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Jaron Brown found his way to law, even though his initial motivation to practice didn’t wind up being his path. The captain of his basketball team at the University of Hartford in Connecticut during his senior year, Brown wanted to stick around the court after he graduated. It was the reign of David Falk, superagent to the stars like Michael Jordan, who made being an agent seem like the next best thing to playing in the NBA.
“I figured I would go to law school and follow in David Falk’s footsteps,” says Brown, head of legal and compliance for the Americas at Outokumpu. “I even applied to his law school and got accepted, though the tuition wasn’t possible for me to take on.”
Instead, Brown, a native of Columbus, Ohio, chose to attend Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland. During his first year in law school, Brown joined a sports entertainment law club that brought in speakers to talk about their careers. For some, guest speakers can be the impetus one needs to commit to a career. It was the same for Brown, just not in the way he anticipated.
“An agent came to speak to us and just started rattling off these horror stories,” Brown says, laughing. “He was talking about doing players’ laundry and helping them open bank accounts. It sounded like babysitting, and I knew I didn’t want that for a career.”
With little knowledge of corporate law firms and no guidance from anyone who worked in a corporate law firm, Brown began prepping for a career in corporate law. He landed a summer associate position with a firm in Cleveland for two summers during law school. Upon graduating, he joined that firm as an associate on the M&A team.
But the timing was unfortunate. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 took place less than a year before Brown started, and the M&A market had dried up almost completely. For a first-year attorney with no hours to bill, the game seemed to be up already. With no guidance from a trusted experienced lawyer, Brown had to make an important career decision on his own and adjust his path.
Luckily, there was a silver lining.
“I had to pivot from M&A temporarily and focus on securities,” the lawyer explains. “To survive in the firm, I started to work on public company matters and in particular for a public company client that was going through a very sophisticated bankruptcy proceeding. The company was acquired by its debt holders, sold to private equity, and taken private, then taken public again. In a little over two years, I got a masterclass in securities law, take private transactions, and going public transactions.
“Looking back,” he recounts, “it would have been very helpful to have had a mentor help me evaluate this change and any other options that were available at the time.”
After nearly three years with that firm, again with no guidance from a mentor, Brown decided to move to another firm to focus his practice on M&A. As luck would have it, his move paid off, as he would go on to make partner at that firm. In his eight years there, Brown took part in hands-on training of lawyers and moved into leadership roles by serving on various firm committees. Shortly after making partner, he found himself at another significant crossroad in his career: he was an all-star practitioner and enjoyed solving his clients’ problems but didn’t find selling legal services fulfilling.
Unlike in his past career moves, this time he had developed a network of experienced professionals who were personally invested in his success. He was able to lean on their advice for what his next steps should be. “I tapped the wisdom of my mentors and sponsors in making this significant step,” Brown recounts. “Without their sage advice, I could have taken a wrong turn.”
With their advice, Brown elected to leave the firm and go in-house at Novelis. This was a significant change in his career path. He now realizes how important relationships are and the positive impacts that a mentor can have on the career trajectory of a young lawyer.
“I wish I would have appreciated earlier in my career how meaningful it is to develop meaningful relationships with people are invested in you personally,” he says. “I now want to ‘pay it forward’ and pour into young lawyers to help them make wise career decisions early in their journey.”
At Novelis, Brown learned effective business partnering as an in-house lawyer. He continued to grow his leadership skills by serving as a member of the organization’s North American Diversity Council. He also founded the internal Black Employee Resource Group steering committee. Brown started focusing on personally mentoring and sponsoring young aspiring lawyers by working closely with interns in the Novelis legal department and aspiring lawyers outside of Novelis.
After eight years at Novelis, Brown found himself at another career crossroad. He had continued to grow his team of mentors and sponsors and was able to tap them again before making the decision to leave Novelis take a leadership role at Outokumpu in 2021.
“I knew I needed to continue to grow, and with the advice of my network of mentors, decided that this was the right opportunity,” Brown explains. “I wanted to get closer to the business at a company that was still growing and could benefit from the experience I’d had with a bigger organization like Novelis.”
In coming to his current role, the legal leader was immediately given the task of rebuilding the legal department within Outokumpu’s Americas operations. When examining the changes the department needed, Brown again relied on experienced general counsels in his network of mentors who had tackled this challenge successfully. “It’s comforting to know that you can tap the wisdom of individuals who have gone down the road you’re traveling and are personally invested in your success,” he says. “Coming into this role, I was able to navigate potential landmines successfully due to the sage advice of my network.”
Brown has continued to build his team at Outokumpu and improve the legal functions’ brand through effective business partnering with clients. Brown also continues to promote the next generation of legal talent. In summer 2023, he hired the first-ever legal intern for the Outokumpu Americas legal team, a minority undergraduate student who’s an aspiring lawyer.
He says fatherhood plays a significant role in how he approaches the growth and development of those around him. “There’s the idea of nobility without incentive,” Brown explains. “There’s no reason why I can’t or should not try and add value to someone else. I’ve received so much, and I want to be on the other side of it.”
That doesn’t mean Brown’s taste for competition has been extinguished. The lawyer has run five marathons, countless half marathons, and once ran forty 5Ks with his wife in one year, the result of a challenge made with a friend.
Brown is a natural leader and desires to help others achieve success. He’s grown in every step of his career and desires to continue pouring into others as a mentor and sponsor to help them grow and advance their career goals.
Someone to Represent You
As an attorney of color, Jaron Brown is determined to create more pathways for minority attorneys. He’s a panel speaker at the “Charting Your Own Course” conference, an annual career conference dedicated to helping attorneys of color advance their careers and development.
Brown also participates in the GC Nexter presented by My Brother’s Keeper, another organization dedicated to advancing the careers of attorneys of color. “I always look for opportunities to impact that next generation of talent,” he says. “It might be formal, or it might be taking some young Black lawyers out to lunch and just getting to know them and what they’re looking to do. I want to help them find sponsors and be useful to them in their own careers.”
“Jaron’s approach exemplifies how inhouse counsel can create strong partnerships with outside counsel to best serve the interests of the client. He encourages creativity and problem-solving and works with the entire team to build expertise and responsiveness.”
-Deanna Okun, ITC Sec. 337 and Trade Remedies Practice Chair
“Jaron is a critical part of the Outokumpu team; he is strategic, smart and supportive. What sets him apart is his depth of knowledge and his ability to operate across functions and bring people together.”
–John Lewis, Jr., Partner