Director of Legal Affairs Ad interim

Geneva, Switzerland 
[Closing date: 21 February 2020


The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) is a collaborative, patients’ needs-driven, non-profit drug research and development (R&D) organization that is developing new treatments for neglected diseases.

The Operations Department was created in 2011 to help the Executive Director focus on strategic activities. It coordinates DNDi infrastructure globally (finance, operational and strategic planning, human resources, information systems and technology, legal structuring, risk management, and organizational development) and supports decision-making and flows of information across the organization. It also provides oversight to business development and legal activities and liaison offices.

DNDi manages hundreds of contracts with numerous partners around the world, ranging from public and private donors, academia, biotechs, pharmas, research institutes, or CROs. The negotiation, drafting, and management of these contracts requires a dedicated professional with the appropriate legal qualifications necessary to design appropriate agreements encompassing the various activities of the organization (R&D, fundraising, communication, administration, and finance) to bring value to its patients and protect DNDi model and assets.

Due to the diversity of DNDi’s stakeholders, DNDi needs to reconcile different interests while ensuring the fulfillment of its mission, through the development of innovative partnering schemes.

DNDi legal structuring is getting more complex as activities are developing in various jurisdiction through different legal entities. Maintaining cohesiveness of DNDi as one organization while encouraging local empowerment and ensuring compliance to local regulations is becoming increasingly challenging.

In a context of increasing legal requirements, the Executive Team, Board, and other governance bodies require legal advice and counsel.


Purpose of the position

The Ad interim Director of Legal Affairs will replace the current Director of Legal Affairs during her 6-month leave.

The Director of Legal Affairs has an important role in providing senior expert guidance on relevant matters and in particular for addressing risks for the organization from a legal standpoint. As member of the Extended Executive Team, s/he actively contributes to the organizational strategy and directions taken by the Executive team and the Board. The Director of Legal Affairs is responsible for the alignment and coordination of the governance structure of DNDi composed of several legal entities based in the countries DNDi works and the DNDi Swiss Foundation.


Specific job responsibilities

Legal advice and risk management

  • Provide expert and strategic legal advice and recommendations to the executive management, Board, and other staff on all matters that affect the organization, including corporate status or governance
  • Deal with complex, significant matters that cut across legal and related areas
  • Anticipate legal issues and estimate risks strategically with care balancing of several goals; identify proactive solutions and better practices that will eliminate or mitigate risk exposure
  • Assist in management decision-making with supportive documentation, robust contractual and legal risk assessments
  • Be responsive to new situations and circumstances that require urgent attention
  • Provide timely, politically sensitive, high-quality, and practically sensible legal advice on appropriate courses of action to be taken to relevant DNDi internal stakeholders
  • Obtain engagement by clear and persuasive communication with multiple stakeholders
  • Attend and contribute to the Extended Executive Team meetings and relevant risk management committees, or delegate to relevant Legal Team senior member
  • Lead and oversee the assessment of insurance needs and contribute to negotiations with insurance companies
  • Manage any litigation and negotiate, whenever possible, the resolution of any major disputes
  • Assist the Strategy & Operations Director and the Executive Team members in any other manner as requested

Governance, corporate structuring, and compliance

  • Lead on Swiss legal advice on DNDi foundation status, its corporate requirements, registrations at Trade register, including as related to its special status of international organization and its relationships with relevant authorities
  • Support Executive Office to ensure internal compliance to DNDi status and by laws; prepare Board resolutions as appropriate
  • Under the supervision of the Strategy & Operations Director and in coordination with other relevant Directors (e.g. Finance & Planning Director, HR & Organization Director), manage and support the Compliance Senior Manager in his/her tasks within the remits of legal affairs
  • Provide support in the development of, and review DNDi policies and procedures to ensure compliance with all statutory or legal requirements; advise on legal implications of internal policies & procedures
  • Participate, or delegate participation, in relevant committees set up pursuant to DNDi policies to ensure compliance
  • Assist regional directors or heads with legal or administrative issues arising in the regional offices

Transactions / partnerships

  • Facilitate the business strategies development
  • Ensure the quality of the contractual work performed by the Legal team for the programmes and projects of the organization, in particular the negotiation of the strategic long-term collaboration and licensing agreements in close collaboration with Business Development managers and under the supervision of the Strategy & Operations Director
  • Ensure consistency between contracts and conformity with DNDi’s statutory and legal requirements, objectives, and internal policies, and implement the required provisions
  • Manage specific strategic projects as delegated
  • Provide legal support on alliance management, as needed

Legal team management

  • Provide leadership and ensure efficient and effective management, supervision, and mentoring of the Legal team
  • Ensure coherence of DNDi internal legal approach
  • Together with Business Development, Procurement, Finance and R&D representatives, design partnering processes, determine requisites for contract management and reporting tools
  • Design with the whole Legal team a legal project management tool in collaboration with IT
  • Liaise with Operations colleagues to ensure alignment in terms of infrastructure development (finance, planning, IT, procurement, HR…) and coherence of support functions globally
  • Manage expenditures in accordance with the approved budget
  • When needed, select and manage outside legal counsels


Reporting line

  • S/he reports to the Strategy & Operations Director and manages a Legal team of 6 members based in Geneva


Job requirements

Skills and attributes

  • Excellent ability to use initiative, prioritize, multi-task, and work well under pressure to meet deadlines
  • Very clear and systematic thinking that demonstrates strong judgment and problem-solving competencies
  • Knowledge of managing global multicultural teams
  • Highly organized and structured
  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Excellent ability to lead strategic programmes
  • Excellent ability to manage large size programmes with budget management
  • Excellent strategic thinking and leadership abilities
  • Excellent management, negotiation, and advocacy skills
  • Excellent ability to exercise high degree of independence to ensure programme delivery and explore new areas of activities
  • Excellent ability to interact with internal and external stakeholders
  • Excellent communication skills in multicultural, multi-lingual environments
  • Excellent communication, and public speaking skills, ability to convince and represent DNDi at high level events
  • Excellent ability to lead and motivate a team for optimum performance


  • Minimum 15 years’ relevant experience including several at senior management level
  • Proven ability to work effectively in a team environment and matrix structure is of value
  • Proven track record in legal affairs and governance
  • Experience in managing projects and supervision of staff


  • Master degree or PhD in Law
  • Management training

Other requirements

  • Fluency in English
  • Proficiency in local languages desirable
  • Willingness and ability to travel globally
  • Excellent knowledge of Microsoft Suite


Other information

  • Status: Full time – 6 months assignment – from 20.04.2020 until 06.11.2020


To apply

  • Deadline for application: accepting applications until 21 February 2020
  • Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted 
  • Application submission for this position may close early if we have enough suitable applicants