Interview with Max Zhang, assistant general counsel of Becton Dickinson Medical Devices China

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The interview is in Chinese

Managing a legal team is a test of a general counsel’s wisdom, especially in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic crisis such as the one the world faces. Max Zhang, assistant general counsel of Becton Dickinson Medical Devices China shared his insight with us on team management

“The legal department serves as the support unit of the business department. The pharmaceutical sector I’m in is heavily regulated, and sometimes the company can suffer a lot if we don’t give enough warning to the business. Therefore, the legal and business departments are on the same ship, where the business is at the helm and leading the way, and legal is ensuring the ship runs smoothly without the risk of capsizing.

That being said, there is a lot of competitive pressure nowadays. Business is under performance pressure from annual reports, half-yearly reports, quarterly reports, etc., among other challenges. How can we fit in as in-house counsel?

First, you must understand the industry well enough to know the pain points of the business, and the legal issues involved. You need to be able to talk to the business in their language.

Second, in-house counsel have been trained to see far beyond the current situation. If you have been working in this industry for long, you will be able to see the future trends and directions, as well as the potential risks. And the business is very much in need of you. When they see some business benefits close at hand, you need to inform them of the risks and opportunities of going that direction. If opportunities outweigh the risks, then move forward. But we need to tell them the things they should watch out for. In this way, the business will be more confident when going forward.

All business decisions are taken at a risk, and the business knows that. If you tell them you can help to analyze some of the risks, or if you think the way is practicable after your analysis and endorse the decision, it will deepen the confidence of the business and they will trust you more. The work progress will also go smoother when you reduce the risks through co-operation.

Due to the impact of COVID-19, the volume of diagnosis and treatment, excluding pandemic prevention and control measures in the hospitals, has dropped significantly, which inevitably affects the sales of pharmaceutical enterprises. Meanwhile, the implementation of healthcare reform measures such as budget controls for social health insurance schemes, and procurement of drugs with target quantity, have seen pharmaceutical enterprises face the pressure of declining profits.

To control the spread of the pandemic, traditional offline visits and offline marketing activities cannot occur, forcing pharmaceutical enterprises to change their thinking and develop online digital marketing models. We as in-house counsel must support the business in embracing new technologies and experimenting with new business models, and help them explore new business opportunities, such as internet hospitals.

However, in the midst of a changing environment and business transformation, in-house counsel should also remain calm, identifying and alerting business to the risks involved. Sooner or later the pandemic will pass, and we should avoid becoming the ones “swimming naked” after the tide goes out.”

This interview was conducted during the CBLJ Forum at Grand Hyatt Hotel, Shanghai, on 12 November, with the theme “Seizing Cross-Border Opportunities – Managing Global Risks”. For more information about the conference and videos of the forum sessions, please visit our CBLJ Forum 2019 webpage here.