Bryan Warner – ELP Spotlight

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this field?
I help people buy and sell companies. I’m a mergers and acquisitions lawyer at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP in New York, currently seconded to Google in Mountain View. My path to becoming a lawyer was a simple one – I followed my brother, Andre Warner, a lawyer with New York Life Insurance. I stumbled into M&A – I always thought I’d be a white-collar criminal defense lawyer – but I enjoy M&A because l like counseling and being helpful to others during a time of significant change or adversity.

What is the biggest challenge of your work?
I find that, above all, there are two very difficult challenges in my work. One challenging aspect of practicing M&A is also one of the most rewarding – dealing and negotiating with people and their varied personalities. M&A tends to attract people with a theatrical bent. I enjoy the theatre and the gamesmanship, but I also enjoy being a consensus builder, problem solving and driving people towards a compromise.

Another challenging, and sometimes terrifying, aspect of practicing M&A is being comfortable with and working through the unknown. Clients ask very difficult questions every day, some for which there is a readily identifiable answer and others for which the answer is less certain. Working through problems with no clear answers can be very difficult and challenging, but also an opportunity for me as the lawyer to be thoughtful and deliver creative solutions to my clients.

What is your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement as a lawyer was successfully representing a Belarusian political and religious refugee in a cancellation of removal proceeding. If he had been deported, he most certainly would have been subjected to harassment and discrimination and possibly worse. That experience was very rewarding both personally and professionally.

What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most?
Outside of family members and friends, currently, I very much admire the leadership and sacrifice of Geoffrey Canada and the creativity and vision of Elon Musk.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

The truth is I’m not sure, but the picture is coming together. If I’m not practicing law, I want to be building a business that creates opportunities for people of color and underserved communities. I see opportunities in the healthcare and education sectors where businesses can be very disruptive and profitable, but also have a positive societal impact.

How has your participation with the Executive Leadership Program impacted the way you approach your day-to-day role?

Each day I think much more carefully about the personalities and desires of my team members, managers, clients and adversaries, including what drives and motivates them. During negotiations, for example, I think carefully about the personalities of my adversaries in crafting a deal strategy and charting a path to a consensus. As those habits have become more ingrained, the rewards I’ve derived from those relationships have been more meaningful and the relationships more successful.