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Alumni Short

Brendan Burns J.D./M.B.A. '12

Carrying a Legacy, Making an Impact

Ithaca, NEW YORK, June 26, 2012
When Cornell Law School and the Johnson Graduate School of Business Management launched a three-year J.D./M.B.A. program in 2010, Brendan Burns J.D./M.B.A. ’12 was one of only five students selected for the inaugural class. With internships at the New York Yankees and UBS Investment Bank under his belt, Burns had just earned his B.S. in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell.

“Based on my undergraduate coursework and work experience, I knew that I wanted to pursue a business career,” he says. “I also knew, however, that I wanted to study law and use that discipline in my career. This largely came from noting how many top business figures had legal backgrounds.” Burns was thrilled to learn that he had been accepted into the new, accelerated joint-degree program.

Even as he helped to break new ground, however, he was also following in family footsteps. Father Douglas T. Burns ’83 and grandfather Arnold I. Burns ’53 “always raved about their great experiences” at Cornell Law.

“I remember walking down the Law Review hallway after I had just been accepted to the Law School and looking at some old photographs,” Burns says. “I came across the group picture of the 1953 Cornell Law Quarterly and saw my grandfather sitting in the front row. That really had an impact on me, as I realized that I was carrying on a third generation legacy at Cornell Law School.”

A current Cornell Law figure who came to have a great impact on Burns as his studies progressed was Professor Charles K. Whitehead. Burns was in the first class to take Whitehead’s Transactional Lawyering Course and to participate in its culminating competition, which is the only intramural event of its kind in the country. Whitehead’s Business Organization and Securities Regulation courses prepared Burns for a summer associate position at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in 2011. “Like everyone on the Law School faculty, Professor Whitehead puts tremendous effort into his teaching, and his commitment to introducing more transactional and corporate law courses was a perfect fit for me as a student,” says Burns.

He found that his law and business studies complemented each other aptly. “Courses such as Income Taxation of Corporate Mergers and Acquisitions and International Mergers and Acquisitions meshed well with my courses in the Johnson School, providing… an invaluable perspective in terms of seeing business transactions through both a business and legal lens.”

Burns will likely be seeing plenty of transactions starting this August, when he joins the New York City office of Lazard Frères & Co. He will work as an associate in the firm’s Restructuring Group, which advises financially distressed companies.

True to form, Burns is excited about the job particularly because of its position “at the intersection of business and law. Restructuring bankers operate within the framework of the Bankruptcy Code and work closely with lawyers to develop unique solutions for their clients.” Also appealing is the complexity of restructuring deals: “A good resolution typically requires creativity and collaboration not only between the company and its creditors, but also among the different creditors and other involved parties.”

And, of course, this third-generation Cornell Law student and inaugural-class joint-degree scholar is excited to contribute to bigger things. Noting Lazard’s engagements with Eastman Kodak, American Airlines, and even the government of Greece, Burns observes, “The current landscape presents many opportunities to advise companies and governments with enormous impacts on our global economy.”