Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris is a concert level cellist.

Interview with a Lawyer

NAME: Ivan Gold

JOB TITLE/OCCUPATION:   Senior Counsel, Perkins Coie LLP

PROFESSION/INDUSTRY:  Law  (energy and business issues) 

EDUCATION & CREDENTIALS:  B.A. in Political Science, University of Pittsburgh (1968); J.D., New York University Law School (1971); Oregon, New York and Washington, D.C. Bar

ADDITIONAL PURSUITS & AREAS OF INTEREST:  Children (mine),  reading, art, motorcycles, dance, film, cooking,  nonprofit organizations, watches, skiing


What is your educational background, specific to your profession?

I went to law school, and after law school was a clerk for  a United States District Judge.   I’ve really only practiced law for 50% of my career.  The other times I worked in government as a regulator, consulted on energy issues for other companies, or developed energy projects for my own companies.

I majored in Political Science as an undergrad, with an excursion into science when I thought  I might want to go to medical school. I worked in a family manufacturing business so I got a lot of insight into business operations, engineering and manufacturing operations as well.

What was your most valuable experience, that gave you the tools and insight to become a lawyer?

Working in a family business gave me the sense of working for myself and taught me to internalize and identify with my clients’ needs and goals when I work for clients.  My judicial clerkship gave me invaluable writing experience.    I was state Deputy Utility Commissioner and a bureau head at the Federal Civil Aeronautics Board which gave me a sense of how regulators see the world.


As a working professional, what changes have you seen in your industry that have significantly affected how you work?

The technical support, and information tools have dramatically changed how we keep current on the law and regulatory requirements.  I don’t think I’ve been in an actual law library more than 10 times in the last 10 years!   Document and information transfers are instantaneous and worldwide communication is routine.  However, doing high level work in a collegial environment with smart, honorable colleagues still keeps every day interesting.


With regards to the new generation of lawyers, what are the skill sets that you are seeing?

Notwithstanding all the talk of boomers, gen x and gen y differences, the skill sets that prevail today are the same as yesterday:  successful lawyers combine mastery of a specialty, conscientious (hard) work, intelligence, the ability to engender confidence in others, skill at integrating information, understanding how business works and enormous quantities of luck.  The difference is that more and more successful candidates don’t continue, but side step into less traditional law firm roles, preferring in-house positions, or even leaving law.  It’s one of my greatest pleasures to be able to work with the younger lawyers in our firm.


What would your advice be to someone who wants to be a lawyer &/or to the institutions and instructors that are providing them with the education & “tools” they need to become a lawyer?

Law School used to teach students “how to think” like a lawyer.   They learned most substantive law in practice.  Now, specific areas are much more complex and new graduates often have focused on a particular area of the law by their senior year.  That’s a loss.


I encourage students interested in the law to get as varied a pre-law education as possible and to seek judicial clerkships whenever and wherever they can.  Some of our recent associates have been US Navy Shipboard Officers, Pharmaceutical chemists, electrical engineers…this broad education helps them enormously in their careers.  The same applies for students who have spent time in business.   To know  “how the world works” is a great advantage in the law.  Interruptions to going straight through college and  law school are almost always a  benefit to careers (and are impressive on resumes).    New associates often worry they’re “behind schedule.”  There is no schedule.     However, I  admit the issue of school loans is something we didn’t have to deal with when I started law school.  I don’t even think money had been invented.


Because our firm is privileged to work primarily with top students and the smartest new lawyers, I haven’t noticed many generic deficiencies if any!  We’ve  consistently been  voted one of the best places to work (in 2012, we were named Best Large Oregon company to work for), perhaps that’s why  I haven’t sensed dissatisfaction or impatience in the current generation.   Half or more of our new lawyers are women, and maternity leave is an issue we deal with much more frequently than 30 years ago.   But we handle it without problem firm wide.   The same applies to lawyers who want to work part time (often for family reasons).  It was surprisingly easy for our firm to adopt flex-time programs to accommodate associates.   And of course, it’s in our interest to do so as losing young associates after 3 or 4 years is a tremendous waste of our resources.


Ivan Gold is Senior Counsel in the Perkins Coie Portland office.  His legal and business careers have focused on transactions involving electricity, natural gas and regulated industries.  As a practicing lawyer, he has been a state and federal regulator, and has represented: investor-owned public utilities on operations, rates, mergers and acquisitions; large industrial customers of public utilities; providers of bulk power to electric and gas utilities; independent power producers; and real estate developers.  During his business career, he has held senior management positions with developers of: large-scale wind farms, small-scale hydro-electric projects; and natural gas and biomass-fired generation projects in the United States and Latin America.  He has advised lenders on large independent power projects and international developers on infrastructure projects.

Ivan is a frequent speaker and writer on climate change, renewable energy projects, and federal, state and international regulation of greenhouse gases.  In 1975-76 he was Deputy Public Utility Commissioner of the State of Oregon.  In 1977-78, during  airline deregulation, he was Acting Enforcement Director at the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board.

Professional Recognition

  • Listed in Best Lawyers in America

Professional Leadership

  • ABA Subcommittee on International Energy and Resource Transactions, Program Co-Chair, 2008
  • ABA Subcommittee on Cleantech Climate Change and Communications, 2010 – 2011

Community Involvement

  • White Bird Dance Company, Director
  • Cedar Sinai Park (Retirement Center), Trustee
  • Whitman College Parents Emeriti Fund, Chair
  • Ronald McDonald House, San Francisco, Founder and Chairman Emeritus
  • Sinai Family Home Service, Board Member
  • Oregon-Israel Business Association, Director

Related Employment

  • Cogeneration Services, Inc., Developer of renewable energy projects in the U.S. and South America, President, 1979-2004
  • Ater, Wynne, Hewitt, Dodson & Skerrit, Partner, 1987-1991
  • Puget Columbia Industrial Pipeline, Executive Director of gas pipeline project for industrial customers, 1987-1988
  • Hydropool, Inc., Developer of small scale hydro projects, President, 1983-1986
  • Windfarms, Ltd., First large U.S. wind energy developer, General Counsel, 1980-1982
  • Lindsay, Hart, Neil & Weigler, Partner, 1978-1980
  • Civil Aeronautics Board, Acting Director of Enforcement, 1977 – 1978
  • Deputy Public Utility Commissioner Oregon, 1975-1976


  • Hon. Gus J. Solomon, U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, 1971 – 1972

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