"There's a way to do it better. Find it." – Thomas Edison


James Goodnow is Fennemore’s CEO. Nearly two decades after starting his career at the firm as a file clerk, he became the youngest known chief executive of a major law firm in U.S. history when he started in his current role in 2018. He holds his JD from Harvard Law School and dual management certificates from MIT, where he was an enrolled MBA student before pivoting to the University of Cambridge Business School (U.K.), where he earned a master’s degree in entrepreneurship. He earned a BS at Santa Clara University, where he graduated first in his class.

During his time as CEO, James has focused on positioning Fennemore for the future. He has helped lead the M&A teams that have resulted in the opening of 10 new offices around the U.S. — allowing the firm to better serve its business client base. Fennemore’s upward trajectory led to it being named the #1 firm in the U.S. for year-over-year revenue growth according to the 2023 American Lawyer Am Law 200 rankings (45.6%). He has collaborated with his colleagues to implement AI-based technology and data analysis tools that have given the firm and its clients an edge. He and the firm’s senior leadership team believe in listening carefully and always putting people first — a philosophy that contributes to Fennemore’s industry-leading retention and job-satisfaction statistics.    

James is known for his thought leadership at the intersection of law and business. He has been featured on the cover of The American Lawyer (“Meet the New Boss … James Goodnow Shows What the Firm of the Future Might Look Like”), and ABA Journal named him one of “America’s Techiest Lawyers” in a cover story. Apple profiled James on Apple.com and in a worldwide “Apple in Business” ad campaign. He is a contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine and writes a law firm management, leadership, and innovation column for Above the Law. He is the co-author of Motivating Millennials: How to Recognize, Recruit and Retain the Next Generation of Leaders, which debuted at #1 on Amazon in the business management new release category. 

James is involved in the community. He has chaired, served on the board, or been involved in many organizations, including Make-A-Wish AZ, TGen (Translational Genomics Research Institute), the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona, the AZ Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired, and more.  He is married to his high school sweetheart and is the proud father of two children. Outside of the office, James can be found riding his road bike, hiking, or playing golf with his family. He enjoys wine because it’s about people, culture, history, science, and relationships. He’s a Level I sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. 


  • J.D., Harvard Law School
  • Master’s Degree, University of Cambridge Business School (United Kingdom), Entrepreneurship
  • MIT Sloan School of Management, Dual Certificates in (i) Management & Leadership, and (ii) Strategy & Innovation
  • Harvard Business School, Management Certificate (“Becoming a Better Manager,” HBSO)
  • B.S., summa cum laude, Santa Clara University (graduated first in class)
  • Certified Mergers & Acquisitions Professional (M&AP), Institute for Mergers, Acquisitions and Alliances (IMAA)
  • Certified International Mergers & Acquisitions Professional (IM&A), Institute for Mergers, Acquisitions and Alliances (IMAA)
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Pi Sigma Alpha Honor Society
  • Alpha Sigma Nu Honor Society

Areas Of Practice

Fennemore boasts a large and sophisticated client-focused Mergers and Acquisitions practice.

Professional Services M&A Experience

James has led or co-led M&A transactions that have led to the opening of 10 new Fennemore offices across the United States.

Awards and Honors

  • Innovative Business Leader of the Year, AZ Big Media
  • Best Lawyers in America®
  • Southwest Super Lawyers®
  • Top 100 Lawyers in Arizona, AZ Big Media
  • AZ Business Leader, AZ Business Magazine
  • Lifetime Achievement, America’s Top 100 Attorneys®
  • Top 100 LawyersAZ Business Magazine
  • AZ Business Leader, AZ Business Magazine
  • Newsweek, 20 Leaders (Law)
  • AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated (the highest rating available), by Martindale-Hubbell
  • AZ Big 100, Business Leaders, AZ Big Media

Articles and Presentations

Professional and community activities

  • Member, State Bar of Arizona
  • Member, Board of Directors, National Kidney Foundation of Arizona (Immediate Past Chair)
  • Member and Class Captain, Brophy Prep Alumni Association
  • Member, Board of Directors, Make-A-Wish® Arizona
  • Former Judge Pro Tempore, Maricopa County Superior Court
  • Former Member, Board of Directors, Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired


  • Arizona
  • New York
  • District of Columbia (inactive)
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • U.S. District Court, District of Arizona
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit