Eli Lilly's Teri Cotton Santos Discusses Diversity Issues and Reflects on Her Experiences 'In-House' and Beyond


Teri Cotton Santos, a member of the Sedgwick Women's Forum Advisory Board, is an assistant general counsel in litigation for Eli Lilly and Company, where she has worked for the past 13 years. Teri worked briefly in a law firm after law school and later joined the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office. Ultimately, she chose to go "in-house" with Eli Lilly because it provided the potential for doing things "beyond the law."

Teri sat down with Sedgwick partner Tanya Lawson to discuss what it's like being in-house counsel and shared her views on diversity efforts. Below are some excerpts of her responses to Tanya's questions.

What are some of the things you enjoy about being in-house?

I enjoy the perspective you have as an in-house lawyer. I think outside lawyers focus a lot on the law, and what is the law as it relates to a particular business problem. I think in-house lawyers, because they spend a lot more time with non-lawyer clients, spend a lot more time thinking about how we solve problems from the business perspective. And also I like that it's generally flexible. I have one client. And, for the most part, I have some flexibility in how I plan my days and my work.

Is working in-house the panacea that many think it is or are there challenges that you and other women like you face in that environment?

I wouldn't say it's a panacea, I think all environments have their challenges. While I was at a law firm, one of the things I found difficult was understanding the culture, the environment, the unwritten rules. Some may think that the rules might be clearer in a corporation, but I don't think that's necessarily true. I think it is important to understand the environment and what it means to be successful in that environment, and how individual work is valued. And I think that is going to be an issue in whatever work environment you find yourself in.

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