Sonya: When did you first realize that you wanted to become an attorney? What first drew you to a career as an attorney? What do you enjoy most about your career now?
Brian: I wanted to be a lawyer since I was 9 years old. I don’t have any clue why that was so. I had no lawyers in my family or family circles, so I had no archetype from which to draw upon. Perhaps, it was because my teachers told me that I would make a great lawyer as I was most convincing when I tried to talk my way out of trouble.
Reading about Thurgood Marshall’s and the NAACP legal defense fund’s heroic efforts in the Civil Rights movement provided the motivation and audacity to dream of being able to effect meaningful change as a lawyer.
The road to GC has been long and not without its challenges. However, I’ve learned so much through the years about professionalism, leadership, sponsorship and mentorship. What I enjoy most is helping others realize their career potential. I mentor many lawyers and non-lawyers. When I see my mentees succeed, it really means the world to me.
Sonya: Have there been specific people (real or fictional) or pivotal situations/events that have inspired you, helped shape your career?
Brian: Absolutely! In my early/formative legal years, I had a named partner take me under his wing, teach me, mentor me and nurture me. In my later years, I have been blessed to have giants in our legal community as my boss, mentor and co-pilots. In this profession, you need to be able to call upon other more seasoned GCs to tap into their experiences and wisdom. I am fortunate to have two former GC bosses and non-lawyer C-Suite executives whom I call upon regularly for advice, counsel and spiritual guidance.
I have at least one major experience that shaped my career. As a newly minted partner, my firm closed and went through bankruptcy proceedings. I saw first-hand the good and bad of individuals in times of crisis. Sadly, people whom I believed were men and women of integrity demonstrated the opposite. I saw lawyers completely devastated emotionally and panicked because they were ill-prepared to survive on their own talents. Furthermore, I saw non-lawyer staff perform their jobs with grace even though their financial wherewithal was in jeopardy and employment options were less attractive than the lawyers whose malfeasance caused the firm’s collapse.
From that experience, I’ve learned that resolve isn’t something that I was born with; it’s what I gained riding through tough times and staying faithful and focused. That resolve helped me endure the ups and downs of a legal career and to push against the odds to reach my goal of becoming a public company GC.
Sonya: Are there particular traits that you believe successful attorneys share? Traits that you believe you have yourself and which you look for in hiring outside and in-house counsel? How about common traits you’ve observed in other successful GCs?
Brian: Integrity, candor and humility. I try to demonstrate those traits in leading my teams; hiring in and outside counsel.
Sonya: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of? What would you like your legacy to be in your company/law department? In the legal profession?
Brian: I am most proud of the many lawyers and non-lawyers whom I have had the privilege of mentoring and sponsoring. To provide meaningful professional and personal counsel to someone and to stand witness to their growth and success is truly rewarding.
I hope my legacy in my company is that I stood for positive change, growth and development of people and fairness. I think that legacy would be good enough for the legal profession too.
Sonya: Have you had mentors/sponsors? Have you acted as a mentor/sponsor to others? Is mentorship/sponsorship important? How? Why?
Brian: I have had both mentors and sponsors throughout my career. In order to succeed and do well I think you need both. A mentor is someone who can answer questions that you don’t feel comfortable asking anyone else for fear that you will be judged. A sponsor is critical to your success as this person is your advocate and vocal supporter who can help you get recognition for your achievements as you pursue your career goals – whether it be to make partner, or advance within your in-house corporate department.