FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Greg Shannon
June 25, 2013
I’ve crossed paths a few times with Greg Shannon, a lawyer with a personality (apologies to all those without), drive, infectious enthusiasm and a keen sense of fashion beyond just ‘nice ties’, practicing at Miller Thompson. Most often we’ve talked in the course of his promotion of one of his favourite causes – as President and Chairman of The Calgary Enterprise Forum Society .
I met with Greg recently in his downtown office – on a very gloomy rainy afternoon, before the flood – where I tried to uncover what was underneath that persona, a tax and corporate lawyer focused on sports & entertainment law and international work for well heeled clients where acquisition of exotic recreational properties for western Canadian clients is day-to-day fare. His clients? Ones with tax and wealth management issues (he winces a bit when he says ‘high net worth clients’) in Canada and the U.S.
A sports enthusiast native of Burnaby, growing up hob-nobbing with hockey focused future NHL’ers (he laughs about driving his brother Mike and Mike’s buddy Joe Sakic to practices), Greg’s primary sport was soccer – wanted to be an Olympian in ’84, talent and hard work propelled him to a pro-career in San Diego which gave rise to his cross-border education, earning law degrees in San Diego and Boston as well as in Calgary (88-89) where he has resided and practiced since 1997.
His interest in the law, he tells me, was influenced by his primary mentor, an uncle . . . whose Kelowna based magazine brokerage business Greg helped manage in the early 90’s when his uncle fell ill. "He encouraged me, taught me the most important thing was making connections – this is a people business." After a while, some would say, interviewing lawyers gets boring. Not so if you are talking about Greg Shannon. His energy and enthusiasm roll through the phone – much more so in person, he exudes zeal like the young pro athlete he once was, or maybe it comes from chasing/coaching his 8 yr. old twin boys in sports when many of his contemporaries are attending convocations . .
I asked him what qualities distinguish his preferred suppliers.
. . . professional, prompt, people who are concerned and interested in what your needs and you are about, people who communicate well
I asked him why his clients hire him/his firm instead of his competitors.
. . . prompt quality service, I try to spend time with them on their turf to better understand their needs – to connect them, to be a ring-leader of sorts, to bring them together with people and resources they need. Keeping my referral network top-drawer. The drive for the deal.
What defines life-work balance for you?
. . . getting my kids involved in sports (and coaching them in soccer), skiing, I play the piano. Being around people who make a difference.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
. . . the state of the economy in Europe and the U.S.. The fate of the Canucks doesn’t keep me up, anymore!
I asked Greg how he sees law practice and law business over the next 90 days?
. . . I see a lot of growth in ‘in-house’ counsel and organizations using paid staff rather than law firms to handle many things, to reduce costs, emerging as a trend – otherwise, business is good. I see lots of clients being less bold, cleaning up balance sheets, being cautious right now. I see continued focus in medium and larger size firms internationalizing themselves with mergers and alliances so they can serve clients globally. We all can, of course, through referrals and people we have specialty-specific relationships with. Big mergers aren’t the only way to meet client’s needs, but a lot of firms have gone that way and several are on the cusp of doing that.
. . . and over the next 5 years?
The commoditization of law services – insurance work, bank work/mortgages, real estate (possibly a move to the escrow process so prevalent in the U.S.). I see law firms, to retain good people and to keep costs competitive, accommodating the work-life balance needs of both junior and senior lawyers, women in particular, developing new formulas for equity and non-equity partners to make way for new talent to rise with more career-shift options available for senior lawyers, many of whom will shift to contract work and those in-house roles. I see firms, like ours, that will do best, will focus a lot on tax, mergers & acquisitions, environmental law, senior litigation and my primary area – private client work.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life?
. . . my uncle Howard, my dad (we went to the first Canucks game together in 1970)
What are you reading?
. . . political books, The Economist, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair
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