February 25, 2021
Julie Blaser and Ali Duerr were both associates at DGS. Julie is now the Vice President & Assistant General Counsel at PDC Energy, Inc. and Ali is the Lead Counsel of Mechanical Circulatory Support & Defibrillation Solutions at Medtronic.
What does a typical day look like for you at work?
- Julie: Many, many meetings (currently via Teams) working with various company departments; every day is different, with new challenges and opportunities, which is why I love it so much!
- Ali: The only constant in my days is that they are fast paced. I am Lead Counsel to the Mechanical Circulatory Support Operating Unit and the Defibrillation Solutions Business, both of which provide therapies to patients with heart failure. I sit on the Leadership Team for each of these businesses and spend the majority of my day in meetings (now virtually) providing real-time advice to business leaders, including my president and functional leaders in Marketing, R&D, Quality, Regulatory, Clinical, Sales, Finance, Reimbursement, Human Resources, and Operations. I advise on risk, propose mitigation strategies, and offer strategic solutions on all commercial aspects of the business, including FDA regulatory issues, fraud and abuse issues (Anti-Kickback Statute and False Claims Act), and business development efforts and strategies, etc. As a business legal advisor, I am constantly balancing the potential impact of my advice as it relates to day-to-day operations, long-term strategy, and product pipeline. While I quarterback all legal issues for my businesses, I also spend time during my day leveraging the expertise and resources offered on my legal team, such as litigation, data privacy, intellectual property, and contracting support, to deliver efficient and expert counsel to my businesses while protecting the integrity of the enterprise. I am expected to not only be a legal advisor but to also think and perform beyond my legal function and provide solution-centric advice as a business partner.
How has the coronavirus pandemic/WFH environment impacted your business?
- Julie: We’ve had to pivot from a very collaborative face-to-face environment to this virtual Teams environment. While there have been challenges in this transition (i.e. learning to lead from a computer screen), our company has done a tremendous job adapting to this new virtual setting, continuing to complete major tasks and projects effectively. I’m incredibly proud to say we haven’t missed a beat!
- Ali: The medical device industry experienced substantial change over the past year, as most companies were forced to quickly pivot business strategies as a result of the sharp decline in elective surgeries globally, disruptions in routine medical care access, and the desire/need to be nimble as the regulatory landscape consistently changed. With any new strategy, comes new issues and new risks, some of which were risks of first impression. An added complexity of the COVID-19 landscape is that while waivers to regulations were temporarily granted to ease the burden on the U.S. healthcare system, medical device manufacturers were not afforded those waivers, which presented unique opportunities and challenges while the circumstances changed daily. The pandemic has shined a brighter light on how crucial it is for legal counsel to stay out in front of business strategies and be proactive advisors. One of Medtronic’s many inspiring acts during the pandemic was publicly sharing its design specifications for one of its ventilators to allow other companies to manufacture and quickly ramp up ventilator production – our legal IP and commercial teams for the Surgical Innovations Group (largely based in Boulder!) worked hard to get this across the finish line in record time.
What is your favorite memory of working at DGS?
- Julie: The people, without a doubt!
- Ali: Other than wrapping everything in Trent Martinet’s office in wrapping paper when he made partner, a favorite memory would have to be working with Matt Perkins and Zach Detra on the Prairie Disposal Inc. sale to R360 Environmental Solutions. The transaction presented many challenges, but it was very rewarding to work with these particular sellers. I still have my “Rockin’ the Bakken” bumper sticker (pinned on a corkboard in my office – not on my vehicle!).
Who are some of the people at DGS that had the greatest influence on you and why?
- Julie: This is hard because there were truly so many. I have to give a shout-out to the people who got me in the door and continued to guide and mentor me: Trent & Niki Martinet, Deborah Friedman, and Brian Boonstra. Ali Duerr was a true friend and support system as we rose up the ranks together, starting as interns in 2010! Kristin Lentz, Patricia Peterson, and Michelle Shepston demonstrated incredible leadership, mentoring me and inspiring me as a working mom. Jenna Grange and Margee Fawley became true friends and confidantes. Zach Detra was a great mentor and friend. Not lastly (because there are so many more), but the current DGS A team that supports me at PDC (John Elofson, Sam Seiberling, Kristin Lentz, Jonathan Marks, Brett Painter, Jon Bergman, and Chris Lane, to name a few).
- Ali: I am fortunate to have started my legal career at DGS, and I learned so much from everyone I directly or indirectly worked with during my time at the firm. I am especially appreciative of the mentorship I received from Deborah Friedman, Patricia Peterson, Kristin Lentz, Brian Boonstra, Trent Martinet, and Zach Detra. Julie Blaser – we started our Summer Internships on the same day – was always a supportive colleague and still is a great friend. And I am thankful for the support and friendship of Sandy Mika.