I was fortunate enough to sit down with Allan Goodman, Co-Chair of our Technology Group, to talk law, business, and open-mindedness in and ever-changing legal profession. Allan is the lawyer responsible for Goodmans' emerging business initiative, in particular in its role as "legal counsel in residence" at the DMZ at Ryerson University, the number one university-based incubator (tied with the UK's SETsquared) in the world, according to UBI Global.
What drove you to begin the career path to law?
I always knew at an early age that I wanted to be a lawyer, but for me it was not just about being a lawyer. I also enjoyed business so I started down the path of doing a business degree first and then going to law school. I knew that was the ultimate plan, but I spent 8 years in University before I ended up here at the firm. It has worked out great because I’ve been able to enjoy both areas of business and law by being at Goodmans.
What drew you to Goodmans specifically?
It was the entrepreneurial spirit. Although I started here 26 years ago, the entrepreneurial spirit has been a constant thread all the way through, from Eddie and his father through to today. Even though it’s a large Bay Street firm, you have the freedom to experiment and do things that are entrepreneurial in nature. To me that was a big reason as to why I came here initially.
And why business law?
I like the variety. Business law is transactional in nature, so you’re always doing different things. You never know when something’s going to get really active or take an unusual twist. You’re also meeting great people in the course of a deal and you get to dig in and learn about different businesses.
Our firm has the privilege to engage in an exclusive partnership with the DMZ. Tell me more about how that came to fruition.
Goodmans always had a large technology practice covering various areas, from Intellectual Property, Litigation, M&A and Corporate Finance, but we weren’t really bringing it all together under one umbrella. We also weren’t working with earlier stage businesses as much as we wanted to,. so we decided we’d look at what we can do to enhance that area of our practice . In order to do that, the best thing to do was to find a partner that was already engaging with early stage companies that we could help. We met with a number of incubators and accelerators and really hit it off with the great people at the DMZ. It just so happened that they didn’t have any legal relationships so we were able to strike a partnership that’s proven very successful for both of us. We’re able to provide legal help and mentorship to these great companies and also and bring our network of venture capitalists and investors to them, which is good for our clients. It has been a win-win for both sides.
Moving on to “down time”, if you had a one-year sabbatical, what would you do?
If I had a year off I would probably look for a couple of start-ups to help take to the next level. I’d love to be active in the start-up community in a different capacity other than as a lawyer. Whether as an advisor, or board member or simply helping companies raise money, it would be great to see things from a different side … I think that it would be fun to get a different perspective.
And if not a lawyer, what would you be?
Probably something in the business world maybe as management or at least working within a company outside of the legal role.
Last but not least, what advice would you give to young lawyers starting their careers?
Be flexible. Don’t pigeonhole yourself and think you’re only going to do one thing. I’ve been at this for 26 years and although corporate and securities law has always been at the heart of my practice, your career has many changes. I’ve worked for companies in the mining industry, in real estate, and now heavily in the technology space. Just be open minded and enjoy what you’re doing at the time.
Take advantage of meeting great people along the way, but don’t come to a particular idea of one thing you are going to do for your entire career. I can tell you it’s going to change as markets change practices change. As long as you’re open-minded and creative, you’re going to be exposed to some great opportunities, so take advantage of them.