Features

Keith G. Hunt – LifeLabs

Company culture revamped during pandemic

Discouraging as the here and now might be on the health front, better days await.

So assures Keith G. Hunt, who since late 2020 has been deputy counsel and legal director at Canada’s largest commercial genetics laboratory and provider of specialty lab testing services. When contacted in January by Vanguard at his home in Collingwood, Ontario, he was bubbling with enthusiasm though “up to my eyeballs” while overseeing the legal and business ends of a digital transformation.

 

Keith G. Hunt | Deputy General Counsel and Legal Director | LifeLabs

Keith G. Hunt | Deputy General Counsel and Legal Director | LifeLabs

“Despite the terrible costs to life and economies, how wonderful the world will be because of the experience we’ve been through,” says Hunt, who like most of his colleagues has been working away from Toronto headquarters. “COVID-19 has given healthcare a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-evaluate how well it connects to its patients. The future is brilliant and only limited by our imagination and I get to be front row.”

The source of his optimism is a new LIS, or laboratory informational management system that, by 2023, will replace a 20-year-old platform. Health care needs to better communicate with health care, Hunt explains, and the universal language is technology. Only that technology must also secure sensitive information shared with mostly government-run hospitals and universities.

Failure isn’t an option

While the infotech team does the wiring, Hunt and a team of LifeLabs technical experts immerse in contracting and negotiating with vendors and compliance with cybersecurity rules and regulations. As a lead negotiator—and the only negotiator who’s also a lawyer—Hunt has been giving this project almost undivided attention the final quarter of 2021. COVID-19, he says, shows how important that LIS will be for any future pandemic.

“This is the heartbeat of the company,” he goes on to say. “Doctors, specialists, universities, hospitals, government—all their communication will go through this software portal.”

 

Keith G. Hunt | Deputy General Counsel and Legal Director | LifeLabs

While LIS tops his agenda, he explains it’s part of a master plan that, pre-COVID-19, involved revamping company culture and condensing business practices over five years. With the pandemic, that timeframe shortened to five months and, for some aspects, five weeks. Hunt says LifeLabs has gone the extra mile helping a very vulnerable demographic, the elderly, grasp online communications while ensuring their data privacy.

“Our growth came to us because of all the needs for testing,” he says. “We reinvented the company in a time of crisis under immense pressure and concern about our workforce. We’ve managed to create something better than it was.”

Hunt also lauds the role of Blaney McMurtry, a Toronto law firm that’s done much to oversee LifeLabs’ interests for anything from litigation to intellectual properties. A Bay Street firm, Hunt compares it to a legal titan on New York’s Wall Street, only with what he says is a noticeable difference.

“Bay Street firms often charge $1,000 an hour but Blaney McMurtry has been able to provide services while working with us to watch the bottom line,” he says. “I run all our IP through them. Even if I’m not talking to the right person on an issue, that person knows the right person and puts me through.”

How soul cleansing

Having handled complex technological partnerships and other matters for LifeLabs during his five years with the Toronto firm of Axiom, Hunt made an orderly transition in-house where he’s been working with Erica Zarkovich, the soon-to-be former vice president, general counsel, chief privacy officer and corporate secretary. Her duties evolving to government relations, she’s mentoring Hunt whose duties have been expanding since his arrival. For a veteran lawyer whose roles have included counseling Labatt Breweries, a military contractor and a casino, he’s found LifeLabs to be a refreshing, even redemptive, career change.

“I’m actually helping people today instead of selling them alcohol or picking their pockets,” he says laughing. “I’ve got most of my sins cleared. It’s like nothing I’ve had in the past. When your work has meaning, it’s everything.”

 

Keith G. Hunt | Deputy General Counsel and Legal Director | LifeLabs

He also can empathize with the Canadians who depend on LifeLabs’ role in the nation’s socialized healthcare system, the 55-year-old Hunt having overcome some serious conditions himself. Ten years ago, he was diagnosed with cancer, but it’s been in remission. Early-stage Parkinson’s has set in, but Hunt keeps it at bay by fingerpicking tunes on an acoustic guitar. He’d advise such therapy to anyone so afflicted: motion’s the potion.

Time was when there was much more motion to Hunt’s life, the Western University law graduate, Class of 2001, globetrotting for years on behalf of corporate clientele. “I virtually got my MBA on the road,” he says. “But I’ve burned my passport. This [LifeLabs] is my focus for the next 15 years.”

There still is some traveling, Hunt leaving his Collingwood home every few weeks for LifeLabs obligations in Toronto nearly 100 miles away. With so many Canadians depending on LifeLabs, there’s always much to do.

Prior to Canadian sports teams crossing the U.S. border, they undergo COVID-19 tests administered by LifeLabs. The company’s FlyClear program offers pre-departure and on-arrival tests for anyone at Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Yukon airports. WorkClear does the same, but for employees of companies large and small as well as for movie sets.

 

Keith G. Hunt | Deputy General Counsel and Legal Director | LifeLabs

The company’s genetic testing is advanced enough to separate a mother and her identical twins and pinpoint whatever health issues they may have. The Canadian healthcare model shifting, some elective procedures that had been covered by the government are now privately billed, which also affects the LifeLabs model.

But it’s still a system that Hunt views favorably. While he’s Canadian, Hunt has spent enough time in south of the border to critically assess the U.S. system for its bureaucracy and astronomical costs of education and insurance.

“Nobody comes to LifeLabs with the dreams of getting rich,” says the married father of five grown children. “The salaries are aligned like those in government, but we are super committed to the community.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Spring II 2022 Edition here.

Published on: March 16, 2022

regions:

categories:

Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!

Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing tag) where you want to display our review banner.

Testimonials

The piece highlighting my company, Bob Baker Enterprises, Inc., came out fabulous. Our company is in the new and used car sales and service industry. Everyone was great to work with and extremely professional. They produced a high-quality product and have provided expert assistance and guidance post-production of the article.
– Wade Poulson, General Counsel, Bob Baker Enterprises Inc.
As promised in advance, my feature in Vanguard has increased my visibility within the profession and prompted more than a few people I have not communicated with recently to reconnect. One of the Italian law firms I have used in the past is now in the process of interviewing me for an article on their website and tweeting out the feature story. Activity and the number of people connecting with me on LinkedIn has soared, which is great. The Vanguard writers and editorial staff were great to work with—highly professional and made the effort to make the experience both fun and rewarding (they were also respectful of the time pressures and demands all lawyers face). I was very pleased with the experience and the final outcome. Needless to say, I have been very pleased. All in all working with Vanguard has been a very positive experience which generated good publicity for both Shawcor and myself. My sincere thanks.
– Tim Hutzul, General Counsel, ShawCor Ltd.
It was a great honor to be featured in Vanguard Law. Working with every member of the team, from the initial interview with Erin Clark, through production with Victor Martins, writing the article with Taryn Plumb and creating the final content with Dave Gushee, was a true pleasure. Everyone was very professional, enthusiastic and supportive, and their creative approach and positive attitude clearly came through in the final product.
– Kevin C. Rakowski, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Compliance with Radian Group Inc.
I was honored to be the subject of an article. I enjoy reading Vanguard articles and seeing how other attorneys got to their positions and see their jobs. It's also interesting to see how different law firms partner with the subjects of the articles.
– Henry Marquard, in-house counsel, Stanley Consultants Inc.

LATEST EDITION

Fall I 2022

READ NOW

GET VANGUARD IN YOUR INBOX.

  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.