It took a while,
but eventually, it all
I graduated with a BA from the University Toronto in 1983 with a double major: political science and cinema studies. Initially, I wanted to do graduate work in film. I had always, however, performed magic, and had started to produce various shows. So, I decided to go to law school instead, the idea being to develop the skill set to produce theatre and film.
I attended law school at the University of Western Ontario and graduated in 1987 with an LLB, and a special designation in the area of tax law. It was Bob Farmer, a mentor of mine, and the lawyer for the rock band Rush, who pointed me in that direction. Intellectual property (acquire the rights), securities law (finance the production), and tax law (make the losses on various productions – let’s be honest – as attractive as possible).
I then traveled to London, England to hone those skills further, obtaining an LLM from the London School of Economics. My areas of study: Intellectual Property, International Finance, and Taxation. I loved it. I returned to Toronto in 1988, articled, was called to the bar in the Province of Ontario, and hired by Goodmans, a firm that represented entrepreneurs rather than the banks that financed them. I abandoned the conventional lawyer’s life in 1990, however, because I did not want to go through life asking ‘what if?’ I vowed, however, to return to the firm, but as a client, and did so. Years later Goodmans helped me establish Magicana, a not-for-profit performing arts organization and registered charity.
Although I left the firm – and the law society – over twenty years ago, I apply what I learned in that field almost every day in negotiating deals, producing shows, publishing books, participating on governing boards, and representing the business interests of the estates of famous magicians.
It has proved invaluable in helping my wife, Jan Howlett, an Australian I met in England, build the Howlett Academy, one of the most sought-after private schools in Toronto, and our son, Harrison, establish his business – Howlett-Ben Athletic Development Inc., and an ancillary business, Stackhouse Apparel.
It’s funny how things often come full circle. 20 years after graduating from Western, I returned to the school as the pre-convocation speaker to the graduating class. Then, a year later, was the “Lawyer of the Week” in the Law Times for apparently being ahead of the curve of lawyers who parlayed their profession into alternative careers. I am proud to report, however, that our eldest son – Court – has rejected his father’s profession, and embarked on – you guessed it – a law degree.