For the last DPELC-MSL Speaker Series presentation of the semester, students heard from Jan Reed, JD ’84. Reed is currently a board member of AngioDynamics, Inc., Stepan Co., and Life365, Inc., as well as an adjunct professor here at Northwestern’s Entrepreneurship Law Center. She is also notably the former Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary of the Walgreens Boots Alliance. Reed candidly shared her insight on corporate governance, as well as her thoughts on why corporate governance and structure matter.
She started her career as an associate at law firm, but after the birth of her first child, Reed found that she didn’t want to return full-time or settle for working B deals. She found a part-time role as corporate counsel for Waste Management, focusing on securities. She credits the nine years she spent there with keeping her current and engaged in the field while she raised her children.
In her next role, at Baxter, Reed watched a company navigate a culture-shift in the healthcare field. She also had a front-row seat at the table where board members were faced with a difficult decision, and leadership changed hands. Transitioning fields again, Reed moved on to Solo, a family-owned business that was in the midst of acquiring a much larger competitor and going public in the process. When she left that company for Walgreens, she found herself at a similar juncture, helping Walgreens navigate a major acquisition and the transition in ownership that followed. These experiences under a variety of governance structures taught Reed the lessons that she brings with her to the boards on which she serves today.
Like many of our speakers this semester, Reed echoed the importance of developing strong communication skills. As a general counsel, her insight comes from the unique perspective she has developed from her experiences with past organizations. Being a member of boards is different than sitting in on board meetings: there is more to managing relationships and dynamics than simply considering whose interests you represent. Being able to communicate a legal perspective to stakeholders has been crucial to her success.