John K. Whiting, IV, In-house Attorney

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John K. Whiting, IV, In-house Attorney
1.  Why did you decide to work in a corporate legal department?
After five years as an associate in a law firm in Boston, MA and then Providence, RI, I had an opportunity to join the legal department of a national provider of kidney dialysis services where I was given the opportunity to lead transactions, including acquisitions, joint ventures, and license, distribution, and other agreements with commercial and governmental entities.  The company respected and valued my law firm experience and gave me the opportunity to structure, negotiate and document a variety of transactions.

2.  What is the best part of working in-house?
I was pleased to have more responsibility and independence in carrying out my work in in-house positions than I had experienced in the law firm environment as an associate.  Working in-house also gave me opportunities to develop ongoing working relationships with business decision-makers and develop a more detailed understanding of the business and the reasons for structuring transactions in particular ways.  As my relationships with management developed and my knowledge of the companies I counseled increased, opportunities to participate in strategic decision-making increased - as did my sense of satisfaction from participating in the development of the business.
3.  What is the worst part of working in-house?
Although it is not necessarily a negative, in-house counsel are often called upon to assist with many things that are not necessarily significant transactions.  If willing to assist whenever and wherever needed, in-house counsel can become very knowledgeable about both the nuts and bolts as well as more strategic aspects of the business and can become very valuable to the company as a result - which gradually expands the areas in which in-house counsel can provide a meaningful impact to the business.  Although senior counsel can have meaningful input into significant decisions, it is also important to understand that final decisions are made by senior business decision-makers - and if your advice is not accepted, it is necessary to buy-in to the decisions made for the company - or move on.  
4.  What advice would you give others looking to work in-house?
Get to know senior managers well and understand their goals so you can become a valued part of the team.  Look for ways to accomplish company goals by being flexible in finding solutions rather than seeking to impose a one size fits all approach to a problem.
5.  What is a typical day like for you as an attorney working in-house?
The first hour or so of each day is filled with discussions with senior management regarding developments, thoughts about pending matters, and discussions of strategic options for the company.  Mornings are also filled with identifying changes in the status of pending matters and seeking new information both inside and outside the company.  Typically there are documents to be reviewed, revised, or commented on, and it is necessary to share input on developments, documents, and pending negotiations of agreements with business decision-makers. As the day goes on I normally settle into reviewing and revising longer documents and drafting emails to management to document and share information, drafts, or provide responses to questions from management.  Later in the day, to the extent possible, I try to bring the most significant or urgent matters I have been working on to a conclusion or otherwise move them along to others for input, and assess the status of the matters I have been working on, identify things that need attention but may not have progressed as quickly as desired, and to reassess current priorities for what needs to get done.
6.  What was your title/is your title in your current position in-house?
I am currently serving as General Counsel of Tecogen Inc., a publicly traded manufacturer of clean and efficient on-site power, heating, and cooling equipment, where I am responsible for corporate transactions, securities filings, governance, and dispute management. I also serve as General Counsel & CFO of Inspired Therapeutics LLC, a private company developing cardiac and pulmonary devices and providing consulting services to other medical device developers.
7.  How does your experience compare with your peers who chose other sorts of legal jobs?
Changes affecting the companies where I have worked have resulted in job changes - both as a result of company sales - triggered by either success or failure, or as a result of changes in management - which often lead to changes in senior positions at the company, including at the Vice President, General Counsel level.  My tenure as Vice President and General Counsel at particular companies has typically been approximately five years and I have moved on to another position as the company moves from one stage of development to another and undergoes significant changes that may precipitate a change at the senior counsel level.  Despite occasional frustrations when management chooses not to take what I have thought to be sound advice, I have found the time devoted to advising business decision-makers to be rewarding and the opportunity to support the company's goals as part of a team to be very satisfying.

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