Corporate Governance General Counsel
As Corporate Governance General Counsel, Helen Brown advises Bank OZK’s executives and board of directors on strategic matters, capital-raising initiatives, corporate governance and regulatory matters. The bank has completed 15 mergers since 2010, six under Helen’s leadership. She joined Bank OZK in 2013, after more than a decade at Bass, Berry & Sims, where she had been an attorney since 2002. Helen worked out of the firm’s Memphis office handling sophisticated transactions and helping public companies raise capital. Helen initially came to Bass, Berry & Sims during the summer associate program and then as a full time associate after acquiring her J.D. from the University of Arkansas, where she graduated summa cum laude in 2002. Helen earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1999, cum laude.
What is the best and/or most rewarding part of your role?
While I enjoy counseling the Bank on legal matters, as in-house counsel I also get to play a more strategic role in the decisions being made. When I first joined the Bank in November 2013, we had approximately $4.7 billion in assets and by July 2017 we had grown to over $20 billion in assets. I think it is rewarding to have an ownership stake in the success and future of this organization. I am proud that I have been able to use my skill set to help enable Bank OZK to achieve such significant success and hope to continue to do so.
What advice do you have for attorneys interested in having a career like yours?
Obviously your legal experience and skills are typically how you get a good in-house counsel job, but I believe your business insight will set you up to thrive in that position. To be truly successful as an in-house counsel, you have to balance your basic role as a lawyer with your larger role as a business executive. Take advantage of the talented lawyers you work with at Bass, Berry & Sims to learn as much as you can (from both the legal perspective and from the counsel they provide to clients on business strategy). Not only can you learn a lot from more experienced lawyers, it is always helpful to have someone that can serve as your advocate within your firm or business. I could not have reached the position that I am in now without the help of the mentors I had at Bass, Berry & Sims and I continue to rely on much of the advice that I was given as a young lawyer.
How did your time at Bass, Berry & Sims prepare you for your role?
When I first decided to leave private practice I thought one of the benefits was that I didn’t have to spend so much time and energy on business development because I could just focus on the one “client.” I quickly learned that working in-house is more akin to working for several internal clients and to succeed you have to gain the trust and confidence with all of them. While at Bass, Berry & Sims I was constantly interacting with different practice groups, whether to get advice or assist them with a particular project. In part, these interactions helped me learn how to market myself internally within an organization. When you help other practice groups achieve their goals, those groups will remember and become a good referral source. The same theory applies with in-house legal work. As your circle of influence expands within an organization, you become more of a valued contributor to the business and its growth.
What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Beaver Creek, Colorado (any time of the year)
What’s on your music playlist?
I’m a little addicted to Spotify and making my own playlists for different events (I even have a Halloween playlist). I like to mix it up and include all different genres from Beastie Boys to The Lumineers.
What was your first job?
I used to be a camp counselor at a sailing camp in North Carolina during the summers (started when I was 16). I think I would have done that forever if my parents didn’t force me to get a “real job!”