“The pandemic crystallized a lot of things for a lot of people, and I’m not an exception,” says Viktoriya Torchinsky-Field. She’d been at Cigna for nearly fourteen years, working her way up to the role of vice president and chief counsel, when she began to consider her next career steps. While she and her team at Cigna had deftly adapted to the remote work environment necessitated by COVID-19, Torchinsky-Field concluded that she wouldn’t thrive in that environment long-term.
“I think generally speaking, office life and being together generates the kind of energy that propels better products,” she says. “Cigna is an incredibly mature organization that was able to keep firing on all cylinders in this new environment, but from a human-centered perspective things were lost. After being isolated, largely in a home setting, for two years, I was ready to take some risks professionally and stretch my wings.”
When she was scouted by an executive search firm for the role of vice president of legal at Avantor, she says, it was kismet. A Fortune 500 company with established global operations, Avantor had recently gone public in 2019.
“The company shows up with a mission in the industry and the world at large,” Torchinsky-Field says, noting that it partners with customers and suppliers in the life sciences, advanced technologies, and applied materials industries and supports the R&D efforts for top biopharma companies by providing customized materials for the treatments they develop. Among those are the COVID-19 vaccines; Avantor was one of a hundred companies involved in Operation Warp Speed to create them.
In addition to connecting with the company’s mission, Viktoriya Torchinsky-Field was keen to take on a new challenge when she began working at Avantor as global head of litigation, investigations, and employment law in April 2022. She got one. “The first three months were really a whirlwind as we were establishing a foundation for the function,” she says.
During those first few months, Torchinsky-Field built her team from scratch in an extremely challenging talent market. In addition, she’s part of the core M&A deal team, leads the development of a centralized compliance program, and leads global legal support to the HR function, among other responsibilities. She notes that she’s gone from an exclusively litigation and investigation leadership role to one where “I am entrusted with a pretty significant wingspan, formally and informally.”
Viktoriya Torchinsky-Field credits her litigation training and a robust professional network cultivated over the years as foundational to this evolution. “Good litigators are notoriously good at collecting just enough information to make sound judgments without becoming technical experts in the topic,” she notes. “That is a skill that I honed for decades in private practice and in-house, and I’m finally really able to put it to excellent use.” In addition, her close relationships with mentors and colleagues enabled a gut check on her move to Avantor.
Those colleagues have high praise for her recent work. “Viktoriya has brought incredible energy, leadership, and strategic thinking to Avantor,” says David Woolf, partner for labor and employment at Faegre Drinker. “As outside counsel, it’s exciting to collaborate with her because, even with all of her competing demands, her active involvement shows through and elevates the work product that we are able to deliver together.”
Torchinsky-Field is also excited about the global aspect of her work; whereas Cigna’s operations were largely domestic, Avantor operates two hundred distribution, manufacturing, and sales locations in thirty countries, with fourteen thousand employees. Most of the colleagues with whom she collaborates are based internationally.
While time zones can present scheduling challenges, Viktoriya Torchinsky-Field believes there are significant benefits to having international colleagues. She’s originally from Ukraine and immigrated to the US at the age of nineteen. “I’ve lived in the US longer than elsewhere, but the foundation is still there for seeing the world as it is, which is multidimensional,” she says. “Given Avantor’s global footprint, I find that this is a wonderful fit for me and the logic I apply to thinking through any challenge.”
She notes that for the first time ever, she’s had a chance to utilize her background from a legal perspective. “I have been asked over the course of my career, ‘How have you put your language and multicultural skills to work in your professional life?’” she explains. “And the answer had been that I was too busy assimilating. This is the first time in my professional career where I’m able to draw on my background. That’s kind of neat.”
Avantor’s rapid global growth has also presented welcome challenges for Viktoriya Torchinsky-Field. In 2021 alone, the company spent $4 billion of capital closing three large acquisitions, and in 2022 they significantly expanded the legal team. “Every single person on the team is a dynamo: self-motivating, expert in the field, but also incredibly agile in order to support areas where we might not have technical expertise in-house,” she notes.
Agility is especially important in a company that’s growing quickly amidst constantly shifting geopolitical business conditions. The nature of the legal and compliance function, Torchinsky-Field says, is that it has to adapt to changing conditions.
“There’s a marriage between expectations and reality that demands adjustments and flexibility and continual reevaluation of priorities. Just like the needs of the company may evolve, my vision for what the function should look like or how the organization should transform would also be expected to evolve,” she explains.
In addition to helping lead the legal department through a period of rapid change, Torchinsky-Field has discovered her own capacity to adapt. “Jumping from a place of knowledge and expertise is a leap of faith,” she says. “I leapt, and I’m really happy to say that this is exactly what I hoped it would be.”
Russia invaded Viktoriya Torchinsky-Field’s home country, Ukraine, right around the time she began her new job at Avantor. “I wanted to be sure that I expressed my thoughts and feelings through action,” she says. She not only joined the board of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) Pennsylvania to support refugees coming to Pennsylvania but also worked to stand up the Philadelphia Ukraine Rapid Response organization, which connects to nonprofits that support Ukrainians who are staying in the country. They raised a lot of money for small nonprofits—well into the six figures—in a very short period of time, she says.
“We also were really on the front end of saying, ‘Ukraine has forty-four million people, and most of them will not be able to leave, so who’s going to support them? They’re going to need defense gear.’ That was a very touchy thing to fundraise for when people were still unsure how to think about military aid,” she adds.
DLA Piper is a global law firm with lawyers located in more than 40 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific, positioning us to help clients with their legal needs around the world. We strive to be the leading global business law firm by delivering quality and value to our clients.
Ballard Spahr is proud to partner with Viktoriya Torchinsky-Field and the entire Avantor team, as they work alongside pioneers, scientists, innovators, and educators to help solve some of the world’s most complex challenges.