Gina Bonica, the general counsel who spent more than a decade rising through roles at Alliance HealthCare Services, Inc. (and a decade litigating in private practice before that), helped shepherd her company through its acquisition by Akumin, Inc. in September 2021. Following a year of integration leadership, Bonica has set her sights on finding the next great team and opportunity.
“When you’ve been part of a company’s journey, you have a great sense of teamwork and accomplishment—and all of that team’s shared ups and downs,” she says. “I felt proud that I had successfully advised, protected, and cultivated this organization through these many years and beside so many amazing colleagues—and I am excited to be taking a breath before moving to that next great team and organization.”
For me, it felt like sending your child off to college,” Bonica adds, laughing. “I just had this feeling that I had taught them everything I could and knew they have the legal and compliance skills to continue their journey forward. Also, I wanted to see how I could keep growing as a general counsel.”
At the time of the interview, Bonica had begun reflecting upon her next great leap forward. While she truly loves being a general counsel, there’s just one problem, she admits.
“It’s hard for me to stay in my lane,” the lawyer says. “Working hands-on with multiple business leaders is the best part of being general counsel. It’s what I’m naturally driven to do.”
Before diving into healthcare and corporate law, Bonica spent ten years as a litigator, including two as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, New York. She helped wage war on insurance fraud before moving on to private practice. In that space, she did significant and high-profile litigation, including pro bono work and employment law, while also acting on behalf of plaintiffs.
“I represented many people who had been wronged by their employers or companies. I saw an opportunity to right a wrong at the source,” the lawyer remembers. “I decided to go in-house with a company who wanted to do the right thing by the employee and help prevent problems from occurring in the first place.”
Bonica fell in love with in-house roles: being part of a broader team and working cross-functionally. “You have to find value in all levels of the organization,” Bonica explains. “When I first started with Alliance, I sat with everybody—the payroll team, the drivers—and I sat with the clerks. I wanted to understand what it meant to be at their desk or in their role. People need to feel understood and valued. That is critical when you talk about building culture.”
The GC leaned into that culture. She cochaired a women’s group focused on midlevel and entry-level managers, aiming to rise through the organization. She wanted to create a place where women could feel safe enough to talk about their experiences and relate to someone who had been in their shoes.
“I guess you could stay I’m strong-willed,” Bonica says. “I don’t mind telling people where to go and how to get there if I think that they’re harming others or not living by our values or ethics as a team. But I also realize not everyone operates that way. They may not want to stand up at that moment and speak their mind.”
The GC says she wants her team to feel empowered, even if they aren’t as prone to stand up and speak their truth as she is. The lawyer says her team always knows she has their back.
Clearly, Bonica’s commitment is to both lead and empower within teams that are focused on value creation and building on healthy cultures. And looking forward, she wants to continue bringing value to an organization that builds culture.
“The general counsel must be a true trusted and strategic advisor across the organization. The business is to be supported, and as general counsel you and your team need to offer various solutions to mitigate risk at all times.”
Given her experience, it seemed important to consult Bonica on the advice she gives to new legal leaders looking to elevate their own careers. “First, get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” the lawyer says. “Take up space, ask the difficult question and express the unpopular opinion. Second, don’t ever expect anyone to tell you how to do it. You need to understand the topic you are advising on and know the pain points. Even if you’re not an expert, find the expert and learn from them. Roll up your sleeves, do the work. Surround yourself with a team who is knowledgeable and passionate.”
Additionally, Bonica advocates finding one’s own trusted advisor. They don’t need to know the law, they need to understand you and how to help you to be successful.
Bonica’s last point is just as important as her first. No matter how inexperienced you might be in your career, know that you always have a seat at the table. “There’s a reason they hired you,” Bonica says. “Never take a back seat. There is always something to learn. And you have something to offer.”
While Bonica contemplates the next part of her journey, her passion is contagious. It’s hard to imagine she’ll be able to fight the feeling to dive back in much longer. There are too many lanes to cross and too little time.
McGuireWoods is a full-service firm providing legal and public affairs solutions to clients worldwide for more than 200 years. Our commitment to excellence in everything we do gives our clients a competitive edge in everything they do. McGuireWoods congratulations Gina Bonica on her years of leadership and professional achievements. We value the confidence that Gina has placed in McGuireWoods to deliver on her goals.