Market Report: The Demand for “Brand Lawyers”

“Brand lawyers” are in demand in the life sciences industry.  The term “brand lawyer” is often used to describe an attorney with experience supporting a specific brand/product that is on the market.  For example, a brand lawyer within the pharmaceutical industry would support a commercial pharmaceutical product that is not generic.  This lawyer typically supports various internal client groups such as Sales & Marketing, Market Access, Medical Affairs, and Compliance, and often represents the legal department on various committees such as grant and review committees and promotional review committees. Having experience working with generic life sciences products is sought after in this market, however, we see higher demand for lawyers who have supported branded products.  The experience of sitting in a promotional review committee meeting and advising on what is permissible for promotional/advertising materials for a certain product is definitely in demand.  We currently have several searches for a lawyer with that skill, and many companies do not have the time to train a lawyer to gain such experience.  For those who have supported a specific branded product, however, these companies are willing to pay a premium.

Lawyers with skill supporting certain therapeutic areas are sought after in this market.  Specifically, we have seen an increase in the demand for commercial lawyers who have supported therapeutic areas such as oncology, endocrinology, neurology and pain management.  Companies in this market not only want lawyers with previous experience supporting branded products; they now want specific therapeutic area experience.  We generally have on-going searches in which our clients are seeking brand lawyers with specific experience supporting branded oncology products.  It is not impossible to secure a position working with a therapeutic area that you have not previously supported, but previous experience is definitely in demand and respected.  That knowledge gives you an advantage when seeking to switch companies with similar product lines.  Of course, each company has its own unwritten rules/norms and methods of supporting a product, but prior exposure to that therapeutic area arms you with the understanding of the applicable regulations and the typical promotional materials (and issues that arise from such materials).

Although brand lawyers are in demand, many of them want to broaden their skillset.  After spending a few years focusing on the support of a branded product(s), many of those lawyers seek to branch out and gain additional in-house skills.  We frequently have conversations with commercial lawyers who want to gain exposure to handling transactions, investigations, or delve deeper into compliance.  If you are a brand lawyer seeking to one day become a general counsel, then the fear of being pigeon-holed is real.  You need to make sure you raise your hand to gain exposure to manage others, lead a team, work on transactions and/or litigations, and interact with executives.  One smart way to do this is to become the lead lawyer for a specific therapeutic area/product.  If you become the go-to attorney for the oncology franchise at your company, for example, you will inherently interact with all internal groups and senior management.  If you do not have that opportunity, seek out opportunities to (1) work on the launch of a new product; (2) train junior lawyers; (3) assist on large transactional matters; (4) learn more about market access and government pricing issues – those experiences will ultimately serve you well. 

It is difficult to land that first in-house job as a brand lawyer.  As stated above, many companies feel that they do not have the time to train a lawyer to support a brand and handle the promotional review of marketed products.  The situation can be circular – how do you get that experience if you don’t already possess that experience?  This is even more daunting when you are a law firm attorney seeking to obtain a brand lawyer role, because most law firm attorneys do not handle commercial, brand lawyer duties.  Unlike being an M&A lawyer or a litigator, being a brand lawyer is often best learned on the job in-house at a company, but you need to find a company that is willing to give you that opportunity.  We have placed lawyers who supported generic pharmaceutical products into branded lawyer roles, so that path may be easier to travel than going straight from a law firm.  If you have regulatory compliance experience, you can certainly leverage that to secure a brand lawyer role, highlighting your knowledge of the pertinent regulations and any experience you have advising on promotional/advertising materials.

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