“At base, working with clients is about developing relationships, and I love that,” said Catherine Dargan, the head of M&A and corporate at Covington & Burling LLP, on the latest Drinks With The Deal. “I love understanding their business, what keeps them up at night, what their concerns are about getting their deals done.”
Dargan developed an especially strong practice in healthcare. In 2020 she advised Merck & Co. (MRK) on its purchases of Acceleron Pharma Inc. for $11.5 billion and of Pandion Therapeutics Inc. for $1.85 billion. She’s built that practice in part by relying on Covington’s long-standing strength in food and drug regulatory law and in healthcare licensing and collaboration.
“Our focus on life sciences was a natural one where we felt that we could offer unique expertise, particularly in due diligence, where there are a lot of thorny issues,” Dargan said. The regulatory and antitrust aspects of healthcare transactions are particularly challenging now, she added, given enhanced scrutiny both in the U.S. and other countries.
Dargan is also very focused on diversity and inclusion efforts at Covington, in part because of her own experience. “As a black woman dealmaker,” she said, “I am often an anomaly, and that results in sometimes being ignored, underestimated, even insulted in 25 years as an M&A lawyer.”
“In recent years,” she said, “my focus has been on retention and promotion, because I think those are a lot harder. I think a lot of firms have figured out the recruiting piece of this. I think this is about relationships. I have been able to develop the career I have because people have invested in me, and a lot of those people had nothing in common with me. I think it’s harder in a remote environment, but it’s something that is necessary.”
Diversity and inclusion issues are related to the challenges that all firms face in retaining associates, she said.
“I’m not sure we’re ever going to go back to five days in the office. But I do think we have to be flexible, and we have to adapt to these changing circumstances. I think that a lot of tools that are important for associates generally are particularly important for diverse and women lawyers to make sure that people have those opportunities and the mentorship and support to succeed in this profession.”
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