Coffee with…David McGowan

By: Jonathan Jekel
Like most people here, I don’t sleep. I substitute caffeine for REM. In line for coffee, I am occasionally antisocial, in a smart phone malaise. On a gray morning in early November, David McGowan stood behind me in line. I had not yet taken one of his courses, nor had we ever met.

Professor McGowan

I asked about his favorite bands.
McGowan smiled. “Well, I like Sam Cooke, the Who, and either Stevie Wonder or Stevie Ray Vaughn.”
I didn’t understand the interchangeable Stevies. He clarified. “They once performed ‘Superstition’ together live,” he said. “It’s incredible.”
We were in sync. Our conversation flowed from rock & roll to literature (“J.K. Rowling’s writing is a synthesis of Dickens and Dahl”), and from literature to cross-country cycling (“Riding with headphones is Darwinism at work”). I didn’t have to ask why he chose to specialize in intellectual property, antitrust, and legal ethics. He wore humanism like a badge of courage.
Does Facebook provide a license for stalking? Narcissism? Will artists need to become entrepreneurs and self-promoters to survive the shift to digital? Will intellectual property take on greater importance as our society shifts from manufacturing to knowledge-based? Some questions had answers—some were followed by meditative sips.
“So,” I asked. “How do your interests intermingle?”
“They’re all about protecting yourself,” he said. “Antitrust and IP are two sides of the same economic coin. Legal ethics is about tactics. It’s core lawyering.”
Ask McGowan why he chose to write Developing Judgment About Practicing Law. He told me that although there were great casebooks on antitrust and IP, nobody had applied game theory to legal ethics. The man likes a challenge. I respect passion.
We only spoke for 20 minutes, one cup of coffee, but I still contemplate the conversation.
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