Pfizer Eastern Europe Cluster Legal Lead and Legal Director Lucie Kubenova talks about her career leading to her current role and managing her team at Pfizer.
CEELM: Let’s start with a quick overview of your career.
Kubenova: I joined the Fiala Profous Maisner law office in 2001, upon completion of my law degree. It was a key step to fulfilling the bar exam requirement, which I later passed in 2004. However, soon I faced a common challenge that many new parents encounter – balancing the demands of a small kid with the rigorous work schedule at a law office. Consequently, I decided to pursue a different career path. At that time, an opportunity arose in the banking sector – at Komercni Banka, and I spent five years working in that industry.
CEELM: What drove you to later transition from the banking industry to pharmaceuticals then?
Kubenova: My career in the pharmaceutical industry began in 2009. When I had my second daughter, an intriguing offer came my way from Medtronic. I started as a Legal and Compliance Manager, responsible for both the Czech and Slovak markets. This offer allowed me to enter a field that I had always admired: the pharmaceutical industry. I was captivated by the industry and its potential to improve lives. Since then, I have dedicated almost 14 years of my professional life to working in the life sciences sector, and I have developed a deep love for it.
Specifically, I continued my professional journey by joining AstraZeneca in 2013 as the CE Compliance Coordinator and CZ/SK Compliance Officer, covering the Central European region. Prior to joining Pfizer, I also had the opportunity to work for a French-owned pharmaceutical company – Sanofi – where I spent over three years. Since 2017, I have been working with Pfizer, which initially, I joined as a Legal Director for the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Over time, I took on additional responsibilities and began overseeing legal matters in Ukraine as well. Most recently, as of December 2022, I was appointed to the position of Eastern Europe Cluster Legal Head and Legal Director for the Czech Republic at Pfizer.
CEELM: Looking back, how was the process of transitioning in-house?
Kubenova: Since the outset, I developed a deep passion for my work. Back when I was employed in the contracts department of a bank, I held the responsibility of managing major contracts for credit card issuers and facilitating commercial deals. I found the work to be intriguing and similar to my experience in the pharmaceutical industry. In both fields, it is hard to predict what kind of requests or challenges may arise. Although my clients were primarily internal rather than external, the dynamic felt somewhat akin to working in a law office.
CEELM: How has the in-house work shifted throughout the years?
Kubenova: Reflecting back on my tenure at Pfizer, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the biggest shift in my focus as we swiftly transitioned to remote work. Back in 2004-2005, the concept of working from home was virtually unknown and impractical. However, as the idea of remote work gained traction, I gradually started dedicating Fridays to work from the comfort of my home. It was a valuable opportunity to engage in uninterrupted thinking and minimize the abundance of meetings.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and remote work became an integral part of my daily routine. Almost overnight, I had to adapt to a home office setup. I take great pride in the fact that our legal department was able to maintain exceptional standards and implement best practices throughout the entire pandemic. Witnessing this transformation unfold was both fascinating and challenging. It was remarkable to observe how remote work evolved and adapted to the ever-changing circumstances brought about by the pandemic.
CEELM: How is your in-house team structured, and what changes have occurred in the team management over time?
Kubenova: The management team in the Eastern Europe cluster has undergone changes in recent times. Since most of my team is not located in the Czech Republic, our cooperation remains virtual, just as it was during the pandemic. However, there is now a difference in that we have the option to work from the office and conduct virtual calls from there. As the lawyer covering the Czech Republic, my role continues unchanged. This arrangement persisted even after the pandemic. However, for my colleagues in the Czech and Slovak Republics, there has been a return to the pre-COVID way of life. They are able to have face-to-face meetings and provide the best legal services in person.
CEELM: When picking external counsel for a project, what criteria do you use?
Kubenova: Having a background in a law office has been a significant advantage for me. It allowed me to bring a unique perspective to the table, having experienced the opposing side firsthand. This experience remains relevant and valuable, particularly in periods of intense cooperation required in various projects. I highly value the expertise of my colleagues and consider their collaboration an essential part of my work.
We have a selection of preferred law offices that we choose based on the specific type of work we require. The choice of which office to use depends on the nature of the legal matter at hand.
CEELM: What do you consider to be the main challenges for GCs in the Czech Republic at the moment?
Kubenova: The Czech Republic has recently faced significant challenges, such as a severe energy crisis. However, one of the most daunting tasks has been supporting Ukraine since 2022. For those of us hailing from the CEE region, it is an unimaginable predicament in the twenty-first century. It is disheartening to even hear about it during our conversations, especially when communicating with our Ukrainian colleagues.
Despite the challenges, one thing that I’m personally very proud of is that we have successfully participated in and supported our colleagues during the pandemic.