“Be curious, not judgmental.” That’s a phrase that stood out to Ryan Goodwin while watching the Emmy-award winning comedy drama Ted Lasso.
It resonated with him so much that he decided to put it on the wall in his office to encourage him to think about its implications on a daily basis. For the senior vice president and deputy general counsel at CareOne, it not only encapsulates his values as an in-house counsel but as a leader.
“It’s such a good phrase for my role and how I serve the employees of the corporation, which is to listen to their concerns and their issues when they’re seeking legal advice,” he says. “Rather than be judgmental about a challenging legal concern or issue facing the company, I think it’s important to be curious. It’s important to learn what the issue is, provide guidance on how to properly address it, and recommend strategies to improve our current practices to limit similar issues in the future.”
Goodwin continues, “As in-house counsel, listening is such an important part of my role. That’s why, for me, being a trusted resource and advisor is such a central component of my role as corporate counsel.”
Since Goodwin stepped into his role in August 2022, that mentality has been a bedrock for the legal department and its initiatives. It’s helped his team members understand the needs of the organization while allowing them to install various process improvement measures in the department. Through analytics and a more defined mission, the department has been able to better educate its colleagues on the services at their disposal and provide them in ways that are more efficient and cost effective.
“We pore over data analytics to measure our caseload so that we may identify ways to reduce the company’s legal spend. It’s importing the Moneyball model to corporate legal departments,” says Goodwin, referring to the best-selling book by Michael Lewis.
So far, those efforts have already paid off through reduced legal spend and improved budget forecasting, and has informed decisions on legal strategy.
Goodwin’s fresh approach has also fostered collaboration between the legal department and its business partners. “Oftentimes the in-house legal department can be seen as a barrier to getting through what operational units want to accomplish,” he says. “But, I want to be a trusted resource to my corporate colleagues so that we may collaboratively identify legal and business solutions that move the company forward.”
Active listening, asking questions, and open dialogue are paramount to Goodwin’s approach—skills that developed in him before he even went to law school. He started his career on Capitol Hill, serving as a press secretary and aide to US Representative Christopher H. Smith. During his time in that role, he saw Smith actively listen to his constituents’ concerns and witnessed how they’d inform legislation that sometimes became law.
“Having a front-row seat to the congressman’s interactions with his constituents was rewarding and energizing,” he says. “By listening to a constituent over a phone call or during a meeting really impacted the drafting and development of federal law and that stuck with me. It showed me that one person can really make a difference whether you’re the congressman or a constituent with an idea.”
Being a part of that process made Goodwin hungry for a better understanding of the law, driving him to get his law degree from Syracuse University. He went on to work as senior advisor and counsel to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie before moving in-house at University Hospital, where his passion for data analytics helped bring down the hospital’s legal spend over 60 percent in just three years.
The next few years saw him clerk for Hon. Paul B. Matey of the US Courts of Appeals before moving to private practice at Lowenstein Sandler. Those experiences honed his legal skills as a litigator, before making the decision to go back in-house at CareOne, a post-acute and senior care company with over fifty care centers across five states.
“When you’re a litigator in private practice, you’re focused on the case before you, but as in-house counsel, your focus is much broader. Not only am I focused on the outcome of a particular case, I’m also thinking about process improvements that we can implement to strengthen our practices and improve our outcomes,” Goodwin explains. “Working collaboratively with my colleagues, we can drive improvements in the organization, so it operates more efficiently and with less risk.”
In his current role, collaboration, openness, and dialogue are at the heart of his leadership style. For him, that means prioritizing regular in-person meetings and getting to know team members on a personal level. Those habits help drive business results and push legal departments forward, he says.
“Working in a large, diverse company, your colleagues bring different expertise and approaches to problem-solving. The more cross-collaboration the legal department has with business units will improve the ultimate recommendations you’ll make to the client,” Goodwin says.
As a carefully crafted mid-sized firm, O’Toole Scrivo combines large-firm expertise with small-firm attention to its clients’ needs. The Firm provides a variety of legal services to the healthcare industry, including labor and employment, compliance, and litigation, using a multidisciplinary approach to meet the industry’s vast and unique needs.