Guiding Growth

Brian Farley discusses the need for speed in growth environments and the power of a law department harnessing a strategic approach

What is a general counsel’s obligation to growth? What are you doing in this regard at Allscripts?

Brian Farley: I think the general counsel—certainly in today’s day and age and particularly with Allscripts—needs to be an integral part of the overall business plan, where lawyers aren’t simply stuck in the corner looking at case law and arguing nuanced legal themes. Instead, what I think the GC does, and needs to do, is really be an integral business partner. I believe our entire legal team is very much critical to the success of the company as we find ways, given our legal training and legal thinking, to accelerate product development, time to market, contracting, protecting intellectual property, and other business-critical elements—all of which will help lead to the growth of the company.

How have your past experiences with Motorola and Google informed your current role?

Farley: One of the things that excited me about working with the Google team was their philosophy that people are most excited and most rewarded personally and professionally when they get to work on the really big, really hard problems. That’s certainly the case that I found when I was at Motorola and during my short tenure with Google after they acquired [Motorola Mobility], but it’s also very much the case at Allscripts and in the health-care space.

There aren’t a lot of things that are bigger than health care, and there certainly aren’t a whole lot of things that are harder than successfully navigating the health-care industry, including addressing the cost and delivery challenges we face both in the United States and across the globe. That willingness to embrace the complexity and magnitude of the challenges in front of us helps to guide my leadership of the law department and to encourage people to step back and reflect on the opportunity to shape the future of something as important as health care. We should all be excited by these opportunities.

What can the technology and health-care industries learn from each other?

Farley: In the technology arena, the rapidity with which change happens is unbelievable, and I think there’s an opportunity for the health-care industry to learn that as well … Particularly at our company and in health-care information technology, there’s a need to accelerate change and to really move quickly. That’s not just to keep up with the market and leapfrog competitors, but also to ensure that we’re responding to issues more quickly—that we’re developing better solutions for our clients.

I’d rather be giving out speeding tickets than parking tickets, and that’s the way I describe it to my team. It’s something that I am trying to bring to the law department here at Allscripts. This commitment to speed and change is also reflective of the drive that our CEO and the rest of our company’s leadership are trying establish. We want to be fast, we want to be right, and we want to keep driving innovation.

What culture is necessary to foster growth across a company? How do you facilitate that among your team?

Farley: One is speed … I believe that if a company is going to grow you have to be fast. And you can’t be reckless and fast—you have to be fast and right. So as a culture, bringing that expectation is the first step. We need to ensure that we, as the law department, are moving very quickly in the technology that we use and in the service and counsel that we provide to our internal business clients, and when dealing with our clients and partners. Doing so will enable us to provide the best products and services to health-care providers across the globe.

Another is a broader understanding and appreciation of the health-care industry—not just health-care IT. I describe this to our team as a need to be constantly growing our corporate and industry IQ. A successful law department needs to know the business as well as our business leaders, because if we don’t know the business or the industry we can’t provide insightful, innovative, and forward-looking solutions to business and legal challenges. It certainly is hard to grow if you’re playing catch-up. You need to be leading.

“I believe that if a company is going to grow you have to be fast. And you can’t be reckless and fast—you have to be fast and right.” —Brian Farley

What is a general counsel’s obligation to growth beyond mergers and acquisitions?

Farley: If you can do things organically, quickly, and cost-efficiently, I think people would prefer to pursue those opportunities at every turn. So I think the general counsel has an obligation as a broader business partner to understand strengths and weaknesses within the company and to be able to communicate and work cooperatively with your CEO, CFO, COO, etc., to identify opportunities and ensure the organization is structured and investing in a way that puts the company in a position to capitalize on these opportunities. The contribution from the GC is not purely legal; rather, the GC’s contributions need to be based on a broader business perspective as to how we can look at organic growth. The same approach applies to the selection of and engagement with key partners, whether through joint ventures or more traditional contractual partnerships. Mergers and acquisitions are certainly not the only way to grow.

How has your strategic approach to the general counsel role been professionally rewarding?

Farley: Unlike many lawyers, I have no real passion for law as law. My passion is really in helping to solve business problems, and particularly in this industry, enabling caregivers to better serve ill or currently well patients. It’s the connection to the business that really excites me, and the opportunity to do something meaningful, not just in law, but more broadly in the business environment.