Jeremy Jessen has been an invaluable partner to Bayer Consumer Health’s global business precisely because he’s been able to bring legal perspectives from just about every angle of the healthcare space to his role as general counsel (GC) and global executive committee member.
The attorney, who first joined the organization in 2009 as senior counsel, has risen to the top by taking advantage of development opportunities at every turn, tackling new areas of the business, and making conscious efforts to understand Bayer’s business, its competitors, and the ultra-competitive marketplace in which they operate.
“I think taking the time to learn the business is an area some people can tend to miss,” Jessen says. “But especially at senior levels, that ability to partner with the business and utilize that business acumen is what sets you apart. It’s not just about your legal skills.”
Jessen’s advice should be heeded not just because of his corporate law career, but because of all the ways in which he’s sought out opportunities to see the healthcare law landscape from a different point of view. The attorney spent his first four-and-a-half years out of law school working as an assistant regional counsel for the US Department of Health & Human Services.
That role got Jessen exposure to virtually every single healthcare provider in the country, the ways in which they engage with the federal government, and an endless variety of intersections between business and regulated health law, but from the government’s point of view.
The future GC also built out law firm experience in the space prior to coming to Bayer in 2009. He says in both roles, it was vitally important for him to say yes to as many new opportunities as he could manage.
“Especially in the life sciences space, I think it’s common for people to feel like they’re siloed in a role,” Jessen explains. “I realized how important it is to own your own development. And you need to identify the leaders and others who are willing to support that development. From day one since coming to Bayer, I’ve wanted to do more, and I’ve had the support to seek out those experiences.”
For those hoping to one day take on a GC role, Jessen says it’s imperative to be willing to take on work that might seem completely foreign upon first inspection. The lawyer sought out work on M&A deals, antitrust matters, R&D, and even patent litigation in which he previously had little experience.
These were calculated decisions to move into areas where Jessen didn’t have much experience because he knew that down the line, that work would allow him to be a better business partner to the commercial teams at Bayer, and he’d have valuable perspective around the decision-making table.
In his current role, Jessen is in the process of leveraging technology to make legal’s processes simpler and the interaction between legal and the rest of the business more fluid. The GC’s department has partnered with Luminance, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered legal process automation company, to enhance and simplify its contract negotiation process.
The platform employs an AI stoplight system that, after examining all previous contracts, can predict what level of reexamination needs to be applied to a new contract. Green contracts typically require far less redlining and back-and-forth than yellow or red designation.
“We obviously review every contract closely, but this is a way to identify what agreements are more in line with what we’ve done in the past,” Jessen says. “It’s a much more efficient way to negotiate agreements and let our people focus on more intensive matters.”
The legal team is currently investigating how AI can be utilized to review more complex matters, like advertising. Jessen says the future is coming fast, and he’s ready to embrace innovation that will cut down, or even entirely replace, repetitive work that can be automated.
That more meaningful work includes supporting Bayer’s mission of “Health for All, Hunger for None.” Within Bayer Consumer Health, this involves expanding access to everyday health for underserved populations and changing how its products are made to help protect the planet. The goal is to reach fifty million people per year by 2030.
Jessen said it’s a vital partnership to ensure that expectant parents and their children, especially those who live in developing countries who may not have access to supplements Americans can find just down the street at their local pharmacy, are safe, healthy, and happy.
As the GC engages in Bayer’s broader efforts to reach one hundred million new consumers worldwide, Jessen says he’s supporting his organization in its pursuit of more eco-friendly packaging, and a march toward carbon neutrality for its production plants.
Jessen notes that while supporting those efforts is crucial, he also keeps a close eye on his legal department to ensure that his people have access to the kind of development opportunities that landed him the GC role. To be able to have the kind of global impact Jessen is able to make at the leadership table, he first had to have the chance to grow and develop at Bayer.
“One of my top priorities is developing my people,” Jessen says. “I want to find those people who are motivated to develop and open those doors. I love to see it. And I love to support it.”
Covington offers one of the largest and most comprehensive life sciences industry-focused legal practices in the world. Our team includes more than 100 lawyers who devote substantially all of their time to work on behalf of pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device clients. Our wide range of clients, including consumer health companies, trust us with their most challenging business problems, deals, and disputes. They know that they can rely on Covington for practical solutions rooted in a sophisticated knowledge of their business. We are proud to help Bayer Consumer Health navigate today’s increasingly regulated world.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP is one of the world’s leading international law firms. Major players across the healthcare industry—pharmaceutical, biotechnology and life sciences companies, medical device and equipment manufacturers, health insurance companies, hospitals and other providers—turn to Simpson Thacher for experience navigating the industry. The multidisciplinary team spans the Firm’s best-in-class practices, and includes seasoned litigation, healthcare regulatory and transactional practitioners. Headquartered in New York with offices in Beijing, Brussels, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, São Paulo, Tokyo, and Washington, DC, the firm provides coordinated legal advice and transactional capability to clients around the globe.