She’s the senior legal counsel of litigation and employment for the most popular energy drink brand on the planet, but there was a time when Kim Brooks rebelled against the very idea of becoming a lawyer.
Growing up, Brooks demonstrated both the personality and the aptitude to practice law. She remembers family members suggesting the legal field as a career. That was part of the problem. “I hate being told what to do,” Brooks says. “And I used to think that the practice of law was stiff and boring.”
There was another problem. Brooks, who is of mixed-race heritage, lacked role models. Nobody on either side of her family worked in law and she had never interacted with female or minority attorneys. And her sleepy hometown only gave her one example of what a lawyer might look like: a gruff neighbor she describes as “scary.”
So Brooks did what any good adventurer would do—she ran in the opposite direction and studied communications and Spanish at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). First, she accepted internships in marketing and public relations, but an advertisement in UCLA’s campus newspaper, the Daily Bruin, caught her eye. A Beverly Hills law firm needed a legal assistant and they were willing to pay more than minimum wage. Brooks applied and got the job. Little did she know that it would change her life and set her on a new path.
The job was for a solo practitioner, who Brooks describes as an “effortlessly glamorous, funny, and charming lawyer.” The skilled, kind, and confident woman, who also was of a minority background, became Brooks’s first role model in the legal field. The attorney mentored Brooks, invited her to important meetings, gave her meaningful work, and showed her that lawyers can make an impact and have fun at the same time. Perhaps best of all, Brooks felt comfortable expressing herself and proudly commuted to work on her pink moped.
After five years at law firms, first in San Diego at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP and then in Beverly Hills at Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP, Brooks was ready to make the leap to an in-house role. Her dream was to join a company with an established legal team and a diverse workforce, one that would welcome her outside interests and passions, like travel and live music. She found the perfect match in Red Bull and joined the organization in early 2021.
Working for the energy drink company has been a refreshing change of pace for Brooks. “People know Red Bull for our flagship product, but we have a broad workforce and various business lines, and that brings exciting opportunities to an attorney in the employment space,” she explains.
Today, Brooks provides on-call daily support to Red Bull’s HR teams as her colleagues look to her for guidance on employee relations, management of employment claims, and oversight of workplace investigations. She is also responsible for reviewing and updating various employee-facing policies and training materials. She looks to customize her approach based on each internal audience and always diligently stays updated on emerging trends and topics in employment law.
When it comes to issue spotting, being based on the West Coast has its benefits. “Living and working in California is like looking into a legal crystal ball because the state is a leader in pro-employee laws and protections,” says Brooks.
Brooks has settled in nicely at Red Bull and says she appreciates the company’s strong culture and welcoming environment. She makes the most of holidays and paid time off by fueling her passion for international travel. This year, she’s managed to travel to Costa Rica, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, among other closer-to-home destinations.
Brooks has stayed true to herself while forging her own path in the legal field, and she advises others to do the same. “Law students and new lawyers often choose practice areas that sound good or that they think will offer high pay, but they forget to think about what truly makes them excited,” she says. “When you tune into what you’re really interested in doing, the work is more enjoyable and your work product is ultimately better.”
Although Brooks once tried all she could to pursue another path, she is now flourishing as Red Bull’s senior counsel in litigation and employment. Red Bull, a company that “gives you wiiings,” has helped Kim Brooks soar to new heights.
“Kim is a bold and strategic thinker. Her strengths are perfectly suited to her role as an in-house legal department leader. Kim’s contributions to Red Bull have been immense and partnering with her as Red Bull’s outside counsel is truly a pleasure.”
–Ashley Farrell Pickett, Shareholder