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Member Spotlight: Timon Sartorius

Volume 38 , Number 2 , Page 70-71
Timon Sartorius, head of legal operations at Syngenta in Basel, Switzerland, has recently become ACC Europe’s 3000th member. Here, he shares the challenges he faces as head of legal operations and the new opportunities he has found as an ACC member.

Congratulations, you are ACC Europe’s 3,000th member! How did you first hear about the association, and what do you expect to get from ACC?  

Thanks a lot! It is a real surprise to me, but I am delighted to be your 3,000th member. Throughout my career in Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Asia, I encountered colleagues who raved about the benefits of ACC, the opportunity to network with other in-house counsel, and the access customized, up-to-date, and easy-to-use resources. At last I am an ACC member myself!

I look forward to staying abreast of current legal issues and discovering techniques that help me support my clients in an efficient, enabling and value-adding manner. I also hope to gain insights on how the legal industry and the role of the in-house counsel is evolving. 

You’ve been at Syngenta for 19 years. What changes have you seen in the legal operations field during this time? 

“Legal Operations” is a relatively recent function within the in-house teams, but it has grown rapidly in importance. The evolution is somewhat comparable to the evolution of compliance. Fifteen to 20 years ago, only a few companies had dedicated compliance teams and processes — this has completely changed. I am convinced that soon all in house teams of considerable size will also have dedicated operations teams.  

In Syngenta we always had a significant group of operational resources, in the IP and legal area, as you would expect for a company that has a major R&D operation. Yet it was only in 2017 that we realized the potential to drive our focus within the legal department on standardization and efficiency by concentrating all the colleagues in one team and creating “Legal Operations.”  

As head of legal operations, what challenges do you currently face, and how are you addressing them?  

It is key to have a clear agenda and to align our operations priorities with those of the general counsel and the legal leadership. Once you implement new processes or tools it is of paramount importance to dedicate enough time and effort to secure real “user acceptance.” A standard roll-out plan is often not good enough. Attorneys and paralegals can often find it hard to break from tried and tested patterns or practices — gentle but constant encouragement and monitoring is required to succeed.  

What do you like most about being in-house counsel?  

As the world leader in agriculture, the Syngenta Group presents a dynamic variety of challenges, tasks, and opportunities to work with many people of different professions, skills, and backgrounds. As in-house professionals, we are privileged to experience this diversity daily. It is also a pleasure to be part of commercial teams, to be closely involved in business transactions, and to shape and enable commercial success.  

What advice do you have for the next generation of in-house counsel and legal operations professionals?  

Be flexible, curious, and ready to try and fail, including when it comes to automated and digital ways of working. Display a healthy ambition but always remain a team player. Aim to deliver on-time, great work products but be realistic that a perfect solution for everyone may not exist. Manage risk in an enabling way — highlight potential exposures without paralyzing the commercial drive and be aware that there are situations where it is perfectly viable to sail a bit closer to the wind. 

How do you think being an ACC member has helped you gain time in your schedule? What does having more time mean for you?  

Searching for specific information or looking for legal development materials can be very time consuming and often happens during evenings and weekends. Having speedy access to documents, training, reports, and additional resources through ACC will allow me to focus on strategic projects. I can now also spend even more leisure time with my three boys — definitely more fun than ploughing through textbooks.  

Has your company’s ACC membership helped shape the culture of your organization? If so, how?  

We’ve planted the seeds by joining ACC at the end of 2019. We are excited to be members and trust that our team will enjoy the benefits!

The information in any resource collected in this virtual library should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on specific facts and should not be considered representative of the views of its authors, its sponsors, and/or ACC. These resources are not intended as a definitive statement on the subject addressed. Rather, they are intended to serve as a tool providing practical advice and references for the busy in-house practitioner and other readers.