Vice President and Assistant General Counsel
Jim Hammons worked in the corporate department at Goodwin’s Boston office from 1994 to 2000, and is now Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at Akamai in Cambridge, MA. Read more to learn about Jim’s current role at Akamai, how Goodwin prepared him for what he is doing now and his funny memories from his days at the firm.
When did you work at Goodwin? What kind of work did you do? What have you been doing professionally since you left Goodwin?
I was a summer associate at Goodwin in the summer of 1992. I clerked for a year and then came to work at the firm in the fall of 1994. Most of my work was general corporate: securities work, M&A, venture capital investing (both on the company and the investor side), public offerings, etc. I got a very broad base of experience. I left in the spring of 2000 after being at Goodwin for 5.5 years. I came to work at Akamai Technologies and I’ve been here about 13.5 years.
Did you always think you wanted to go in-house?
I had dreams of becoming a law school professor or a park ranger, or something different. A friend of mine from law school was working at Akamai in corporate development and Akamai had just gone public so there were a couple of openings. The opportunity presented itself at the height of the dot-com boom, so I thought I’d ride that wave.
Tell me a little bit about Akamai Technologies and the history of the company.
It’s one of the most important internet companies that people have never heard of. Our customers are websites – most major websites in the world use Akamai. If you’re downloading a movie or a song, watching a baseball game on the internet, buying an airline ticket or reading a news website, you’re using Akamai. We have servers all over the world: 150,000 servers in 100 countries. If there is a big news story and everybody is typing in xyz.com, the website would crash if there weren’t enough servers because there’s a sudden surge of volume. For Akamai customers, when you type in xyz.com, instead of being directed to a server in another state to get the story, you’re going to one of our servers located just miles from you or at a data center where we replicate it and get it to you faster.
Akamai went public in 1999. Not long thereafter, one of our founders was killed on the first plane of 9/11. That loss, coupled with the dot-com bubble burst, really sent us into a spiral. A lot of smart, dedicated people stayed, worked hard, cut costs, raised revenue and now we’re a company with almost 4,000 employees and more than a billion dollars in revenue. It’s been a wild ride with a lot of ups and downs.
How did your training at Goodwin Procter prepare you for what you’re doing now?
The training provided me with a holistic view of a deal. I was given many opportunities to really get my arms around the whole picture of a transaction or a negotiation. My training taught me to think about all the components of a transaction, to be organized and to manage my time effectively. You can only get that through the experience of living it and learning from partners about it. Most importantly, working at a firm like Goodwin sets the bar high – the work product really needs to be excellent.
What advice would you give to someone considering an alternative to large firm practice?
Before you make the leap, you need to take a step back and see what you like about where you’re working. Ask yourself: do you do better in an environment where there’s a lot of support? If you’re going to a place where there are only two lawyers that’s going to be a pretty hard adjustment. I think that one of the hardest adjustments is finding a way to balance the thoroughness that firm-life teaches you – all the attention to detail, all the making sure everything is excellent – with the drive to do things quickly in a company. You need to be decisive. You need to be able to explain in layman’s terms what’s driving the advice you’re giving.
Is there an attorney from Goodwin Procter whose advice or mentoring has had a lasting impact on you and your career?
A couple of people who I didn’t work for all that much that really left an impact were Dick Floor and Laura Hodges Taylor. They brought enthusiasm for the project they were working on and the clients they were representing. They were focused on solving problems and helping the client think about things that the client didn’t know they should be thinking about. The skills that are most helpful in-house are problem solving, issue raising, and helping the business side look at the bigger picture. It’s not a specific deal you’re working on – it’s thinking about the client’s overall goal. Dave Dietz taught me a lot about developing relationships with clients: how to convey that you understand where they’re coming from and that you have a plan for dealing with it. Bob Whalen and Ettore Santucci taught me a lot of technical skills: how to draft, what clauses mean, why this is drafted this way and not that way, and the basics of securities laws.
What are the top 4 things you remember most about Goodwin?
(1) smart people, (2) recruiting trips to UVA with Bill Mayer, (3) the great support staff, and (4) the stress, for lack of a better word.
Any funny memories from your time at Goodwin?
At the end of my summer associate summer in 1992, the late Sam Hoar took a group of us to lunch. Sam had a car phone which was rare at the time. He was also the first person at the firm to have voicemail. He was like a kid in a toy store. We all sat in his car and called his voicemail which we thought was the most modern amazing thing we’d ever heard. It is hard to believe that was only twenty years ago, it’s amazing how technology has advanced.
Who do you still keep in touch with at Goodwin?
I am still in close contact with Maureen Shea, AJ Weidhaas, Steve Charkoudian, Dave Permut, Susan Spousta and Trish Wieczorek. I share Red Sox tickets with a motley crew of folks at the firm. I also run into Regina Pisa at Russo’s in Watertown from time to time and we share our thoughts about produce and food in general. I am still in touch with lots and lots of different alumni. It’s amazing how closely people have stayed in touch, even after they have left the firm.
When you’re not at the office where would you most likely be / what would you most likely be doing?
I’m a frequent visitor to Fenway all summer. I’m also a frequent flier miles junkie. I will take a random trip to a city and fly back later the same day to accumulate miles. If you name an airline, I’ll tell you what alliance they’re in and whether or not I can earn miles on them. I like to eat. I like to cook. I like to go to Russo’s. I love reality television, but I have standards.
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