Sam Davis: Shaping a Personal Brand and “Legal 2.0”
Before moving his career in-house to EQRx and then taking the role of general counsel for Scipher Medicine, Sam Davis pitched and created the McDermott Rise program. That spirit of solutions-focused innovation in the legal profession has formed the bedrock of his personal brand.
How did you benefit from your training at McDermott?
In addition to cultivating an overall firm brand, McDermott helps its people build their own individual brands. That gave me space to take initiative and innovate. One example of that was McDermott Rise, an idea I was able to pitch and take to execution. Nothing like it had ever been done in the legal profession, and it’s the career accomplishment that gives me the most pride.
How did you come up with the idea for McDermott Rise?
George Floyd’s murder in 2020 was a watershed moment for companies and our society, and everyone was looking for ways to contribute to a solution. Plenty were starting funds or giving to charities, but I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal about Goldman Sachs and others in the investment community dedicating efforts to finding and funding Black entrepreneurs and company founders.
That inspired me to think about a similar model in the legal industry, offering our services to help set Black-owned businesses up for success. To see the companies that have gone through the Rise incubation process, receiving funding and experiencing tremendous success, is amazing.
Where has your post-McDermott career path taken you?
I’m a life sciences and transactional lawyer, and there’s a huge demand for us in the Boston biotech scene. I had recently joined McDermott when the pandemic hit and deals slowed down, and I reached out to my network to generate opportunities. A venture capitalist contact introduced me to EQRx, an exciting new company that was described to me as the “Amazon of pharma.” I went into the meeting thinking it was a pitch for new business, and it turned into a job interview.
Joining EQRx as vice president of legal affairs seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help build an innovative organization, and it was a shorter journey than I envisioned. They generated so much attention and raised so much money that they ended up having to go public quickly, within a year after I joined.
I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be general counsel of a public company, and around that time, I heard from another contact—the CEO of Scipher Medicine, where I currently work as general counsel. I helped EQRx get through a $500 million Series B raise and took them through the SPAC process last summer, and I joined Scipher in September 2021.
Are there any McDermott relationships that continue to support you?
The different types of transactions I was exposed to at McDermott were helpful to me going in-house. Since leaving, I’ve turned to subject matter experts for support: Michelle Strowhiro has done a great job navigating the pandemic-related chaos of constantly evolving employee policies and mandates. And Tina Martini did an incredible job working with me on EQRx’s trademark approach. I also talk with Harris Siskind from time to time. He and Ira Coleman provided tremendous support for the McDermott Rise initiative.
Is there an accomplishment or initiative you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of?
Outside of my company, I’m deeply embedded in a working group called BIIG, which brings together people from venture capital firms and venture-backed biotech companies to develop diversity best practices and toolkits.
At Scipher, I’m also working on an initiative we call “Legal 2.0,” which is the next step in a process I began with EQRx: building the legal department of the future and re-engineering every facet of the legal process to create a frictionless, modern and streamlined system.
When I joined EQRx, I started identifying inefficiencies in standard contracting processes and working to modernize them. For example, in documents, we moved away from legalese jargon to plain English. Our mission was to improve efficiency, speed up negotiations and reflect the company’s identity as an innovative force. Starting with the NDA, it was well received and eventually transformed all agreements and processes, cut down on legal costs and created more collaborative negotiations.