Michael Burns’ path to doing the job for a Fortune 500 organization was a winding one, and probably wouldn’t have occurred if it weren’t for a big flip taken near the finish of his Wabash profession. 

Q&A with Michael Burns ’98 Biology Major Turned Attorney

Like many college students, the 1998 graduate arrived to the Higher education thinking he had his occupation strategies figured out. Even while his father is a lawyer, Burns was decided to become a doctor and majored in biology.

Immediately after finding out overseas in Australia for the duration of the next semester of his junior calendar year, Burns started questioning if signing up for the clinical subject was what he actually required to do. Graduation was receiving nearer, and the stress of uncertainty was setting up.  

Thanks to a bit of encouragement from his mom, Burns bought to the place he is now, main a broad group of legal professionals and enterprise specialists as the vice president and normal counsel at CSX, a single of the nation’s main rail-centered transportation organizations, headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida.

Burns is accountable for the company’s lawful, company secretary, possibility administration, freight claims, and environmental and hazmat capabilities. He started his vocation at CSX in 2006, has held positions of expanding accountability throughout, and is a graduate of the Government Growth Application at the Harvard Enterprise Faculty.   

“I hope my tale will assist other current and former Wabash learners comprehend that for lots of, the long run is not a straight path that can be prepared out wholly,” stated the Fort Wayne, Indiana, native. “My route as a biology major turned regulation university student at the 11th hour of my Wabash profession was scary at the time, but turned out to be a single of the most effective choices I have built. I glance back now with a sigh of aid.”

Q: What drew you to initially research biology? When did the switch to regulation materialize?

Due to the fact my early teenage yrs, I was persuaded I wanted to be a doctor. Coming to Wabash, I understood that majoring in biology was the route I necessary to comply with to come to be a physician. Of program, I swiftly located out that being a biology main would not be an simple path, but I had designed a system and was sticking to it.

“My grandfather was a Class of 1939 Wabash alumnus and ultimately became vice president and treasurer of Lincoln National Life Insurance. My great-grandfather was an engineer for the Wabash Railroad during the 1930s,” Burns said. Pictured is Burns’ great-grandfather in front of his locomotive.

That out of the blue modified when I studied overseas at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. In advance of my excursion, I definitely started off doubting my final decision to examine biology and pursue a career in drugs, and I felt trapped in the path that I had taken. Making issues worse, as the route became extra complicated, it became clearer each individual semester that I was not a strong biology student. I was surrounded by many biology colleagues, together with fraternity brothers at Phi Gamma Delta, who have been excelling. It was annoying and my prepare was unraveling with what I felt was little time left to pivot.

When I arrived back again from Australia, I imagined about choices: perhaps a masters in bioethics, possibly just find a position to get some working experience and then go again to university. I did not have a plan and graduation was fewer than a calendar year absent. One night I was on the mobile phone with my mom. Sensing my stress and anxiety and reminding me that I was only 22 many years previous, she reported, ‘Why never you just choose the LSAT (Regulation School Admission Exam)?’ I resolved to do it so I could have that in my back again pocket in case I desired it. I figured with a legislation degree, very similar to a Wabash degree, my possibilities for a vocation in a lot of different fields would be large open up. I now experienced a strategy.

Q: You took the LSAT your senior 12 months even though majoring in biology and minoring in heritage. How did you put together for the examination?

It was definitely hard balancing a biology important and learning for the LSAT. At that position, most of my biology classmates had been heading to clinical university or other post-graduate operate in a biology or chemistry-relevant discipline. I may have been the only a single who was taking a wholly distinctive path.

Right after taking (and passing) the LSAT, I felt like I was heading in the appropriate path, or at least experienced a strategy for the upcoming couple decades. Seeking back again, this was the first time that I certainly recognized the benefit of my Wabash instruction and the selection of issues it well prepared me to manage.

Q: You are a 2001 IU Robert H. McKinney Faculty of Regulation graduate, and have been with CSX now for 16 several years. What classes have you acquired from your path as a Wabash undergraduate to the place you are now?

In the course of my pretty much five several years practicing law in Fort Wayne and even my first several a long time with CSX, I always imagined that I necessary to have the solution or my consumers or company companions would assume I was not a great law firm. Even though I certainly wanted to master several regions of the legislation as I progressed in my job, I acquired that it isn’t an intensive awareness of the law that will make you an powerful lawyer.

Shown is Burns’ great-grandfathers watch. His family influenced his decision to attend the College and work today for CSX Transportation.

Your capability to converse well and do the job collaboratively with your clients, enterprise partners, and colleagues is what sets you aside from some others. Getting sturdy conversation and interpersonal abilities, along with solid emotional intelligence, are a lot more essential skills than simply just discovering as a lot as you can about any particular spot of legislation. 

It’s Alright to inform your client or business associate “I really don’t know the answer, but I’ll aid you determine it out.” I inform students and younger legal professionals all the time that you know you are heading in the ideal course if your instructor or professor observed ‘plays very well with others’ on your report card. 

Q: What do you really like about your present function?

For the to start with 50 % of my authorized occupation, I genuinely targeted on labor and employment-similar lawful concerns, each at the legislation agency and at CSX. I appreciated that perform, but was completely ready to grow my expertise and ability established. I have been fortuitous that CSX has supplied me with the chance to extend my lawful and qualified capabilities by main a substantial staff of lawyers and business professionals throughout a vast wide variety of disciplines. My days are stuffed with legal and regulatory troubles, strategic arranging, and team creating. No two days are the exact, and I seriously enjoy the a lot of problems that arrive my way every day.

Q: What information do you have for learners?

Whether or not you come to a decision to go to graduate college, bounce correct into the task market, or shell out some time traveling, you have several a long time in advance of you to opt for a vocation. You will make errors, you will get annoyed, and you will fear. But this is aspect of the journey, and it will be worth it.  I’ve neglected far more than I knew about biology, but I wouldn’t go again and change my route.  Wabash assists develop a foundation that will provide you perfectly in any profession you select and the issues you will facial area alongside the way.