“Yes, and” is one of the guiding principles of improvisational comedy. Traced back to sociologist Neva Boyd and further developed by acting teacher Viola Spolin, “Yes, and” is a tenet by which an actor accepts his scene partner’s contribution, and then builds upon it. Lawrence Chew serves as the vice president of legal at Varian, a Siemens Healthineers Company, which is devoted to technological innovation in the field of cancer care management.
His internal clients include, among others, executive levels of the product, software, engineering, manufacturing, strategic alliance, sales, and support teams. Chew believes active listening and good emotional intelligence (EQ) have helped him optimize business relationships and move initiatives forward to success completion.
“That is a key component for success,” he says. “Although the legal team does not develop per se a product, we do serve as trusted business and legal counselors to our business and product teams providing guidance, identifying and mitigating risk, creating viable alternative pathways and partnering with them to move important initiatives forward. As in-house lawyers, we don’t want to be perceived as a roadblock or barrier to execution, but instead be known as enablers. The interesting part of being an in-house lawyer for a cancer care management and medical device company is that we wear a number of different hats and need to delve in a variety of areas of law and regulation, including among others, Commercial, Intellectual property, Corporate, Finance, FDA, Privacy, Security, and Trade.”
According to Lawrence Chew, the challenge and opportunity arises in the manner in which they as in-house lawyers are able to balance legal and risk mitigation with the business and product teams need to accelerate timelines for development and commercialization of transformational products. He feels one of the keys to his success has been to be open-minded, flexible, and practical.
“Active listening and good communication skills are equally important to my role. And, candidly, this is where I have benefited from the improv training I gained in theater arts and improv while attending UCLA Law School. (It which even landed me a lead role in an off-Hollywood play that was written up in Variety magazine.) The use of good EQ and the old improv adage of ‘Yes, and’ can go a long way toward transforming the perception of lawyers from one of ‘legal gatekeeper’ to ‘pragmatic business and legal partner.’”
A San Francisco Bay Area native, Chew’s life-long fascination with technology was largely inspired by his mother’s work in one of the first computer chip assembly and fabrication facilities at Fairchild Semiconductor, a foundational producer of electronics and computer circuitry. “I was always fascinated in the evolution of new applications, technology, and the different ways people leveraged them,” he says. “We had the first set of Apple computers at our household. Whatever new technology came out, my family were definitely early adaptors.”
While an undergrad at the University of California, Berkeley, Lawrence Chew was introduced to the law while serving as a part-time social security disability claims paralegal at the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County where he discovered that it was important to him to “have a mission and a sense of purpose in any future career role.”
After leading the corporate, technology, international, and commercial legal functions at some of the largest technology and corporations in the world, for the last ten years he very much enjoy the mission at Varian. It carrries a very personal resonance to Chew. Varian focuses on, among other things, developing and making available to the largest cancer centers in the world advanced cancer care products, such as radiotherapy, radiosurgery, brachytherapy, adaptive therapy, and interventional solutions; all of which help in the fight against cancer. “My mother passed early on from cancer, and my father was successfully treated with one of Varian’s TrueBeam system. Therefore the vision at Varian of a world without fear of cancer is particularly meaningful to me.”
Chew sees fostering collaboration and serving as a trusted business and legal counselor with Varian’s various thought leaders and stakeholders as one of his primary functions. “We’re here as advisors, helping to guide the entire life cycle of product development, product marketing, commercialization, sale, and service,” he says. “Although we guide our internal teams through different global rules, regulations, and requirements, we do so by being practical, results oriented, and practical.”
A recent pivotal business initiative that Chew and his team are engaged in with his product and research teams includes Ethos. The pioneering intelligent cancer care solution uses Varian’s Halcyon system in combination with what the company calls “a new, unifying…smarter” treatment of oncology. Leveraging artificial intelligence, it provides real-time adaptive treatment to patients and enables oncologists to utilize intelligent data and insights that help improve, enhance, and accelerate the manner in which patients are treated.
“Through the Adaptive Consortium established by Varian with over forty of the major cancer and research centers in the world, we are collaborating to identify additional indications where online adaptive radiotherapy might benefit an increasing number and expanding the pool of patients,” Lawrence Chew indicated.
Ethos, adaptive therapy, and intelligent cancer care are just a few of the many solutions that represent the essence around which Varian’s mission—and now Chew’s—evolves: “A world without fear of cancer.”