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?
Brandon: I had a great opportunity to work with the General Counsel of an insurance division during a summer Finance internship with a large bank. I found it fascinating that he had such a significant amount of influence on a number of areas in the organization. In his role, he had a seat at the table on nearly all major matters – and this lined up well with my own ambitions, as I was eager to help solve diverse problems and drive profitable growth at a corporation.
Similarly, this is one of the best parts of my job today. I find it highly rewarding to be able to get involved in so many facets of Tenneco’s business. It is truly a dynamic global enterprise – with no shortage of complex challenges.
Sonya: Have there been specific people (real or fictional) or pivotal situations/events that have inspired you, helped shape your career?
Brandon: I have always been inspired by people who are successful in business – yet also make significant contributions to their country, their community and their families. This type of balance seems harder to achieve with each passing year – however, I have had the good fortune to have been associated with a number of talented mentors that set a high bar to reach for. Kevin Morris and Scott Falk, both of whom sadly passed away recently – were two people that did this best at my former law firm – and they certainly influenced the way that I view being successful as an attorney, as a citizen and as a father.
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?
Brandon: This is a great question. A common trait that I see in many successful attorneys is the ability to take complex issues and explain them with simplicity. As Albert Einstein once famously said: “If you cannot explain it simply, you do not understand it well enough”. Having the ability to confidently, competently and concisely advise your management team and your Board is usually a good recipe for a successful outcome.
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?
Brandon: Throughout my years as an attorney there have been a number of occasions that I will continue to look back fondly upon, including helping our company navigate through the 2008 financial crisis and then transforming our business with the acquisition of Federal-Mogul – which roughly doubled our revenues and nearly tripled our number of employees worldwide.
Notwithstanding those outcomes, I am most proud of the legal team that we have built at Tenneco. It is a team that impresses me every day with its dynamism and ability to adapt. Perhaps most importantly, it is a team that has earned the respect of the business units that we support – as each of our team members come to work with the mindset of a business person who happens to be an attorney, not just an attorney who happens to be working in a business. Because of the respect that our team has earned, it has created many opportunities for our team members to significantly advance their careers.
Helping to create an environment where my colleagues can achieve their career aspirations, while simultaneously fostering compliant and profitable growth for the Company’s bottom line – will always be something that I am quite proud of.
Sonya: Have you had mentors/sponsors? Have you acted as a mentor/sponsor to others? Is mentorship/sponsorship important? How? Why?
Brandon: Having great mentors is, in my opinion, an essential part of one’s career path. As I mentioned previously, I have had the good fortune to have been associated with many incredible mentors, including Scott Falk and Kevin Morris, as well as two of Tenneco’s CEO’s, Gregg Sherrill and Brian Kesseler – both of whom had taken an interest in my career long before I rose to the level of Tenneco’s General Counsel. Similarly, I encourage all of our attorneys to seek out mentors (and we have an informal practice at Tenneco to help facilitate that).
I have served as a mentor to a number of very promising young attorneys, both through my former law firm, as well as through my alma matter. It is by far one of the most rewarding experiences that I have known professionally. Most recently, I began serving as a mentor to an exceptional lawyer through AdvancedLaw’s diversity and inclusion initiative. If you are not yet familiar with the program, I highly encourage you to reach out to them – as they are creating an excellent program that will benefit many young men and women greatly.
Sonya: Think about the legal profession over the course of the next ten years. What do you see as the big changes that are coming which you believe will most significantly impact the profession and the role of the GC/in-house legal department?
Brandon: This is indeed a very timely question. Certainly, technology will continue to play a major role in evolving the way that we consume and deliver legal services for our companies. Notwithstanding the enormity of the changes that these advancements will bring, I suspect that the changes brought on by our global experiences with the Coronavirus will also impact the legal profession significantly. Not only will we be far more mobile (which should expand our ability to hire professionals from communities that, perhaps at one time, seemed too distant from our home offices) – but I firmly believe that we will also emerge from this situation with a renewed sense of what is possible.
To this day, I am still amazed at how quickly our company was able to shift from making industrial transportation equipment – to manufacturing components for hospital grade ventilators. Similarly, our Law Department professionals rapidly expanded their skillsets to provide legal advice on topics that had at one time been reserved for specialty outside counsel – all while doing so remotely, which met the speed and cost constraints that our business urgently needed.
Each of these events reminded me, with the subtlety of a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, that our potential for achievement is without limits when we let go of what we are all trained to think is impossible – and challenge ourselves to create what “should” come next. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “the best way to predict the future, is to create it”.