Reflection by Zachary Alridge: Birchbox General Counsel, Courtney Browne
I’ve found the experience to be exactly what I hoped it would be when I applied; the program has been something of a survey look at the lives of professionals in law, a vantage point that has boosted my interest in pursuing a career in the field after college. Each week we meet someone who informs us, very candidly and openly, about their professions, their education and their lifestyles, and these meetings have been elucidating and, above all, reassuring — no, you don’t have to know what you’ll do with your post-undergraduate life, and yes, a job in law can be satisfying on many different levels, from community activism to monthly makeup packages. Where does makeup come in? This past week we met Courtney Browne, General Counsel for Birchbox, where she discussed her legal responsibilities at the makeup company which usually involve matters of intellectual property and reviewing trade deals, to name two. More interesting to me, however, was the path that brought her to where she is today; in a sort of go-with-the-flow, freeform trajectory, she studied Economics, Spanish and Art History at Vanderbilt, worked in finance briefly in Cincinnati, graduated from Columbia Law School, worked in corporate law and now at Birchbox. Her story is somewhat similar to others’ whom we’ve met, but it was no less inspiring that her path has been forged by herself alone and that her work has only gotten better. And even though she enjoys her job now, Browne had no reservations about taking her life and career to another arena if and when she were to decide to. For undergraduates at Columbia, where the student body is, in my opinion, plagued with doubt and insecurity over how one’s working life and salary will satisfy, Browne’s confidence in career variability (if it could even be called that) is all but miraculous. She has always done, more or less, what she wanted to do and she intends to keep things that way. And everything else is immaterial.
Zachary is a third-year student in Columbia College, majoring in Middle Eastern Studies though he has a variety of interests that span fields such as literature, Buddhism and others. An active member in Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine since his first year, Zachary spends a great deal of time organizing on campus around Palestinian human rights and the divestment of Columbia's endowment from companies that profit from the system of apartheid in Israel/Palestine. He is primarily interested in public sector law, in particular immigration law, though he hopes to learn about any and all aspects of the field of law, most of which he knows little about.