Find someone smarter than you, who you get along with and figure out a way to work with that person.

A Conversation On Leadership & Life In The Legal Profession With Steve Good

A former Managing Partner of the firm, attorney Steve Good is synonymous with Fennemore having joined our firm right after graduating from law school. Steve assists our clients with structuring their businesses and negotiating commercial transactions, with an emphasis on advising clients regarding the associated income, estate and gift tax implications.

We recently had the pleasure of talking with Steve about lessons learned and his life in the legal profession.

You’re a senior tax partner and with April 15 quickly approaching, tax season is top of mind for businesses and consumers alike. Are you seeing any business and finance trends in the region – and nationally this year?

April 15 is when tax returns must be filed (if the filing deadline is not extended), and the folks impacted by that deadline are CPAs and tax return preparers.  In my experience, the busy time for tax lawyers is the fourth quarter of each year, when transactions and deals have to be completed prior to the end of the tax year (December 31).

In today’s frothy real estate market, more of the clients I work with seem to be sellers rather than buyers.  That suggests to me, at least anecdotally, that the real estate market is at or very near its peak.  Those that are buyers tend to be clients who want to defer the payment of substantial taxes from a recent sale by completing a like-kind exchange.

Without naming your clients, are there any intriguing current matters that you’re working on?

I recently assisted a client in connection with the purchase of nearly 53,000 acres in New Mexico through a joint venture.  It will be interesting to watch the venture manage such a large piece of property over a period of decades and, hopefully, assist with legal issues that will inevitably arise as part of that effort.  Another recent project involved the formation of a joint venture to develop, own, and operate a beverage bottling facility that produces 250,000+ filled cans of product per hour.  The business is complex and involves solving legal issues in a number of areas.

What would you tell your younger self – or a 1L at the Duke University School of Law now contemplating a career in the legal profession?

I would tell my younger self to buy stock in a little internet bookseller called Amazon.  Seriously, after the first semester, I very much enjoyed law school.  And, to date, my time in the legal profession has been rewarding.  It’s been a good gig, and I wouldn’t change much of anything.

Who is your hero – or the person who has had the greatest impact on your life and career?

I don’t have a “hero” per se, but there are many people I respect and admire.  At the top of that list are my parents, whose lives are models of commitment to one another, integrity, generosity, and hard work (my father is almost 87 and still works as a CPA).  Professionally, I was fortunate to work with and be mentored by my now-retired former partners, Neal Kurn and Gregg Hanks, for nearly 30 years.  They were both excellent lawyers and are even better people.

Talk about your biggest failure. What did you learn? And how did you pick up the pieces and move forward?

As a junior associate at Fennemore, I answered a headhunter call and ended up taking a job as in house counsel with a local company.  Within a very short period of time, I came to the conclusion that the new position was not a good fit, and I returned to the firm.  I am not sure that qualifies as a “failure” – I see it more as a mistake.  I learned the hard way that the proverbial grass across the fence is not necessarily greener.  And I learned that chasing a larger paycheck is not – at least for me – a good way to advance my legal career or job satisfaction.

What’s the best – and worst – piece of career advice that you’ve ever received?

Best piece of advice:  Find someone smarter than you who you get along with and figure out a way to work with that person.

Worst piece of advice:  Find a practice specialty or niche area as soon as you can in your legal career.

What are you currently listening to (podcast or music); reading; and watching/streaming?

Music:  Mostly R&B (e.g., Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind, and Fire) and classic rock (e.g., Boston, Chicago, Van Halen).

Podcast:  Adam Carolla.

Reading:  Ten Global Trends (Ronald Bailey and Marian Tupy); The Three Body Problem (Cixin Liu); Ghost Fleet (P.W. Singer).

Watching:  The Righteous Gemstones; Ozark; Inventing Anna.

Like many Fennemore attorneys, you enjoy a vibrant life outside of work. Tell us more about your passions – a wife and three children; lots of college sports; and playing the trombone in a local R&B band – and what do you learn from these activities?

My wife and children each possess a good sense of humor; as a family, we rarely pass up an opportunity to make sure no one is taking themselves too seriously.  It was exciting to see Duke make the Final Four in Coach K’s last year.  Watching them lose to the evil empire (a/k/a North Carolina) was not pleasant however.  Playing in a band teaches me that I ought to practice more . . . a lot more.

Many thanks to Steve for his provocative insights!

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