Marcus V. Brown
The Big Easy Does It
Marcus V. Brown
As a law student in the mid-1980s, Marcus V. Brown, now associate general counsel for Entergy Services, Inc., had intended to spend only the summer in New Orleans while he clerked at a big law firm. He was prepared to work hard during those months while also having a good time in the historic southern port before moving on to New York City or the West Coast to pursue his legal career. Two decades later and still in New Orleans, Brown, an Air Force brat not unfamiliar with frequent moves, happily allows that fate had other plans for him.
Since 1995, Brown has litigated for Entergy, a multibillion-dollar corporation that delivers electricity to 2.7 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Today, in his current leadership position, Brown heads Entergy’s property and casualty litigation group—an enormous practice at any utility—in addition to managing a significant amount of commercial litigation. Prior to joining Entergy, Brown was a general commercial litigator with New Orleans firm Stone Pigman Walther Wittman LLC for seven years.
“In 1986, I was the first African American law student from the historically black Southern University Law Center hired to clerk at Stone Pigman, or any large mainstream New Orleans firm, for that matter,” says Brown. “Others before me were equally prepared but, I guess, the time was right—on paper I had all the right stuff, and Stone gave me the opportunity.” After completing law school and meeting his wife (also an attorney) while studying for the bar, Brown accepted an offer to become one of only two black lawyers at the sizable firm.
“When you’re in a firm, there’s a pecking order… There’s a required timetable that dictates when you’re allowed to do certain things. To me, that timetable was artificial… I felt I was ready to try cases, and at Entergy I was given that opportunity within three or four months.”
“A lack of diversity is not what prompted me to leave Stone Pigman and go in-house at Entergy. I enjoyed my years there, but the opportunity to do what I’m doing now was more attractive,” says Brown. “When you’re in a firm, there’s a pecking order. I don’t care how good you are, there’s a required timetable that dictates when you’re allowed to do certain things. To me, that timetable was artificial, and rather than just researching and writing briefs, I felt I was ready to try cases and at Entergy I was given that opportunity within three or four months.”
Although the work at Entergy is ordinarily challenging and rewarding, Brown reflects upon one of the most significant challenges he has ever faced. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in late summer of 2005, Brown was ordered out of his office with little notice. The storm caused more than $1 billion in damage to Entergy’s utility system and shut down its New Orleans headquarters, splintering the 75-lawyer legal department. Brown and six other attorneys, along with some staff, set up temporary offices in Houston. He spent much of the following year negotiating with insurers in far-flung locales like Switzerland, England, Scotland, and Bermuda in an attempt to resolve claims.
“After Katrina, there just wasn’t time to dwell on disaster,” recalls Brown. “Between rebuilding Entergy’s Louisiana utility and trying to lead what resembled a normal family life far from home with the kids in a new school, it was a hectic period. Fortunately for us, after a year, we were able to return to our home in New Orleans.”
Looking forward, Brown, who also holds an MBA from Tulane University, sees himself as head of a corporate legal department or business division within a corporation. “My job is to be prepared for the next step,” says Brown. “I’m always working to enhance my skill set, but I’ll have to wait and see what the future brings.” DB
Patrick Folliard is a freelance writer based in Silver Spring, Md.
From the May/June 2008 issue of Diversity & The Bar®