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Obituary: Stephen M. Goodman

March 02, 2018

Stephen Goodman, one of the pioneering lawyers representing technology and emerging growth companies, died March 2, 2018. Mr. Goodman, who last year had been profiled in a leading technology publication as “The Fairy Godfather of Philadelphia Startups,” passed away at the Penn Wissahickon Hospice, surrounded by his loving family.

Mr. Goodman was a long-time partner at the global law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, which he joined in 1994. His presence at the firm helped establish Morgan Lewis as the preeminent provider of legal services to startups.

“Steve was a towering figure in the Philadelphia legal and business community,” said Morgan Lewis Chair Jami McKeon. “His reputation was fully earned by his dedicated and skilled counsel to his clients, his kindness to others and active support of both clients and younger lawyers, and his special way of fully embracing his love of the law alongside his love of life, entrepreneurs, music, and his family.”

Mr. Goodman began working with early-stage companies in 1969, when he launched his own firm with former colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Law Review. In those days, many large law firms had dismissed the sector, according to the 2017 profile of Mr. Goodman, which appeared in Philly.

“Goodman was unfazed,” according to the article. “He kept plugging along, sometimes representing real estate developers when he needed more clients. In those first 10 years of running his own firm, he made less than his contemporaries working at big firms, but he didn’t mind.” In 1983, Mr. Goodman departed the firm he had founded and joined Wolf Block, where he remained until joining Morgan Lewis.

As time went on, Mr. Goodman became a celebrated and highly decorated figure. He nurtured promising entrepreneurs throughout Philadelphia and the Mid-Atlantic region, and later in Europe, becoming a friend and counselor to those who sought his legal services. He advised clients on strategy and guided them through all phases of their evolution, from product development to expansion. He also provided important connections within the entrepreneurship community and with potential investors.  He provided business acumen and impeccable judgment to each critical intersection founders and investors faced along their startup journeys.

Mr. Goodman also was an influential mentor to the next generation of emerging growth lawyers, including many who are now partners at Morgan Lewis. He founded the firm’s emerging business and technology practice and retired as counsel to the practice.

Mr. Goodman’s track record of transforming young companies into profitable enterprises, combined with his intense passion for and zealous advocacy of Philadelphia’s startup, business, and business law communities, earned him widespread acclaim and numerous independent recognitions. These included a 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award from The Legal Intelligencer and being named one of the three most influential people in Philadelphia in the last 30 years by the Philadelphia Business Journal. In May 2011, he received the Legend Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies. He also was honored by the Philadelphia Bar Association and the Greater Philadelphia Venture Group. Chambers USA, a respected legal ratings publication, consistently ranked him a “Leading Lawyer for Business.”

In addition to his work as a lawyer, Mr. Goodman was a well-known jazz pianist who, despite never learning to read music, played clubs and other events in the Philadelphia area for decades. He and his combo also released successful recordings featuring music from shows including “Jekyll and Hyde,” “Phantom of the Opera,” and “Chicago.” For years, he could be found at the piano during the lunch hour at Taylor’s Country Store on Sansom Street or at the Tuesday night jam sessions at the 23rd Street Cafe.

He prided himself as a jazz musician who practiced law. He often noted the common themes existing within both the practice of law and improvisational jazz, including “melody” (which he compared to the “mission statement” of a venture), “audience,” “listening,” “spontaneity,” “improvisation,” and “integration.” He once laid out his thoughts in a Wharton entrepreneurship blog post in which he asserted that “the optimum creative and integrational modalities of a quality jazz jam session may be instructive to prospective and practiced entrepreneurs.”

Stephen Murry Goodman was born on October 8, 1940 in Philadelphia. In 1962, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and he received his law degree in 1965 from the Penn Law School, where he was editor of the Law Review. He then served as a law clerk for Chief Judge David L. Bazelon of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and later clerked for US Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr.

Over his career he also served as a member of the Advisory Board to then-US Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. as well as an adjunct professor at the law schools of Georgetown University, Rutgers University, and Penn.

He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Janis, as well as his daughter Rachel, son Carl, daughter-in-law Jennifer, two grandchildren, and his teacup Maltese dog Snippet.

In lieu of flowers, Mr. Goodman’s family suggests that donations be made to the Goodman Bronchiectasis Fund at Penn Medicine. A memorial service will be held Sunday, April 8, 2-5 pm, in the Lincoln Hall ballroom at the Union League (140 S. Broad St. in Philadelphia). Stories and memories will be shared over jazz.