Work Ethic Equals Results
Tracey Van Dillen was raised by a single mother who worked full time while caring for three children. At the age of 15, Tracey became a pharmacy technician at a major retail pharmacy, filling prescriptions and dispensing medicine under the supervision of a pharmacist. “Then I worked in a hospital pharmacy, where I made morphine drips and crash carts for the ER. Now that I’m at Johnson & Johnson, it’s gratifying to realize I started out my career working with medicine and seeing its impact on patients’ lives.” Through high school and college, this strong work ethic remained consistent. These experiences, along with the inspiration of her mother, provided Tracey with a greater understanding of hard work, the human condition, and being grateful for her accomplishments.
From Science to Law
Tracey didn’t always want to be a lawyer. Instead, she enjoyed science and took a variety of pre-med courses while at Bucknell University and had planned to be a physician. “My favorite subjects growing up were science and English,” she said. However, much to her surprise, she loved an elective class she took in Environmental Law and it made her think “maybe this is how I can merge my two interests, science and English.” This led to her taking a variety of environmental policy and other law courses as an undergraduate student and, ultimately, switching her major from biology to environmental science. “Then I decided to apply to law school,” she said.
During her first and second year as a law student, Tracey was a summer associate at Porzio Bromberg & Newman P.C. Upon graduating from Seton Hall University School of Law with honors, Porzio Bromberg & Newman hired Tracey and she worked there for a little over three years. “Even though I originally planned to specialize in environmental law, I ended up working on the Product Liability team and I found these cases to be much more interesting than the environmental ones, so I was hooked,” said Tracey. Tracey joined Drinker Biddle in 2007, after she learned from friends at the firm that it was seeking a lawyer to join the firm’s Products Liability Group. Tracey was attracted to Drinker Biddle because of the firm’s great reputation, client base, depth of practice and “it just seemed like a great fit.”
Life at Drinker Biddle
As member of Drinker Biddle’s Products Liability Group, Tracey worked with numerous talented attorneys at the firm, including Susan Sharko, Dan Carroll and Mike Zogby. “I did, mostly, work for Johnson & Johnson and that’s how I was introduced to the folks whom I now work with here,” said Tracey. “I loved it. I was taking depositions, traveling a lot and became involved very quickly. Having the chance to take part in national litigation and work alongside such talented people made for a great experience.”
Tracey said she learned so much from her time at Drinker Biddle and uses many of these skills in her current role as Senior Counsel for Johnson & Johnson. The skills she uses the most in her day job include communication and preparation. “I was taught at Drinker Biddle to communicate with your adversary as if you are writing for the judge because you really are,” said Tracey. “I was also taught to be early, be over-prepared and treat every deposition or motion argument like it is the trial. Increasingly, more and more deposition testimony does become the testimony that’s played at trial, so it’s important to keep the big picture in mind.” She added, “Whatever task you have, do the best you can because you never know [if] what you’re working on is going to become a critical issue in your case. If you own your case and become the subject-matter expert, people will rely on you and you’ll become known as a hard worker and dependable.” This real-world advice has stayed with Tracey and she continues to share it with those she mentors.
When asked about moving in-house Tracey replied, “While I really enjoyed litigation work and being a part of trial teams, I did always envision myself either working at a company or working as part of a government agency.” Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson, Tracey worked for the global pharmaceutical company Actavis which eventually acquired Allergan and took that corporate name. During her seven-year tenure, she served as Senior Counsel, Corporate Litigation and her portfolio expanded from product liability for Actavis’ generic pharmaceuticals to the entire U.S. branded product liability portfolio for Allergan, as well as managing other commercial litigation. Tracey noted that she had a great foundation coming out of Drinker Biddle to prepare her for that kind of role.
Tracey assumed her current role at Johnson & Johnson in January 2018. “I’m a member of the litigation group in the Law Department, and I manage product liability for specific sectors and products. Right now, I manage litigation for our Consumer sector, as well as for our neuroscience products in our Pharmaceutical sector.” Tracey also handles non-product liability cases. Her responsibilities include the selection, retention and management of outside counsel, attending legal proceedings on behalf of the Company, preparing witnesses to provide testimony, managing budgets for various litigations, and participating in other Law Department initiatives, such as internal training and business presentations. She also recently managed a mass tort litigation of approximately 13,000 cases. In other words, her exceptional skills and experience have provided Tracey with immense opportunity at Johnson & Johnson.
As with any job, there are challenges. Tracey recognizes that defending a company while simultaneously finding efficiencies is “kind of a balancing act” of determining “what’s best for the company strategically in litigation and what’s best for the business.” When thinking about this Tracey recognizes the need to “protect our people as much as we can, and I try to limit the amount of time that they are pulled into litigation.”
Tracey’s proudest achievement at Johnson & Johnson thus far has been representing the people who work there. “When I’m speaking on behalf of my client, my greatest thrill is to be a part of this company. It’s really a wonderful place to work and I’m grateful to be able to speak on behalf of all of the scientists and other professionals who research and develop our products and medicines,” said Tracey.
Being a parent has helped Tracey develop and strengthen skills that are applicable at work. Whether it be time-management or learning how to best incentivize people in a meeting, these attributes benefit her in and out of the workplace. “I follow the same advice at work that I give my kids – treat others the way you want to be treated and use your words to lift people up. Be kind!”
Tracey also values the importance of having a healthy work-life balance. “My family time is as important as my job, and I’m happy to work for a company that provides me with the flexibility to make both a priority,” said Tracey. While she understands that unforeseen circumstances can arise, placing a high priority on time with her family is the first step in managing her time in and out of the office effectively.
A lover of travel, Tracey has been to many places, including Europe, South Africa, Mexico, Tahiti, and Bora Bora, just to name a few. Tracey and her family also enjoy spending time in Ocean City, New Jersey, where they have a house.
Avid Sports Fan
While Tracey and her family may not always agree on which team to cheer for, they regularly come together to enjoy hockey and football. Tracey’s husband, whom she met at Bucknell, was a hockey goalie in high school and college and grew up as a big New Jersey Devils fan. Now, the family are season ticket holders and “my daughters are big hockey fans,” she said. Despite her family’s love for the New Jersey Devils and the New York Giants, Tracey grew up just outside of Philadelphia rooting for the Flyers and Eagles and still considers herself “a true Philly fan.” Tracey explained, “It’s a house divided but they did celebrate with me when the Eagles won the Super Bowl.”