his firm days. “Morgan Lewis was very much a meritocracy,” Lubin says. “If you had interest and an aptitude for areas outside of your practice group, it really didn’t matter what year you were. The firm was very supportive of attorneys branching out.”
Lubin quickly found himself working cross-functionally in the firm’s complex litigation practice in the early days of employment class action litigation. The young lawyer had learned to just go for it. “If you don’t want to be pigeonholed into one practice area,” Lubin says, frankly. “Then don’t be.”
“What separates the serious players from everyone else, however, is the ability to think three moves ahead. That’s what I’ve tried to apply to my law practice.”
It’s a motto that has served Lubin well at Sanofi, even if the timing hasn’t always been entirely ideal. “I took on broader responsibilities for HSE issues in February 2020,” Lubin says. “Given the COVID-19 crisis, that decision has created a little bit of extra work from between then and now.” Because Sanofi US has employees in all fifty states, as well as Washington DC and Puerto Rico, the AGC says that he has had to fast-track his learning curve on CDC and state health agency guidance, but it’s also offered the lifelong learner maybe the most extreme on-the-job learning experience he could have ever asked for.
“It’s practicing law with the world moving under your feet,” the lawyer says. “That’s exactly what COVID-19 has meant. I have to continuously circle back on the state and federal guidance because of how quickly things can change from one day to the next.” For example, on the day of his interview, Lubin had spent the morning finalizing a policy that was ready to move forward. But he made sure to check CDC guidelines one last time (or, more likely, the fifth last time), and found a new checklist that needed to be reviewed and incorporated.
“The importance of Shepardizing and cite-checking briefs prior to court filings, which was drilled into my head as an associate, has come in very handy during COVID-19,” Lubin says, laughing.
Student, Teacher, and Master
As motivated and curious as he is, Lubin says that his own success is a reflection of the mentors he’s had along the way. Fellow Morgan Lewis alums Lisa Cooney, now senior vice president and general counsel for Day & Zimmermann, and Sheila Chandonnet, now partner at Life Science Legal LLC, have provided Lubin with both mentorship and support, and Sanofi US Head of Litigation Susan “Sam” Manardo has been no different. “Sam is one of the most gifted antitrust lawyers I’ve worked with, and she allowed me to shadow a number of Rule 23 class action cases being handled by her team over the years.” In recognition of the support he’s received, Lubin is adamant to return the favor.
“It’s my obligation to give back,” the AGC says. Lubin is part of Sanofi’s formal mentoring program, where he’s able to provide career advice and support for newer employees of the organization. The attorney also spent fifteen years as a guest lecturer in the West Virginia University (WVU) Human Resources and Industrial Labor Relations program, teaching alongside lifelong mentor William R. Hutchison, a WVU executive in residence.
“These have just been great opportunities to try and help pay forward all of the help and advice I’ve gotten in my own career,” Lubin says. If the AGC is able to help new attorneys see just one more move ahead, it will have made an entirely new gameboard—and all the difference in the world.