Meet Alan James

It's great to be able to learn from your clients while also providing valuable advice to them.

– Alan James

Partner Alan James practises corporate and commercial law with an emphasis on private equity and venture capital investments in tech companies. In this video, Alan highlights the importance of understanding his clients' objectives, aspirations and concerns to help them be successful in an increasingly competitive landscape.


Law found me. I wanted to be a historian. But I went on to law school, and it turned out to be the best decision I've ever made.

The happiest day of my life. Well, that was probably when my wife accepts my marriage proposal. But that was some years ago. And now when I'm not working, what I enjoy most is finding interesting projects to do with my two daughters, like building a giant Quinsey or igloo in the winter, or searching for moose by canoe in the summer, or doing leafy science projects in the fall.

For me, building memories with my kids is important. I was privileged to come from a family that was very close. And I have a lot of great memories of growing up with my parents. I really want to give that gift to my own children. My father was a computer scientist, and he wanted me to become one as well. But we compromised, and I did a business degree while using my electives to study history and computer science. But in my team, I had almost completed my undergraduate degree and was looking for a respectable way to extend my student life.

Law school seemed like a good way to do that. As a lawyer, I really enjoy the opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds. On a daily basis, I'm collaborating with smart and passionate people, and have the privilege of serving interesting clients with unique needs. I find it's great to be able to learn from your clients while also providing valuable advice to them. It's a win win. And there aren't many jobs where you get to do that.

After articling, I spent a few years at a small law firm. I was mentored by a great lawyer, Constance Crosby, who later went on to become one of my biggest clients. She taught me the usual things like how to communicate clearly and draft good agreements. But more importantly, she taught me how to deal with mistakes. One of the most valuable lessons I ever learned came from a mistake that I made and how she reacted to it. The easy thing would have been to point fingers and lay blame. But she made it clear, we were a team. And that would really mattered was that we work together to find a way to solve problem. To this day, I'm grateful for her reaction, and I try hard to emulate her when I mentor others. My mentor eventually wound up going in house at our largest client. So I started looking for a place to move my practice.

There were opportunities at a number of large law firms. But I chose Gowling WL G because of the tremendous IP practice group here. A lot of the clients I was working with were technology based, and they needed a firm that truly understood to clients Gowling WL G was one of the few Bay Street firms that started as an IP firm. I also found it had a different culture than other firms. And I felt that I would fit in well here.

I'm a past CO leader of the firm's global tech group. In the four years that I held position, one of the most exciting opportunities that I had, was being a member of the leadership team that planned and implemented our firm's expansion outside of Canada to become a major international law firm. Leading that group in Canada gave me an opportunity to really get to know all of our professionals, not just across Canada, but also throughout Europe, and in other parts of the world. It was great working with a variety of individuals to build our practice internationally. My main goal at that time was to help make sure that we were one of the leading firms to provide financing services for technology clients. And to this day, it's one of the biggest parts of our technology practice. However, the firm provides many other services. And I had the privilege of leading professionals that focus on providing IP protection, litigation, employment, and other services that are geared towards technology companies.

What I find most interesting is working with venture backed technology clients. They are often dreamers and optimists, they've usually developed some sort of product or service that they're really passionate about, and believe will make the world a better place. It's exciting working with those types of companies. And when you get to work with smart and fun people, you can't ask for much more. I often help clients with many different transactions over many years.

At times, we'll see multiple changes in leadership during the course of our relationship with a client. So in some cases, we're sort of the glue in a sense, as new people come in and out, we can offer our knowledge of the organization and our history with the client. So we're able to really build relationships with these clients. And when they appreciate our style and our practicality, they keep coming back. One thing that I focus on is trying to put myself in the shoes of the client. I imagine if I were on the other side, what would I want my lawyer to do for me? Sometimes it means providing incredibly thorough and comprehensive advice. And sometimes that's not what they need or prefer.

Being flexible is key. And really the simplest thing I do is ask them how they would like things done and not assume what my clients want. Sometimes they may want the Cadillac, and sometimes they may want the electric scooter. I work hard to understand their objectives, their aspirations and concerns. I'm here to be a trusted adviser and to help my clients make their own decisions with confidence.

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