ZSA is proud to feature the 8 Questions Series interviewing prominent lawyers in Canada, aimed at discussing interesting perspectives and the challenges that face those in the legal profession. These articles, entitled “8 Questions With…” will be published on our website www.zsa.ca and in the ZSA Daily Digest, a daily compilation of legal news circulated by email to more than 1,500 legal professionals across Canada.
Emily Lee, Partner, ZSA Legal Recruitment, interviews David Allgood, Executive Vice-President and General Counsel, RBC Law Group.
1. Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
I needed a job… just kidding! Actually, my mother told me I should be a lawyer but I hated reading and I viewed law as one big read. I actually started in Engineering at Queen’s but then switched gears and took Commerce courses which started my interest in law. I became very interested in the case law approach and decided to write the LSAT. After law school, I joined Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in their tax department where I practiced from 1976 until 1998 before joining the Bank as SVP of Taxation. Initially, I was brought on to run the tax function for the expected merger with BMO, which was stopped for competition reasons. In 2004, the taxation function was returned to the CFO after which I moved into greater positions here.
2. What is the biggest professional challenge that you have faced during your career?
I would say from a strictly legal perspective the greatest professional challenge I have faced in my career is the Bank’s involvement in the Enron lawsuit, which took well over five years to resolve and presented significant potential risk to the Bank. At the time, it was a very unfriendly regulatory environment. I credit one of our biggest successes to steering the Bank through that ordeal.
3. If you could change one thing about the practice of law, what would it be?
From an in-house perspective, one thing that is changing is the model of law to become more like a business. The application of business tools to the legal profession and things like project management, lean sigma and fiscal understanding of costs have been slow to come, but action is happening. This will be a big shift, not a trend. Internally here at the Bank we are ahead of the game as we demand a business mindset from our people. Large outside firms are big ships that don’t turn easily and I don’t think the so-called “hourly billing” will vanish overnight.
4. What advice would you give to someone starting his/her career in law?
I am a big believer in a variety of backgrounds and I think public service is very important. I believe the experience that can be gained with organizations like the Ontario Securities Commission, Ministries of the government or other regulators are extremely important and valuable in developing a lawyer. I worked for the Department of Finance in 1984 and 1985 handling tax policy matters and I found it to be an invaluable experience from a practice perspective. I believe that a good lawyer is someone who has well-rounded experience, including private practice, public sector experience and in-house experience, even if it’s by secondment. I believe a successful career will come from having this varied background. It is something that I look for when hiring into my legal department, and gives lawyers a better perspective, and a broader framework to organize their own development.
5. What was the last good book you read/movie you saw?
I am not a fan of fiction; more of a junkie for self-improvement. I really enjoyed Stephen Covey’s “Speed of Trust”. I thought it was a brilliant depiction of the role that trust plays in our daily lives. As for films, I have seen the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and the “Girl Who Played With Fire” and they were both enjoyable. I have not seen the third one yet.
6. What is your favorite restaurant?
Nota Bene. I really like what Yannick Bigourdan and Chef David Lee are doing there.
7. Where would you most like to travel?
I enjoy BC’s interior, Kelowna, Big White for skiing, and Miami in the winter.
8. If you were not a lawyer, what would you be doing?
Good question. I would probably be an accountant of some kind. I am more numerate than most lawyers and could see myself having become a management consultant. No regrets on the path chosen, however; none whatsoever.
David R. Allgood is currently Executive Vice-President and General Counsel for Royal Bank of Canada.
Mr. Allgood joined RBC in August 1998 as Senior Vice-President Corporate Taxation. He became Executive Vice-President and General Counsel in June, 2000. Formerly, he was a partner in the law firm of Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt. His practice was restricted to taxation with a focus on the income tax aspects of corporate finance, including developing both debt and equity financings, mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations and structuring joint ventures and infrastructure projects. During 1984/85, Mr. Allgood was on secondment as special tax counsel to the Tax Policy and Legislation Branch of the federal Department of Finance. Mr. Allgood is the 2008 Recipient of the Global Counsel Award for Regulatory (Financial Services) Individual of the Year.
Mr. Allgood is the 2009 Recipient of the ACC Excellence in Corporate Practice Award.
Mr. Allgood is a director of the Association of Corporate Counsel, the Chair of the Dean’s Advisory Committee for Queen’s University Law School, and a Trustee of the Bloorview Sick Kids Rehab Hospital. He is also a member of the Advisory Board for Lexpert’s Rising Stars – Leading Lawyers Under 40.
Mr. Allgood holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a JD from Queen’s University.