How One Axiom Lawyer is Gaining In-House Experience and Using His Skills to Fight COVID-19
By Axiom Law
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Get to know Sean O’Toole at a glance:
- Practicing since 2018
- Focuses on transactional law and drafts and negotiates clinical trial agreements
- Engaged with a multinational biopharmaceutical company that specializes in rare disease therapies
When transactional attorney Sean O’Toole began his first Axiom engagement in April 2020, he jumped headfirst into the fight against COVID-19. He works on the legal side of the clinical research and development group at a multinational biopharmaceutical company with a focus on rare disease therapies, which are especially relevant at a time like this.
“Most of the legal work I’ve done has been related to COVID-19 studies,” says Sean, who drafts and negotiates clinical trial agreements and other ancillary agreements that go into conducting those studies. “The company is really dedicated to lessening the symptoms of chronic illness for people, and that’s been really fulfilling for me personally.”
In addition, he appreciates the opportunity that Axiom gives him to take engagements that appeal to his passions and experience. “Knowing that my next engagement could be something brand-new and exciting provides a lot of interesting career potential,” says Sean.
Using his legal skills in the fight against COVID-19
When Sean began his first Axiom engagement, the world was at the starting line of the pandemic. It was a chaotic time for organizing clinical trials. Sean’s team was tasked with working on ways to apply the company’s proprietary drugs to treat people who have comorbidities.
“For example, if you have a respiratory issue and then contract COVID-19, can our drug help lessen the severity of the virus for you?” he asks. “I’ve helped get those studies off the ground under extremely compressed timelines,” he explains.
Sean also assists with companies’ Software as a Service (SaaS) agreements, which touch all the other business groups and feed his passion for technology. He is currently enrolled in a coding bootcamp and learning different programming languages, which informs his work as a lawyer.
“Before I started the coding bootcamp, if someone put an IT agreement or Software as a Service agreement in front of me, I didn’t know what any of it was beyond the legal terms,” he says. “Now I do find it helpful because I understand what’s being discussed in those operational IT sections,” he explains.
A transactional attorney with a professional writing background
Sean graduated from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 2017 with a concentration in international corporate transactions. This was where he learned how to draft and negotiate contracts with companies on a global scale.
During his last two years of law school, Sean began taking on work as a freelance writer. He soon found a niche writing long-form articles about real estate law, investing, and financial technology for a legal news publication.
“I was serving as an investment and legal correspondent while I was waiting to become licensed,” he says, adding that his writing background has only made him more marketable as a lawyer. “Since I’m a transactional attorney and write and review contracts all day, I have an eye for and focus on language, which is an asset for the companies I work for. I’m going to write a pretty tight contract because I’m really careful with my words.”
In 2019, Sean worked at a contract research organization called PRA Health Sciences. Within the commercial legal department, he helped draft and negotiate contracts that allowed the company to partner with pharmaceutical companies and carry out clinical trials. The experience validated his preference for in-house roles because it enables him to connect to his client's mission while conducting in-depth transactional work.
Enjoying variety and new opportunities at Axiom
Sean was drawn to Axiom because, “I liked the idea of different engagements. It gives you the unique opportunity to learn a lot of different types of work and wear many different hats as a lawyer.”
The benefits go both ways. Sean observes that Axiom plays an important role for companies because it enables them to find experienced lawyers on-demand for short-term projects.
“Axiom is much more than your average legal staffing agency,” he says. “There’s a guarantee of quality. Companies know that and know they’re getting an attorney with a lot of varied experience who’s bringing a lot of skills.”
From his professional perspective, Sean also loves the job security that Axiom provides. When one engagement ends, he knows that Axiom will be busy looking for a new opportunity for him. In this way, he gets to experience the benefits of working with different companies without all the risk that comes with being an independent consultant.
Finding time to balance life and legal work
Outside of legal work, Sean loves cooking, reading, and creative writing and is working on two different novels. He’s also learning guitar, which actually helps him at work as it provides a way to reduce stress.
“When a contract is being particularly stressful or difficult, I’ll try to play through a few songs and chill out a little bit before I go back to it,” he says with a laugh.
Axiom enables him to balance his work and personal life without as much stress. He finds comfort in knowing that he has great benefits and a reliable support system at Axiom, which are two things he doesn’t take for granted.
How legal work is changing in the face of a pandemic
Within Sean’s practice area, he recognizes that COVID-19 has created huge hurdles that need to be to overcome. Conducting a clinical trial involves getting subjects to various sites to facilitate participation. Many sites have had restrictions in place during the pandemic forcing pharmaceutical companies to adapt and find new solutions. For instance, instead of going to trial sites, many participants are being visited by home health care nurses to carry the trial out from home as much as possible. This has directly affected the way Sean has approached negotiating the contracts for these trials.
The pandemic has also brought once-overlooked contract provisions front and center -- like force majeure, a type of clause that allows a party to cancel a contract without being in breach.
“That’s come up a lot for the first time in my career,” says Sean. “I’ve had to have discussions and negotiate that provision to make it clear that if something like COVID-19 occurred, the study might not happen; but neither party would be in breach for pulling out of it.”
Working for Axiom has enabled Sean to build in-house experience at different types of companies while supporting life-saving clinical trials. It has given him the flexibility to pursue a diversity of interests. If you are looking to work with on-demand legal talent and build your career with lawyers like Sean connect with Axiom today to learn more.
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