Robin Dunson has always been fascinated by business—in fact, becoming a lawyer wasn’t a part of her original plan. But she discovered the many possibilities that a law career can offer, and as the assistant vice president and associate general counsel of Cox Enterprises, she’s found a position that combines her passion for both business and law.
As an accounting major at Bradley University, Dunson was interested in pursuing in a career in banking and spent a few summers interning with Northern Trust Bank in Chicago. At one point during her internship, she was given the opportunity to work with the bank’s legal department—and it changed the trajectory of her career.
“It was like a light bulb went off. I knew lawyers litigated criminal and civil cases in court. However, I did not know much about business transactional law,” Dunson says. From there, she took a business law class and decided that a career in corporate law was the right path for her.
After she completed her degree at Bradley, Dunson moved onto Harvard Law School, where she graduated with a position at a corporate law firm in Atlanta. Next, her interest in the emerging telecommunications space led her to an in-house role with AT&T in New Jersey, where she quickly found a new passion.
“I was first exposed to being a marketing lawyer when I was hired at AT&T to provide legal support to their residential consumer business unit,” she says. “I worked with AT&T’s marketing teams when there was a lot of competition between the local and long-distance telephone companies, and that is when I really started learning the telecommunications business.”
After working at AT&T for five years and SBC/Ameritech for three years, Dunson made the switch to Cox Communications, a privately owned subsidiary of Cox Enterprises that offers cable television, telecommunications services, and home automation. At Cox Communications, she worked as legal counsel for the marketing and residential sales divisions, building off the skills she acquired at AT&T.
Then, after nearly eighteen years with Cox Communications, Dunson was given an opportunity to move up to Cox Enterprises—one that she couldn’t turn down. “I knew that at Cox Enterprises, I would be in a better position to enable the company to achieve its strategic goals by collaborating throughout the enterprise with Cox Communications and Cox Automotive, and supporting Cox Enterprises’ new growth areas,” Dunson says.
Dunson has now been with Cox Enterprises for nearly three years, and knows that the move was the right one for her. She’s grateful for the opportunities she’s had at the company, and appreciates the breadth of her responsibilities—no two days are exactly the same. In fact, despite specializing primarily in the telecommunications space, she now handles Cox’s new e-sports legal matters, real estate, sustainability initiatives, and aviation, just to name a few. She has also recently had the chance to work on the sponsorship deal for the NFL Raiders’ move to Las Vegas, one of Cox Communications’ largest markets.
Dunson’s work with Cox Enterprises has allowed her to keep growing and learning about various aspects of both business and law; part of that process is ensuring that the business teams at Cox are keeping legal protocol in mind. As an in-house attorney, it is her responsibility to educate her business colleagues about the potential legal risks involved in their business deals and purchases that are hidden in contract language—not always an easy task.
“Most people want to do the right thing. The pressure of getting things done fast oftentimes collides with the time it takes to negotiate the allocation of risk in contracts. It is important to constantly educate your business clients on the value of doing this work on the front end when you have the most leverage,” Dunson says. “To be a good legal partner, it is equally important to find creative solutions to roadblocks on getting a deal done that produces the most benefit for the company.”
Despite these challenges, she’s grateful not only for her role at Cox Enterprises but also for the company’s culture. Cox is a very employee-focused company that seeks to provide a “best-in-class” employee experience, Dunson says, which allows her to feel fully supported on a day-to-day basis.
Dunson is a single mother, and she says she knows that not all companies in corporate America are as committed to their employees and work/life balance as Cox. “Cox afforded me the opportunity to have a successful, satisfying career and still be a good, hands-on parent. I was able to attend my son’s sports games and be active in the PTA. I never felt that my career suffered because of my personal life.”
Both as an in-house attorney and as a single mother, Dunson has learned a lot over the course of her career, and she has some advice for those pursuing a similar path.
“Pursue your goals. Be open and honest,” Dunson says. “Sometimes single mothers are concerned about sharing some of our personal challenges. Remember, everyone has challenges; that’s part of life. People are a lot more supportive than we give them credit for, and it is important to help people relate to what your life journey is like—no matter what your journey may be.”