Nicole Brunson is always going to bet on herself. It’s what she’s been doing since she started her legal career, and she’s certainly not going to stop now.
Brunson was working at Indiana University as a marketing and program specialist when she saw that a practice LSAT was being offered in her town. “I was watching shows like The Practice at the time,” Brunson recalls. “And I was having all these flashes of realization that I could and should go to law school, so I just took the test cold turkey.”
Despite her lack of preparation, Brunson did so well on the practice LSAT that she decided to take the real exam—but with a caveat. “I told myself that if I did equally well or better on the real test as I did on the practice, then I had to apply to law school,” Brunson says, laughing. “And I’m a woman of my word, so when I scored even higher on the official LSAT without any serious studying, I started applying to schools.”
Even then, Brunson continued to make deals with herself. She resolved that she would only attend law school if she received a scholarship supported by the Indiana Supreme Court. When she showed up for her first day at Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana, and was asked why she had decided to go to law school, she laughed and said that she was there because she had lost a bet.
“Don’t be afraid to try something different or new,” Brunson advises. “It’s not a failure if you’ve given your best, although oftentimes people fail because they don’t give their best.”
Of course, Brunson also had a serious answer for why she was going to law school. After majoring in biochemistry at Xavier University of Louisiana and obtaining an MBA from Christian Brothers University, Brunson was looking for a career that would help her synthesize her diverse experiences, skills, and technical background into a single area in which she could make an impact without being restricted or held back by preconceived expectations.
Now, as associate general counsel of litigation at the industrial manufacturing company Ingersoll Rand, Brunson has considerable latitude in making the impact she was looking for. “I am here to do good,” Brunson asserts. “For me, that means that everything—everyone I encounter, everything I touch—should be better than how I found them.”
Brunson believes that she has an obligation to do good partly because she has had so many opportunities and responsibilities. On top of managing commercial disputes, product liability, personal injury, and motor vehicle accident cases at Ingersoll Rand, Brunson has been nominated to participate in the company’s advanced leadership program, women’s leadership program, and executive leadership program as well as its first black leader forum.
“Don’t be afraid to try something different or new. It’s not a failure if you’ve given your best, although oftentimes people fail because they don’t give their best.”
Because of these programs, Brunson says, her life has changed. Her executive leadership program experiences have been transformative, she explains, because they gave her a chance to be immersed in the culture of a city like Shanghai while collaborating with and learning from other leaders of every background imaginable. These programs provide opportunities to engage with the Ingersoll Rand CEO and other executive leaders who ask what the company can do better and how they can help employees get what they need. When it comes to such questions, Brunson and others in these programs can provide real, actionable answers.
As Brunson sees it, participating in these programs is not just about perfecting the company’s leaders or culture. It’s also in keeping with her philosophy of leaving things better than she found them. Taking lessons learned from these programs, she is instituting small improvements in her work stream and leadership style to ease the way for those coming up close behind her.
“I want to add value wherever I am,” Brunson says. “It’s important to help other people realize that your gender or ethnicity doesn’t dictate the value that you can bring, and it certainly shouldn’t stop you from believing that you can make an impact as well as add value. People are valuable based on their skills and experiences and their willingness to give.”
Motivated by these opportunities, programs, and initiatives, Brunson continues to bet on herself and invest in her career as well as what she can provide to others. At a recent black leader forum, for example, she spoke with a nonprofit CEO about an important conference taking place later in the year. Galvanized by this conversation, she went to her general counsel and asked to be able to attend.
He said yes.
Hall & Evans:
“Hall & Evans is proud to have the pleasure of working with Nicole. We enjoy her charisma and appreciate her insight and knowledge. Nicole is a talented speaker who strives to make the world better.”
–Steven M. Hamilton, Member and Gary L. Kuhn, Special Counsel