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Aileen McGill Fair knew she would be busy after receiving an offer to join the law department at a leading pharmaceutical company. However, she had no idea just how much work she would undertake on such a large scale in her first year alone. After eight years at a New York law firm, she joined Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) in December of 2018. Two weeks later, BMS announced its plans to acquire Celgene Corporation in a transaction valued at $74 billion.
Leaders at BMS targeted Celgene to solidify the company’s standing as a leading biopharma company, creating innovative therapies in oncology, hematology, immunology, and heart disease. But like any deal this size, the transaction required extensive antitrust approval.
BMS general counsel Sandra Leung tapped Fair to serve as her point person for the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust review of the merger and lead efforts to provide materials to antitrust authorities worldwide. Fair got to work immediately. “It was critical for our law department to provide the support necessary to close the BMS/Celgene merger with full regulatory approval, and I was honored to have a role in making that happen,” she says.
During this busy first year, Fair worked on several other litigation matters and government investigations, which continue today, as she teams with a dedicated and tight-knit litigation cadre managing the company’s most important cases.
“It was critical for our law department to provide the support necessary to close the BMS/Celgene merger with full regulatory approval, and I was honored to have a role in making that happen.”Aileen McGill Fair
Fair’s work often requires long hours and extensive research that enable her to make thoughtful, deliberate decisions. At these times, she draws inspiration from her mother, Dr. Janet McGill. After Fair’s father, also a physician, died during her youth, her mother and two older siblings moved to St. Louis. There, her mother started a fellowship at Washington University, and now currently serves as a professor of medicine in the Washington University School of Medicine and is a world-renowned endocrinologist.
Her mother’s ability to overcome hardship and dedication to her patients and profession significantly impacted Fair. She remembers her mother spending evenings reading medical journals, editing study protocols, or on the phone helping patients manage their diabetes.
“When I was young, I didn’t understand why my mom did as much as she did for her patients, but over time, we often ran into my mom’s patients or colleagues in town, and I heard firsthand how my mom’s dedication had affected so many people in our community,” Fair says.
“Patients told me, ‘Your mom diagnosed a condition that four other doctors missed, and it saved my life.’ And junior faculty members would tell me how my mom had supported them early in their careers. It made me realize that the extra effort to help patients and colleagues matters, and that that was exactly the kind of person I wanted to be.”
Fair followed her mother by studying at Washington University, before attending the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She then joined Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, LLP, as an associate. The combination of the firm’s reputation in healthcare, as well as the chance to get direct, hands-on experience really inspired the young lawyer.
With such focus and dedication, even early in her career, partners trusted Fair’s opinions regarding important matters. “During Aileen’s time at the firm, she worked very effectively and efficiently to find solutions for clients; laser-focused on the business needs of our clients and how our litigation strategy would help to achieve them,” says Lisa E. Cleary, cochair and managing partner at the firm.
“As a junior associate, I wasn’t the most experienced attorney on the team, but I always researched my cases extensively, and that input often helped guide the team to develop better strategies,” she says. That experience, and many others, reinforced her belief in the importance of both hard work and diversity in securing the best outcomes. “When we hear every voice in the room, we make better decisions. Diversity of opinion and input from people of all backgrounds, levels, and areas of expertise is critical,” Fair adds.
“When we hear every voice in the room, we get better outcomes. Diversity of opinion and input from people of all backgrounds, levels, and areas of expertise is critical.”Aileen McGill Fair
It’s a philosophy she continues to promote in her current role as senior litigation and antitrust counsel at BMS, where, in addition to working in litigation and competition law, Fair supports a number of initiatives to support colleagues and law students. She serves as a leader of the law department’s early career program, which aims to recruit and support colleagues early in their careers; a member of the law department’s diversity and inclusion committee; and a leader of the department’s diversity and inclusion summer internship program.
Fair’s role gradually increased to include leadership on multiple committees and litigation, government investigations, and antitrust and competition law worldwide. At the same time, she continues to provide critical legal support to BMS, as the company takes new products through its pipeline to deliver medicines to patients around the world.
Fair’s colleagues at Arnold & Porter are impressed by her efforts. “Aileen is always a pleasure to work with, through intense and calm periods, through highs and lows. She is smart, thoughtful, collaborative, and simply a nice caring person. I could not ask for a better in-house partner,” says Anand Agneshwar, partner at Arnold & Porter.
Partner James L. Cooper agrees, “Aileen is a rising star in healthcare antitrust law. She uses her deep understanding of Bristol Myers’ business, and where the business is going, to anticipate legal problems and opportunities well ahead of the curve.”
Industry insiders expect big things from BMS in 2022, with the company’s several highly anticipated drug launches in areas with significant unmet medical need. Additionally, the global biopharmaceutical company will continue its longstanding partnerships with universities and other businesses. These relationships bring innovative products to market faster, and Fair’s department helps move these collaborations forward.
Like her mother, Aileen McGill Fair remains passionate about serving the mission of BMS, and its dedication to patients. “Like my mom and so many other healthcare providers,” Fair says, “I feel inspired to bring absolutely everything I can to my work, supporting the company, so that we can create the best outcomes for patients.”