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For Novartis, a three-layered matrix and “enablers” who tie shared functions together

Thomas Werlen, general counsel of Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, leads a legal team of 700-plus that is spread across 140 jurisdictions. As he explains in the European Lawyer, June/July 2011 at 39, “The department is organised in a three-layered matrix of work areas, countries and business divisions.” That makes sense: the commercial lawyers could be a work area (what U.S. law departments might refer to as a practice group), sorted geographically by region of large country, as well as some in support of the pharma unit, some the generics unit (if there is one), and other business functions.

In addition at Novartis, “A layer of ‘enablers’ sits across the group, providing globally shared knowledge and information management, talent development and training, and legal spend and third party vendor management.” The notion behind enablers, as I see it, comes close to the functions a good head of operations (aka law department administrator) should handle. To gather and disseminate work product, to help people learn and progress, to administer invoices from vendors – all are functions that do better with focus and consistency across a law department.

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