About Elekta and the legal team

Elekta is a leading innovator of precision radiation therapy solutions, and is committed to ensuring that every patient has access to the best cancer care possible.

For almost half a century Elekta have been working openly and proactively with clinicians and their partners to develop outcome-driven and cost-efficient solutions that meet evolving patient needs, no matter where they are in the world. To Elekta it’s personal and the global team of 4,700 employees combine passion, science and imagination to profoundly change cancer care, improve patient care and bring hope to everyone dealing with cancer.

Who makes up the legal team?

The global Elekta legal team comprises approximately 20 lawyers based in the UK, Sweden, Netherlands, US, Brazil, China, and Singapore, in addition to specialist IP, Data Privacy, Risk, and Compliance teams. 

Most of the lawyers support a Business Line (which is responsible for research and development, engineering, procurement, and manufacturing of Elekta’s Products), or a Commercial Region (which is responsible for the sales and servicing side of the business). 

In this Community Spotlight, we spoke to Elekta’s UK legal team, comprising: 

  • Sam Cookman, Regional General Counsel who supports the Linac Business Line and also manages both the UK and Dutch legal teams.
  • Narelle Taylor, Senior Legal Counsel who supports the commercial side of the business in  Europe  and Eastern Europe.
  • Jacqueline Bashford, Senior Legal Counsel who supports the Linac Business Line.
  • Sophie Burgess, Legal Counsel who supports the commercial side of the business in  Europe and TIMEA (Turkey, India, Middle East and Africa).

What values do you hold as a team?

Sam emphasised the importance of trust as a core value for their team, noting that building trust had been instrumental in bringing the team together and working effectively. “We’ve done a lot of work getting to know each other through team-building activities that help us gain insights into each other’s personalities and how best to work with one another, including fun games, such as “whose fridge is that?” (and yes, it was as ridiculous as it sounds!)” 

Having a team built on trust has been crucial  “We like to have a supportive approach, without micromanagement. Everyone has an autonomous role – we are all professional lawyers able to do our own job in our own right”. 

The Elekta team highlighted how highly they value development, not only in terms of legal skills, but soft skills and product knowledge. They also shared their commitment to diversity and inclusion, as Sam said “as a company, we’re trying to get better and better at diversity and inclusion, so together with colleagues from other functions with whom we’re co-located, we started an employee  Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging group (affectionately known as ‘DIB’) with specific objectives, which has now gained recognition and a mandate from Senior Management”.

Finally, Sam explained that the legal team sees themselves as business partners, working closely with different parts of the business and gaining a reputation and respect for their level of expertise. “As a lawyer you work very closely with and provide support to the business, so we absolutely are business partners. I think it’s standard now in the in-house world.”

Have you implemented any initiatives as a team to encourage a good work-life balance?

Sam stressed the importance of work-life balance within her team, and the need to switch off and take a break without worrying about work. 

“If someone is going on holiday, we do our utmost to say: We’re covering you.” 

Sam also spoke about building a supportive culture, where the team genuinely care about each other on a personal level and honest conversation about concerns is encouraged, “We are always happy to learn from each other as to how we can improve”. The Elekta team told us that they’d hosted sessions on stress management with external speakers to help them better cope with stress. As a team, they said knowing they can turn to anyone and talk about things has really helped form a tight team.

The team are open with each other about their personal commitments and activities outside of work. Sam also encourages her team to control their own time and priorities, “everyone is encouraged to make their days work in a way that works for them,” – this may involve declining meetings or blocking out time for personal needs. This approach has received positive feedback from the business. 

Spotlight on a legal project

The Elekta team are constantly required to collaborate with other functions at Elekta. Recently, the team worked with the sales department on a deal with Agha Khan Hospital in Tanzania. The project, that took around 18 months to complete, concluded successfully resulting in seven machines being installed  and giving the company a significant presence in Tanzania.

“A number of different functions were pulled together for several weeks, working really hard to get this one over the line” explained Sophie.

Narelle and Sophie worked on another deal in Italy where Elekta won around 60% of a large national tender for 62 machines. “The legal team works well together, but we also partner with the business on critical deals that are often time sensitive,” Sophie said. Having these strong collaborative relationships with other business functions helps to propel deals and meet deadlines.

Sophie also spoke about how collaboration within the business is not limited to deals – there is still time and capacity for other company-wide projects that align with the employees’ passions. She emphasised how encouraged the team are to come up with ideas and drive initiatives at a national or global level, with corporate support.

Operational Spotlights

Having recently adopted a new contract intelligence system,  which has been several years in the making, the team at Elekta are fully embracing legal tech. Jacqueline goes on to say, “It’s a significant investment for us financially, but also in terms of the time and energy it’s taken to implement. We are hoping to soon see some of the benefits of the efficiency and really demonstrate the value of the legal team.” The project is a huge team effort, with colleagues from other departments getting involved. 

Furthermore, Jacqueline explains, “we have a legal ops team of just one person who has project managed the majority of the project. The rest of the input has come from the legal team, on top of their day jobs. We’ve never done this before. Some of us have worked with legal tech in previous companies, but it’s been a real learning curve to implement it.”

The implementation process was extensive, and it involved mapping requirements, vendor selection, installation, user acceptance testing, and updating templates and processes. “In December last year, we finally went live with the production environment in a small group of pilot users, and we’re about to launch it more widely across the business,” Jacqueline says. “It’s going to be a continually evolving project. We’re already working on new contract templates for the system, and then eventually we’ll roll out to more of the regions across the company.” Despite the challenges, Jacqueline is optimistic about the benefits they’ll gain as a legal team, such as automated approval and signatory processes, contract tracking, and risk management.

What is the biggest challenge the team has had to face?

“Elekta underwent a really big resilience programme in the run up to Christmas, which resulted in a reduction in headcount globally,” Jacqueline explained. “It was a really tough time for the whole business, but also for our team. We ended up losing two well-liked and respected colleagues from the UK team. It’s tough because we’re already very lean and we do a lot with the resources that we have, but we always feel like we could do with more hands.”

However, Jacqueline and the rest of the team agreed that “one factor that really keeps us all together, is Sam.” The team went on to praise Sam for “making sure we’re all okay, individually and together as a team.” During this tough period, the team kept morale high with team building activities and open conversations about what was happening, while also adapting to the new areas of work and, often, finding ways to improve the situation.

“It’s been a challenging time, but we’ve come through it, and we’re now really focusing on building up positive energy within the team. We’re feeling optimistic about 2023.”

What changes would you like to see in the way you work?

Narelle shared that she has a long list of ideas to improve how the legal team at Elekta works, but at the top is more resources.

“While we don’t have a lot of control over headcount, we’re working hard to make changes in other areas of the team to drive efficiency,  starting with the implementation of legal tech.” 

Narelle hopes that legal tech will enable them to establish a centralised document repository and promote a self-serve culture which empowers the business to generate simpler contracts and frees up the legal team for more complex matters.

Second on the list was a change in the team’s dynamics with the implementation of hybrid working. “We continue to support each other through team meetings, activities and regular check ins”. 

The commitment to wellbeing and finding innovative solutions to enhance efficiency and reduce stress are a top priority for Elekta’s legal team.

Does the team have a motto and advice for other in-house legal teams?

The Elekta team pride themselves on having core values which they make sure to implement, not only as a team but as individuals:

  1. Trust
  2. Transparency
  3. Fun
  4. Respect
  5. Communication

“The combination of all these values creates an environment where we work so well together, support each other, and genuinely care for each other. We think this is what really makes the difference between a technically good team to a team that really excels.” 

“If we were to have a motto, it would be along the lines of: Probably the best legal team in the world (if we do say so ourselves).” 

The Elekta team are members of the Crafty Counsel Community, our community where in-house legal professionals come together to find joy, insight, and connection.