Christopher Sadiq – W.L. Gore & Associates Inc.
A company’s got to get the biggest bang for the buck. Especially when those bucks are spent on soaring legal costs.
So emphasized Christopher Sadiq upon scanning the billings in early 2018 as part of his new role as general counsel at global materials and medical device manufacturer W.L. Gore & Associates Inc. This being a multinational company, outsourcing was necessary, but Sadiq didn’t like the way it was handled. Too many law firms were being retained, and as costs accumulated, some things didn’t add up.
“We weren’t getting efficiency in leveraging our buying power,” he explains. “We were contracting with more than 250 firms and most for less than $50,000. We weren’t their big clients. They didn’t really need us and thus didn’t build relationships with us.”
Now, W.L. Gore is among the premium clients at significantly fewer firms. Sadiq has pared the roster to eight to 10 mostly global professional associations that handle around 80 percent of the company’s needs. The quality of their counsel increases exponentially, he says, and W.L. Gore also leverages alternative fee arrangements that it couldn’t do as a smaller client paying by the hour.
“In addition, we have those firms working together at times as a single virtual firm,” Sadiq says. “That can be unusual as those firms do compete, but under our arrangements, they do collaborate. Everyone benefits.”
As examples of his go-to’s, he cites Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP, a Wilmington, Delaware, firm that Sadiq counts upon for niche advice on shareholders issues and corporate restructuring. His contact there is Eric Klinger-Wilensky, whose in-depth knowledge of W.L. Gore practically makes him an extension of Sadiq’s in-house team.
Then there’s Faegre Drinker Biddle, which handles much of the intellectual property and litigation, together with M&A support. In addition, Greenberg Traurig provides support for litigation and M&A matters. For overseas matters, Sadiq will likely call upon the British-based multinational Allen & Overy, and Taylor Wessing.
He means business
The key to his legal department’s efficiency, Sadiq tells Vanguard, is showing it can be a business partner to W.L. Gore with its U.S. hubs in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Newark, Delaware, and satellites worldwide. He knows of too many companies where the legal department is a de facto dentist—someone summoned when a painful situation arises. By staying engaged in the day-to-day dealings, he’s essentially ensuring everyone’s brushing and flossing, thus preempting emergencies.
“Part of what I’ve done is move some lawyers around,” says Sadiq, who remotely oversees around 45 in-house attorneys and 100 paralegals, administrative assistants and compliance professionals based in multiple locales. “I’ve embedded many of them in the businesses so they can get to know the products and the goals of the rest of the company. I want each lawyer on my team to earn a reputation as a problem-solver, not a roadblock.”
There are also more than legal matters for Sadiq’s team to keep tabs on, such as domestic and foreign rules and regulations to adhere to; data privacy is high on the list. There’s also contracting, patent protection, corporate governance and sustaining governmental relations.
“It all comes back to the core concept of my team engaging as a business partner from the early stages of the decision-making process. But you must earn your seat at the table, and to do that, you have to be seen as a business enabler, too,” he says.
He’s always got some prospect for which to do his due diligence. It’s all part of being the overall legal leader, a role that grew from Sadiq’s nearly three years as legal leader for W.L. Gore’s medical products division in Flagstaff.
Before then, the British-born Sadiq logged more than six years as general counsel of a couple of GE Healthcare divisions in Greater Milwaukee. It was valuable training, to be sure, he says, but GE being so large, Sadiq was just one of the company’s 1,200 lawyers. Despite his impressive letterhead, he was rungs away from the top of the legal totem pole.
That and, to a lesser extent, the Wisconsin winters and his daughter off to college in Arizona had him looking elsewhere. While on assignment at another frigid GE office in Norway, Sadiq spent some off-hours perusing the Association of Corporate Counsel website. There, he saw W.L. Gore advertising for legal help at its medical products division. While Sadiq wasn’t familiar with the company, his skills met the requirements.
W.L. Gore placed him in Flagstaff from 2014 to 2017 and, during the last year, promoted him to deputy general counsel of the entire company and moved him to Delaware. For Sadiq, the timing was fortuitous, as General Counsel David Latzko was soon to retire and showing his understudy the ropes. Come January 2018, the torch had passed to Sadiq.
He had few personal connections to Delaware, and with a daughter in Miami, he envisioned working remotely—ideally in Florida. When COVID-19 disrupted business as usual, the company granted his request to relocate to the Florida Gulf Coast. Three years later, remote work is the new business as usual, and Sadiq says department efficiency hasn’t suffered.
He always has been one to adjust– Sadiq has practiced law in the U.S. since 2002 after honing his skills in London. A 1988 University of Southampton law graduate with an advanced degree from the Guildford College of Law, he was general counsel of Best International in London from 1998 to 2000 before moving to Wisconsin for family reasons.
Though British and U.S. law is similar, Sadiq still had to earn another degree from Marquette University Law School, which he did in less than two years. He sandwiched stints with the Milwaukee firm of Quarles & Brady around serving as general counsel of Lancaster GTB USA from 2004 to 2006 before joining GE Healthcare in 2007, which prepped him for the role he deems the most consequential.
“Now, I really can make a difference,” he says. “I’m very involved with business strategy as the first GC on the executive team at W.L. Gore. I like continuity and being part of building something.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Fall II 2023 Edition here.
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