If you’ve ever wanted more from your work, you need to read the story of Frank Cavanagh. If you’ve struggled with wanting to find the right balance between your career and your family, you need to read the story of Frank Cavanagh. If you have no built-in network to lean back on, no established role models out of the gate, and are unsure of just where you belong, you need to read the story of Frank Cavanagh.
It took the senior director and counsel for government investigations and litigation at Teva Pharmaceuticals nearly ten roles and fifteen odd years to find it—the mission, the fit, and the balance—but he’s finally there.
That isn’t to say his legal career, which includes prestigious firms like Skadden and Patterson Belknap and incredible governmental work for the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the US Attorney’s Office, and the United States District Court, hasn’t been informative and exhilarating. It most certainly has.
But it isn’t the work he did on behalf of those organizations that left the biggest impact on Cavanagh. It was a conversation he overheard around Halloween, many years ago. A lawyer had asked another about what costume their child would be wearing, as they were now at an age where they could understand and enjoy the holiday.
“This person said that they had bought a bunch of costumes and would just go with whatever the nanny picked out,” Cavanagh remembers. “I went home to my fiancée, now wife, and we talked about how there seems to be a checklist that a lot of lawyers seem bent on checking off, raising your family the same way you handle aspects of a case. I wanted to be doing interesting and meaningful work, but I also knew I needed to find some balance in my career to be happy.”
It was a crucial realization for the lawyer, who had thus far scraped and clawed his way to every opportunity. Cavanagh will list each of his mentors—including his current colleagues, his boss Norv McAndrew, and Chief Legal Officer David Stark—who all genuinely care about his development. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the attorney has come a long way under his own steam.
Born to a working-class family, Cavanagh was offered the best career guidance his parents could give: “It sucks to be poor.”
“I don’t want to paint the picture that we were starving,” the lawyer hedges. “But I do remember a lot of Fridays where the deal was we could either get a pizza with a topping, or we could get a pizza without a topping and rent a movie. That two or three dollars really meant something in our family. In most of the places I’ve worked, I think that perspective is a little unique.”
The first of his family to attend college, Cavanagh went big. Cornell, then St. John’s Law. His family actually discouraged him from law school—they knew exactly one lawyer among all of their acquaintance, and he had had difficulty finding a job during the recession of the early nineties.
“It was their one data point,” Cavanagh explains. “I was clueless, and they were giving the best information they had. But after college, I had started reading case law and really got into it.”
It took the lawyer a little time to figure out what he wanted out of his career, and a long time to get there. During his clerkship for US District Judge Joanna Seybert in the Eastern District of New York, Cavanagh realized he wanted to pursue purposeful, mission-driven work. “It’s so great to wake up every day and feel like my job today is to do the right thing.”
His search eventually took him to DOJ Antitrust, where he helped lead a team of twenty-five lawyers, and then to the US Attorney’s Office. But seven years into his government service (and after the COVID-19 pandemic hit), Cavanagh realized he needed to take a shot at his longest-term goal: going in-house for a mission in which he could believe.
“From my prior years of experience, I had interviewed at so many places,” Cavanagh says. “Just interviewing at Teva was the best I ever felt. As I approached a year-and-a-half here, I told my wife that I always expected there would be some threshold of unhappiness that, as a lawyer, I would have to deal with. I just felt like I probably needed to adjust my expectations. But not here.”
Sheron Korpus, a partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres who represents Teva in complex litigation matters, says, “Frank is a very smart attorney and a great team player. His many years of government and prosecutorial experience have proved immensely useful in the private sector. He works productively with outside counsel and key corporate decision-makers to resolve matters sensibly and efficiently.”
Cavanagh’s purview is considerable. Teva’s extensive litigation related to the broader opioid epidemic sits at a critical juncture, involving some 3,500 cases with everyone from state attorneys general to local municipalities, Native American tribes, public and private schools, and hospitals.
“Teva didn’t cause the opioid crises, and that’s why I think this is meaningful work at a crucial moment,” he says. “We’re primarily a generics drug manufacturer. We make more affordable medicines for people who need them. So, while we are part of this broader litigation, I think our response says something about this company.”
Cavanagh makes particular note of the fact that as the only manufacturer of a generic form of Narcan (a drug that saves the lives of those overdosing on opioids), Teva has offered to provide over $1 billion of the generic to states, municipalities, and tribes needing it.
“Even if we feel like we didn’t cause this problem, we absolutely want to be part of the solution,” the counsel says.
It’s meaningful work, and what’s more, Cavanagh gets to have dinner with his wife and two young daughters. He’s found the balance. He’s found the mission. And his kids will be able to order a pizza with as many toppings as they’d like.
A Special Kind of Work:
Frank Cavanagh, in many cases, would rather not talk about work. At least, the work he does in the office.
The lawyer is happy to talk about his woodwork, though. He remembers his grandfather (who grew up during the Great Depression) making him straighten out nails to reuse. Cavanagh first started learning the woodworking craft out of necessity as a young boy, and remembers helping his mom and dad refinish a secondhand dining table gifted to his family.
Now, he does it all, albeit usually after 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. (by then, the kids are in bed, and he’s done with his day job). Cabinets, vanities, a deck, a breakfast table for his family, a walnut picture frame holding a map of where he and his family have traveled and where they want to go someday . . . every project produces tangible evidence of the work involved.
“I just like knowing that this used to be a chunk of nothing, and now it’s something beautiful,” Cavanagh says. “If you screw it up, you sand it down and start over.”
“Through our collaborative partnership with Frank Cavanagh and his innovative team at Teva, Consilio has implemented a variety of platforms in eDiscovery, Advisory, and Flexible Talent which offer efficiency, scalability, and predictability. We appreciate Frank’s partnership and vision, and that of his team.”
—John Finlay, Vice President, US Sales