Look for workable solutions rather than looking to win. Too often, I notice people in law trying to negotiate by hitting the table or fist pounding to make the point. Unfortunately, this tactic does not achieve anything productive and does not produce a solution. Instead, look for ways to make your point without hitting the table, and continue to re-strategize to find the best possible solution.
As a part of my series about “5 things I wish someone told me when I first became an attorney” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeffrey (JP) McAvoy.
JP McAvoy is the host of The Millionaire’s Lawyer podcast and a founding partner at Conduct Law where he practices corporate and commercial law. He assists his clients with a wide range of transactions including financings and acquisitions, re-organizations, and corporate structuring matters. He acts for clients buying and selling businesses and represents a diverse range of corporations in Canada, the United States, and Eastern Asia. Prior to commencing private practice, JP was a founding employee of Silicon Valley start-up Zip2, which was sold to Compaq and later merged with Alta Vista.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law?
I was always interested in law, and I had envisioned myself to be a courtroom litigator. However, I would spend countless nights preparing for court cases that ended up settling. During my undergrad, I had befriended Elon Musk and Kimbal Musk, and later down the road, while I was preparing for law school, we started comparing notes on our varying career paths. While I was a law student, Elon and Kimbal recruited me to be one of their founding members at their first start-up in Silicon Valley. Working with the Musk brothers gave me a new perspective as I was doing numerous business deals and found it very satisfying. I knew that my path was in business law and shifted my focus from being a courtroom litigator to help build successful businesses through business and law.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your law career?
One of the funniest stories that I can remember early on in my career was working with Elon Musk. He had approached me asking what I had thought about a website called x.com, and I told him that I thought it sounded like a porn site. But it turns out he was thinking of selling his existing business and focusing on what his next business would be. So, he approached me with the website idea as he was looking for impressions to influence his decision-making during his brainstorming process. This idea ended up being an online bank which eventually turned into PayPal, which sold to eBay for $1.5 billion, and Elon owned about 10 percent of the company.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
One of the most exciting projects that I work on is my podcast called The Millionaire’s Lawyer. On this podcast, I provide a lot of free legal advice alongside several professionals in the field. Another exciting project that I am working on is developing a property in Mexico. Finally, I am looking to continue to grow Conduct Law into a leading international business law firm.
What are some of the most interesting cases you have been involved in? Without sharing anything confidential can you share any stories?
In general, I have been a part of buying and selling of many businesses. The first business I had ever sold was with Elon and Kimbal Musk, which led me to sell numerous apartment complexes, construction companies, medical complexes, nursing homes, etc. My experience with buying and selling has allowed me to seek different financial avenues and has pushed me to find creative financing solutions and security work for different businesses. In addition, I had the privilege of creating many tech startup companies by implementing out-of-the-box solutions for growing startups in various industries throughout my career.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
The person I look up to in history is Winston Churchill. Churchill is known to present himself eloquently, but many people don’t realize that he had worked hard to deliver eloquent speeches in the spotlight. As a lawyer, I strive to work to be as well-spoken and as poised as Churchill.
In general, I look up to my mentor, who is another lawyer as well. When I was in grade six, I figured out I wanted to be a lawyer on career day. So, I went to a local lawyer’s office, knocked on the door, and asked to shadow him. About twelve years later, I got into law school after university and went back to the same office to ask him to mentor me, and I was hired as his summer student. He is now retired, and we still keep in touch, but he was the one that taught me to be both a businessman and a lawyer in my career, which helped me be successful today.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in law?
One piece of advice that I would like to give a young person considering a career in law is to do it for the right reasons rather than doing it to have a good job. This job comes with much more difficulties than people anticipate, and often many lawyers who are not passionate in their field become miserable. So first, figure out what kind of lawyer you want to be by figuring out what industry you are most passionate about and interested in pursuing your career. By cultivating these passions and interests in your law career this will create your sense of identity as a lawyer and as a person. For example, I became a business lawyer because I learned that I was interested in business after working closely with Elon and Kimbal Musk. My interest in business allowed me to pivot from court litigation to business law and made me a successful businessman and lawyer in the process.
If you had the ability to make three reforms in our judicial/legal system, which three would you start with? Why?
I would love to reform the judicial/legal system to be more technologically advanced and friendly. Unfortunately, the procedures are too expensive to litigate things and are not accessible to most people. I would first want to leverage technology to streamline the process. Then, I would employ alternative means to resolve disputes. And finally, I would utilize AI technology to streamline operations and reduce costs.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
With the position, you realize how privileged a practicing lawyer is. My education has allowed me to do things that people aren’t typically capable of doing, so I do my best by educating others who cannot access the same information. One of the primary ways I give back is by coaching in the law society. Through that, I can guide a lot of young people who are interested in law. I also use my position to share information through my podcast, The Millionaire’s Lawyer, by giving free legal advice that would typically cost thousands of dollars. I believe it is my responsibility to give back as a practicing lawyer, and I have done that through these two platforms, and I will continue to do so moving forward.
I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?
Although this is not the easiest job, I am driven by a sense of obligation to my large client base as I feel responsible for them. I have worked very hard and feel accountable for their success, and I am also very invested in their lives and family lives. I also feel responsible as the leader of my firm to care for the other lawyers and staff. These factors allow me to recognize that I am helping existing clients and providing for them, my team, and my own family. Another driver is helping people through difficult times and providing them with advice that gives them comfort.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
1) Take chances. Although many of the opportunities in life can be unpredictable and very risky, I have learned that it’s easy to regret those opportunities that pass by. So while you’re young, take as many chances while you can.
2) Invest early. I was presented with an opportunity early on in my career to invest with Elon in a company that later turned out to be PayPal. If I had taken that risk, I could have been involved in an incredible opportunity to grow the large company PayPal is today. However, based on that experience and what I had seen in my career, those that invest and get advice early on are the successful ones. It is better to seek help earlier rather than later, as problems can come up later down the road.
3) People bounce back from failure. It is essential to take that risk and not get discouraged from the defeat, as you will learn valuable lessons from the defeat. Instead of putting yourself down, take that failure, learn from it, and put it into your future success.
4) Relationships are important. Your professional and personal life are defined by the relationships that you build. It is important to foster these relationships as all your business success will revolve around them. At the end of the day, businesses are just real people doing things, so as long as you are working with a good group of people, they can help support your success.
5) Look for workable solutions rather than looking to win. Too often, I notice people in law trying to negotiate by hitting the table or fist pounding to make the point. Unfortunately, this tactic does not achieve anything productive and does not produce a solution. Instead, look for ways to make your point without hitting the table, and continue to re-strategize to find the best possible solution.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I would love to have breakfast or lunch with the 14th Dalai Lama, the highest spiritual leader in Tibet and a retired political leader in Tibet. It would be an unforgettable experience and honor to have a meal with him. I would also love to get his insight on happiness and enlightenment.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!