Jennifer Silverman interviews Teresia Bost, General Counsel of Quartet Health for #RaiseTheVolume on High Performance Counsel.
What are you currently working on?
We get a lot of PHI from patients, so we are making sure that our compliance program is not only on par with our customer/client needs, but I want it to be excellent. It will be actually a great differentiator when we are soliciting clients for new business.
JENNIFER: What are your current responsibilities?
TERESIA: Currently, as general counsel, I pretty much oversee all of the legal kind of risks, liabilities, and issues that the company faces. I interact with the board quite a bit as well. I am also the chief compliance officer, without the full title, so I’m just very much involved in review and kind of overseeing updating our policies and procedures. Which also puts me in a position of having to manage audits and questionnaires from our clients, when they are seeking information around our practices and policies around security and data privacy. I also negotiate contracts as well as create processes and policies on legal department kind of work, and requests for legal support and legal advice. I provide advice to our product and our tech team on updates to our product to ensure that we are aligned with our regulatory obligations, like HIPPA and data privacy, as well as other regulations we’re governed by, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and other regulations, when we reach out to customers and clients. It’s kind of generally everything aligned under that.
JENNIFER: What are you currently working on?
TERESIA: Currently we’re working on, actually, revamping a compliance program. We actually created a charter. We created a board level committee who will now oversee audit and compliance. And will start reviewing our code of conduct and our other policies on an annual basis. Now we’re in the process of doing a full blown assessment with outside counsel on our policies and procedures, our compliance program. To kind of revamp, find the gaps, and revamp it. We’re a healthcare technology company, so we work directly with health plans, and providers.
And we get a lot of PHI from patients, so we are making sure that our compliance program is not only on par with our customer/client needs, but I want it to be excellent. It will be actually a great differentiator when we are soliciting clients for new business. That’s one of the biggest projects I’m working on. In addition to some product updates that we are excited about, on how to get patients better engaged into our programs or into the services that we offer. A lot of product updates that will allow more interaction with patients, more interaction directly with mental health providers and with providers. I’m really excited about those things.
JENNIFER: What was the path you traveled to reach your current position?
TERESIA: It was definitely not a straightforward path. I didn’t follow a traditional process after I left law school. After law school, I went to Amsterdam and I did a Masters of Law program in international business, sorry, European business law. I came back to Connecticut, which is where I’m originally from, and just started working for some small law firms, solo practitioners in Hartford, which is where I’m from. And then, I did that for about a year, and then I got tapped by Otis Elevator Company to join their contracts team. I actually was a French minor in undergrad, and I had an opportunity to do an internship in Belgium during my law school tenure. And so, I learned legal French, I actually started at Otis Elevator Company as a contract administrator. Because of my French ability, and I actually was able to negotiate, because I read and wrote French, negotiate elevator and escalator contracts for installation and maintenance from eastern Canada, from Montreal and Quebec. And so, that was kind of my start.
I started at Otis for a couple years, and then I moved over to another one of the United Technology companies, which was Pratt & Whitney, for about a year. And then I got tapped by a woman who had … We had kind of chosen each other, as she was my mentor, I was her mentee. And I worked with her at Otis. And she left Otis to go to New York City to be in-house at Bristol Myers Squibb, and she tapped me and said, “You know Teresia, you need to move. You need to come and get a job with a law firm. And you need to get that traditional law firm experience so that you can continue to grow and move forward. And, oh, by the way, I know that my company, Bristol Myers Squibb, is outsourcing a lot of their contract work to this law firm has been doing our breast implant litigation, and they don’t have anybody to negotiate contracts. And I told them I knew the best contract negotiator this side of the Mississippi. And so, you need to go … Need to submit your resume and go for an interview.” She changed my life.
I applied for the job, it was a firm that broke off from another well-known New Jersey firm, McCarter & English, to start a New Jersey office for Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold at the time, and it was a great opportunity for me. I was then outside counsel for Bristol Myers Squibb for about four years, and I supported their strategic sourcing department. They didn’t have an in-house attorney, so I was quasi in-house. I went to their offices three days a week, and I learned the pharmaceutical industry, and that’s when I started learning healthcare law and regulation, and how to draft a contract around that. And I had really great clients at the time, who were Bristol Myers Squibb business people, who really taught me the industry, and who helped me understand what the purpose of the contract was, so that I could make sure that I drafted the right clauses around that. It was really a great partnership with the business team. And kind of acclimating me to a whole new industry.
From there, after about four years, I was ready to do something different. Bristol Myers Squibb was actually thinking about creating a role, the same role that I was kind of supporting as outside counsel in-house, and asked me to apply, which I did. And in the midst of that I also found a posting for a job at Celgene, and I really was torn, but Bristol Myers Squibb wanted me to continue doing what I had been doing for four years for like another … They wanted me to commit for like three years to really build the department. And I didn’t see a lot of goals in that initially, and I felt like I was ready for something new. And Celgene at the time was expanding outside of the U.S., so I ended up going to Celgene. I was the first counsel that was hired that was not an IP attorney or not a regulatory attorney. So, I really got an opportunity to do so many different things. I was kind of a generalist, including using my European business law education and the experience in international contract work, and learn some new governance stuff.
I helped them create and open a lot of their European offices, so I learned a lot about like, what did it take to open a pharmaceutical company in Switzerland or in Spain or in Belgium or in England. And what are the requirements that you go through. It was really great experience working with, again, the general managers that we hired in those countries, doing the research, creating for them kind of the foundation that they needed for their companies to thrive. And so, that was really exciting. I stayed at Celgene for just about 14 years, and just, again, realized that although I had gotten some great opportunities at Celgene to just grow as a professional, most of the opportunities to grow were lateral, and not vertical. And I just felt like I should … I wasn’t being valued as much as I was bringing to the table. And so, that’s when I kind of got a little antsy, and open to considering and hearing about new opportunities.
Then I opened up my LinkedIn profile to be open for recruiters to contact me, and I virtually looked for a new role, new opportunity. And actually, I had never heard of Quartet Health, and one of their recruiters reached out to me and said, “Hey, can I talk to you about Quartet Health?” And I was like, sure. And they were like, “We saw your background, we think you have a great background, and we’d love to talk to you about the role of general counsel we have here.” So that’s kind of, what do you they say? The rest is history. Mine was an interesting path, I think, but I think it was a great grooming for me at so many different levels. Especially being a business-minded attorney and working with and learning from your business teams, really.
What are your top recommendations for risk management?
As a lawyer we want to eliminate all risks, but that’s not possible, so where you figure out how to prioritize or be less risk averse so that the business can move forward without … pontificating on the legal potential risks and liabilities.
JENNIFER: What were the points in your career when you experienced the greatest growth?
TERESIA: I definitely experience the greatest growth when it was, I think, when I was tapped to do something new, right? When … But also because I was open to doing something new. I never expected that I would be doing the European work at Celgene that I was able to do. But my boss was like, “Hey, don’t you have a degree or something in European business law? I think I remember seeing that on your resume.” I was like, actually, yeah, I do. So she was like, “Yeah, okay, work with the Tax department and do this, could you do this?” It was great, but I think because I was open to new opportunities and someone was willing to give me those opportunities, and allow me to learn and stretch myself, was when I had, I think, the best and most growth in myself professionally and personally.
JENNIFER: What are your tips for working with the C-Suite?
TERESIA: One of the things I’m learning being part of the C Suite is, although everyone recognizes that you are the general counsel and the lawyer, you have to show your value beyond your legal acumen. And so, I try to ensure that I weigh in on things that are maybe not my expertise, but areas where I feel like I have the benefit of giving a different opinion. I think that’s one of the key things. But I think the other thing is remembering as a general counsel, unfortunately, all of your members and your team members on the C Suite are also your clients. And so, sometimes there’s a little bit of a tension there between what you’re doing for them and their teams and how you’re doing it, how quickly you’re doing it, how well you’re doing it.
Sometimes I think I feel a little isolated and a little … Yeah, a little isolated, a little kind of set apart, because I feel like I’m in a different position than most people on the leadership team in the C Suite with me. But I will say, one of the great things with my C Suite and leadership team is, I have an amazing boss, and he’s a good person. He’s a good man. And so, I think, he cares about his team. He cares about the company, and I think that speaks volumes to the dedication, I think, that his team members have to working together, to working towards one goal, and to working things out. I think if he was a different type of leader and a different type of person, it could be a whole different dynamic. I think that really has been so encouraging for me.
JENNIFER: What are your top recommendations for risk management?
TERESIA: I think, definitely understanding your business. When I say understanding your business I mean, obviously, the business that you’re working for, like what are you guys doing? Where are the risks inherently in your business? But then also understanding the business appetite for risk. And being able to balance that with educating them on the legal risks, and then kind of figuring out where you fall out. I think that’s key. And I think for me one of the things I’m actually learning is, how to understand that as a lawyer we want to eliminate all risks, but that’s not possible, so where you figure out how to prioritize or be less risk averse so that the business can move forward without being kind of stagnated in pontificating on the legal potential risks and liabilities.
And so, kind of being a little flexible, being agile, and understanding and identifying where you can say, okay, you know what, that’s a minimal risk, so I’m okay with delegating that back to the team as long as I give them certain parameters on how they manage that. And moving forward to the bigger higher priorities and also those things which are probably more risky. So that’s been something I’ve been working on.
JENNIFER: What advice would you give to a first-time GC in your industry?
TERESIA: I think one of the things I try to do, which I think has been so helpful is … And I think it’s been a great opportunity that I’ve had, knowing people who were elevated to GC roles prior to me, was reaching out to them. And creating a network of GCs I could … GC circle. Because, as I said before, internally within your company, you really don’t feel it right away, but you eventually feel like you are kind of on an island by yourself. Just because of the role that you play. And so, sometimes having kind of a council of general counsels outside of your workplace to help you understand how to navigate certain things, give you tips and advice on how they build relationships, how they manage things, kind of processes they created, or just to bounce things off of them, I found was so helpful.
I reached out to about three people who had recently become general counsels in other areas. One was with a tech company, one was a pharmaceutical company, who was a previous colleague of mine, and just asked them, hey, can I meet with you or call you periodically, just to bounce things off you? And I think that was really, really, helpful to me, to at least had that network of people who had already kind of gone through it a little prior to me, who had some lessons that they could kind of help me with my learning, and my coming up to speed.
JENNIFER: How do you build and leverage your network?
TERESIA: I try to go to as many programs as I can. I go to these luncheons, I go to networking opportunities. I go to CLE programs. I sign up for things that I ended up getting invited to more of those opportunities. I’m on social media also, so I definitely try to open myself up for opportunities to network to meet people in different areas, and that has benefited me pretty well over my career.
Sometimes it is hard for me to network, especially if I’m going into a room where I don’t know anyone. Sometimes it takes me a little while to get myself warmed up. But usually I end up bumping into somebody and … Like I was invited to … Direct Women, a couple weeks ago, had their annual award luncheon, and they were honoring a couple of women, but they also … It was at the tail end of their three or four day program, so the new class of Direct Women were there, and I walked in.
I was invited by a law firm, but I walked in, I didn’t see her, and I walked into one of the women who’d just finished the program, and I had read in advance the invitation, so the name looked familiar. And we just started chatting, and then she pulled somebody over and introduced me, and then it ended up being one of the advisors of the program. So it was like, wow! Okay. That was the best I think I’ve done. I just kind of walked in and just starting chatting with someone and then it just really cascaded. But it was great, because I met so many wonderful women there. That was a wonderful, really great opportunity.
JENNIFER: What are the most important qualities you look for when hiring outside counsel?
TERESIA: I really try to, obviously, look for attorneys who are experts in their field. Who, obviously, make my job a lot easier, because I want to be able to just have somebody to go to ask a question. And know that I can rely on the answer. So that’s obviously key, and probably an obvious answer.
But I also, I mean for me, diversity is very important. I actually, I have a lawyer that I’ve worked with before at Celgene, and who I actually tapped into when I came to Quartet because she’s a privacy expert. And she knew for me, really, the importance of diversity. And so, she created kind of a legal team that was diverse with women and men of color, and different backgrounds, and all excellent in their spaces.
And so, that’s another thing that’s really important to me is ensuring that I can work with a law firm that’s aligned with my mission, which is giving diverse counsel opportunities to learn my business and support me. And then, obviously, I look for cost effectiveness. And I don’t mind paying well for good counsel, but I also want to make sure I’m using my company’s resources wisely, so … You know, looking for opportunities for discounts or different … I’m actually just about to start looking into alternate billing arrangements. But right now just try to tap into cost effective discounts for the amount of work that we give them, or past relationships, or whatever.
JENNIFER: Before hiring someone, how do you decide whether they are cultural fit for your company?
TERESIA: That’s hard, because everybody puts on their best behavior when they’re going through the interview process. But it really is important, especially in my role now, where I’m actually building a department from scratch. So I really want to make sure that I’m hiring people who are aligned with the company mission, but who also will be a good fit within the department and the vision that I have for the type of people that I want to work for me. So obviously, again, skill set is important. I need to have people who are reliable, who are motivated, who are knowledgeable in certain areas. One, so that I can delegate comfortably. I’m not a micromanager, I never have been. I always say that I pride myself on hiring the right people so that I don’t have to micromanage, because that’s just not my style.
But then, just really going through a series of questions or educating the candidate on the company, and what the company’s mission is, and what the company stands for. But also what I stand for, and what my mission and vision is for my team. And so, try to, as I educate them on that, ask them questions to see, to tease out, you know, scenarios on how they would act, or how they would behave or how they would respond in certain situations. Just to see, like, okay, is this person just telling me the right things that I want to hear, or when it comes down to the way they behave, does that seem to align with what I’m trying to build and what our company stands for.
And so, again, it’s hard to weed out, but sometimes you can tell, especially people who kind of come in with kind of an arrogance and attitude around being the smartest person in the room, or believing that they are. And usually I can spot those people right away. And I usually am turned off by that. But that’s also something that’s very important to me. Those are the ways I try to tease it out. And, you know, I also have … We have a process where it’s a panel interview. A panel of people. Not all at once, but I tap into the teams that will be working more closely with the person that I’m hiring to have them, one, understand whether they have the experience and the acumen in those areas, but also tease out kind of the personality as well for our fit.
JENNIFER: What is the best part of your job?
TERESIA: The best part of my job, I think the people. My company, I don’t know if I told you what my company does, but we’re a healthcare technology company and we actually coordinate care for people who need mental health support. And so, we’re a very mission driven, mission focused company with the patient as our north star. And although it sounds a little catchy, it really is what aligns us all on our mission … On why we’re there. Why we come to work every day. And it’s so refreshing to know that everybody there is working really hard towards helping people get the care they need for their mental health issues. That’s what I love, hands down, about my job. And the second part is, we have really super smart people at my company, so … Extremely intelligent. Extremely … Especially the data guys, women and men. So it’s like, I feel like I’m learning … I’m always learning when I get there, which is great for me, because I feel like I’m still young enough in my career and my age that I want to continue to grow and learn.
JENNIFER: List 3 adjectives that describe the way you work and lead.
TERESIA: Being kind is really important for me. And who I am. Also, being supportive. And ensuring that people know that I’ve got their back. Like, I got your back. If you have a difficult conversation with a client, with an internal business person, with someone who is even my peer on the C Suite team, I got your back. Let me know what happened and I’m here to kind of work it through and help you work it through. And the other thing is, I’m going to be a cheerleader for you. I’m going to … I hired you because I recognize you have the skills. I’m going to challenge you because I know you’re capable of doing more, but I’m going to also cheer you on from the sidelines. And I’m going to let people know what a great job you’re doing. And also try to give you the things that you need to continue to make you successful.
What would you like service providers – i.e. –law firms and vendors to know about how they can be of greatest value to you?
I’ve had so many vendors telling me how they can help me do my job better…. don’t tell me you can help me do my job better until you know what my job is…. I’m happy to hear you out, but start out by asking me, what I do.
JENNIFER: What challenges do you think in-house attorneys will face in the next four years?
TERESIA: In the next four years, I think making sure that our jobs don’t become obsolete. I think there’s so much happening with technology and AI and these programs that people are looking into and putting in place that can minimize the need for a human interaction. I think just making sure that we don’t become obsolete. Which I think, in turn, means we have to continue to show up and show our value. And be open to using innovation or being innovative, and really helping to be flexible as our markets and our businesses change, so that we can continue to grow and show the value. But that’s my biggest concern, is that we become obsolete, and companies believe that they don’t need in house teams, and they can rely on consultants or outside attorneys to kind of get them through.
JENNIFER: How have you seen the legal industry evolve during the time you have been practicing law?
TERESIA: I’ve seen … Well, I guess, similar to the becoming obsolete, I’ve seen legal departments, especially tap into innovation. One, because our clients are using it, and then our business people are using it, and demanding it. They’re using all kinds of programs to do data analysis and to do reporting, and to understand how things are being affected by certain things. So I think that’s actually … I’ve seen that, especially at a pharmaceutical company, with the way we used technology there, I’ve seen how that infiltrated the legal team. And kind of affects, in a good way, I think, the way we work, and the tools that we had, and the resources we had. And supporting our clients and our businesses. I mean, from simple contract management, right? Which has evolved so much where you have these programs that can do OCR and read your documents, and you can report on them, you can research them, search them, create library clauses to kind of pick and choose what’s the best one for this contract. Just even that, which I think right now sounds so simple, but I remember … I hate to date myself, but almost 20 years ago when I was at one of the United Technologies subsidiaries, I was looking into a contract management system, and it didn’t do all that, you know? It was like, okay, we scan them and file them. So I’ve seen that evolve and it’s really been exciting. But also just some of the ways to measure metrics so that we can identify the value that we’re bringing to the company by our metrics on how many contracts are we getting done? How quickly are we getting them done? And how are we using other tools to kind of provide value to the company? I’ve seen a lot of that. Which is exciting, that evolvement.
Is a combination of pulling the information you have, but then putting it in software for reporting out. Actually, I’m still looking into actually what it entails, but I got information about it at a general counsel conference a couple of weeks ago.
JENNIFER: How/what would you like to see change in the legal industry?
TERESIA: As much as we have so many more women coming through law school, so many more people of color coming through law school, I think the numbers at the top are still overwhelmingly have white males in those positions of law firm partners, managing partners. You know, C Suite executive, general counsels. I think I would love to see just that ceiling is finally broken, the glass ceiling. And seeing more women, seeing more people of color, seeing more diversity. And knowing that people have a real shot at not just being a token to be there, but really have a real shot at changing dynamics.
I mean, I think we are, definitely. I see the progress, but I still see the numbers that say how many, whatever, Fortune 500, Fortune 1000 people still have white male general counsels, or law firms even.
JENNIFER: What’s an idea or technology that changed the way you work, and where did you come across it?
TERESIA: The contract management software I think is so important for a legal department. And so, I’m actually looking into purchasing one now for Quartet. And I’ve had a number of vendors reach out to me, trying to sell their program. But, you know, we started with, I think, evaluating maybe seven or eight, and we’ve narrowed it down to really two. Based on the attributes that we were looking for. And so, one of the things … Wait, I just want to make sure I don’t get away from the question, what were you asking me?
Also an intake process. So that we understand what it is we’re being asked for. And then … So outside of the contract, but the contract is one piece of it, and a big part of our job as a legal department. But we’re building something in house, actually, now for a legal department request form. That’s going to be exciting. And I think that’ll be really good because it requires my requesters to consolidate for me in one space, what is it that you need me to do? And forces them to answer certain questions in advance instead of just sending me an email. And then we go back and forth, and then have to have a meeting before I really fully understand what they’re asking me to do. And that also wastes about a week or a week and a half’s worth of time. Creating this piece that I think will be really helpful for me, and then for my businesses.
JENNIFER: How do you employ technology to carry out your responsibilities?
TERESIA: Yeah, pretty much like that. That’s going to be really helpful with understanding what it is that I’m being asked to do. The contract management system will be a great tool for organizing the contracts that we have. And then just making sure that we keep abreast of terms, termination, when things need to be renewed, and things like that. Which we don’t have right now a good way to process and report on that. And then, also, I’m really using … I have a legal intern who I extended since the summer. And he’s really helping me with the way … You know, because he’s younger, law school, and is more aware of some of this technology.
But helping me, as he’s doing his research for me on state laws around whatever the issue is, creating like a dynamic kind of chart for me, to be able to … For me to have as a resource, but then share easily with my team. It’s like, here’s the question you asked me about, what certain state laws say about age of consent. Here you go. And so, kind of those kinds of resources and tools that he’s creating for me, which are really helpful. And they help me just give the businesses a tool and a resource for them to continue to go back to instead of asking me the question over and over again. That’s been really helpful as well.
Tell us about a cause or issue that you care passionately about.
I’m a foster mom to babies . . . the two babies that I’ve had have both been born to women who’ve had substance use issues…. and both of their moms have been clean now and sober for a number of years and are doing really well…. and I feel so personally blessed to have had that opportunity and continue to have the opportunity to be in those little babies’ lives.
JENNIFER: What product/service would you like to see that will help you work more efficiently and effectively?
TERESIA: I’m still trying to find a really, really good research tool. I’m using Bloomberg Law. I’ve used LexisNexis in the past. Westlaw. But I feel like we still haven’t tapped into … And maybe I just haven’t found one yet, like a really good research tool where when I’m looking for any case law, or any templates, or any resources for drafting certain clauses, or what’s the latest litigation for a certain regulation? And maybe I just am not adept at those things, but I feel like I haven’t found one that’s intuitive. And easy to use, and finds the right information for me. I know certain people love certain programs, but I haven’t found the right one for me yet.
JENNIFER: What would you like service providers – i.e. –law firms and vendors to know about how they can be of greatest value to you?
TERESIA: That’s funny because once you get a new job and you get this role and this title, you get solicited by so many people. And I’m like, how did you get … How did you know my email address? But I’ve had so many vendors telling me how they can help me do my job better. And what I’ve found is, don’t tell me you can help me do my job better until you know what my job is. So if you think you have a tool, if you think you have a service that would be beneficial, I’m happy to hear you out, but start out by asking me, what I do? What are some of my challenges? Before you kind of tell me that you have the answer for me. And I think that’s something that I … That turns me off from, especially vendors, not so much law firms, but vendors. When they just say they have the solution for me, and they don’t even know what my problem is. Or what I need. I think for law firms, again, I think, just knowing your value in what you are an expert in.
And understanding, again, my business and … I’m a pretty well versed attorney, but there are some areas I’m not that well versed in, so getting to understand some areas that I could really use your expertise to fill the gap for myself, especially while I still have a very small department. And then just kind of starting by sending me an article about something that you read or you found out was a new regulation or something, and remembering, oh, yeah, I think you told me that you would love to get information about this. Kind of just like starting out a date. You know, like a dating process. Before you try to pounce, getting my money … And I think it goes a long way, the value that it adds for me. I’m a relationship person, so I want to see that you’re trying to build something first with me, and not just trying to get something from me.
JENNIFER: What is your favorite quote?
TERESIA: What’s my favorite quote, I’m actually a Christian, if this is okay for me to share?
Because that’s my favorite, from the Bible. Which is, I think, Jeremiah 33:3, which is, “Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know.” That’s in God’s voice.
I feel like I’ve learned so many things that I never imagined I would do in my life. And so, when I think about that quote and the great and mighty things … Like I never even imagined I would be a general counsel, or thought I wanted to be a general counsel, so I definitely believe that that’s been a great quote for me and my life. To say, it’s not of me either, it’s just the plan that was for me that I didn’t realize.
JENNIFER: Tell us about a cause or issue that you care passionately about.
TERESIA: A cause or issue that I’m passionate about. I have been working with women in a substance use rehabilitation home. I’ve been on the board for a number of years. Now I’m actually just their legal advisor. And that’s been something that’s been so important to me. And so, I actually also am a foster mom.
And the really interesting thing is, I have had two … I’m a foster mom to babies, so I have … I’m set up for babies. And the two babies that I’ve had have both been born to women who’ve had substance use issues. And so, I think that was so … I don’t think it was coincidental. But I think the fact that was already a passion of mine, and interest in helping women try to overcome their substance use disorder, substance use abuse tendencies. And then, rearing two babies who both actually were successful reunified with their moms. And both of their moms have been clean now and sober for a number of years and are doing really well. And now I’m actually, ironically, mentoring, supporting their mothers as well as they are now both my godchildren. Just a great mission. And I feel so personally blessed to have had that opportunity and continue to have the opportunity to be in those little babies’ lives. And their mothers lives as well.
It’s a New Jersey based organization, it’s called the Good News Home for Women. And it’s out here in central New Jersey. And they have … What do you call it? It’s a live in situation. It’s a long term facility. So they have, I think, 12 beds. And they’re for women, from the ages of 18 until, who are suffering from substance use.