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That's Not All, Folks!

How cartoonist Michael L. Goodman went from Bugs Bunny to the business page

Published in 2007 Virginia Super Lawyers magazine

Michael L. Goodman, a founding member of Goodman Allen & Filetti in Richmond, spends weekends doing what kids often do. He draws cartoons.

Of course, his cartoons appear every Sunday in the Richmond Times-Dispatch business section. “I can lose myself in the drawing,” he says. “It’s a good catharsis.” His drawings represent a generic slice of business life, featuring uplifted noses and officious manners, and he takes an occasional poke at Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan and the like.

Drawing, he says, doesn’t interfere with his legal practice. “Actually it’s the other way around,” he adds with a laugh. “My law practice interferes with my cartooning. There are many times I’d rather be drawing.”

During the week Goodman keeps up with business news, draws the cartoon on the weekend, and then scans it and sends it to his editor on Monday morning. It may be easier than writing legal briefs, but Goodman says both processes share the same discipline, commitment and—unfortunately—deadlines. “I play with an idea, I put something together, and on a good day all of a sudden it works. It’s gratifying. Cartoons are supposed to look simple, but sometimes you struggle. Simplicity is sometimes really difficult.”

Goodman was drawing as soon as he could pick up a crayon. “I started out drawing Bugs Bunny, but someone else was already doing that so I had to pick another subject.” Soon his cartoons reflected real-life situations, and, at the University of Virginia, he drew daily editorials and spot illustrations for The Cavalier Daily, the student paper. For U.Va.’s Virginia Law Weekly, he drew “Wingtips,” a four-panel strip on lawyering, which began national syndication as he concluded his clerkship for the Western District of Virginia.

Marriage, a family and a law practice forced him to abandon the strip, but he kept drawing. For 10 years he drew regular cartoons and illustrations for Virginia Business Magazine, and later illustrated Daniel R. White’s satirical guide to the legal profession, The Official Lawyers’ Handbook, and its two sequels. “Continuing to draw was good for me,” he says. “I remained fairly anonymous and could practice law without shame and embarrassment.” He also draws caricatures for bar-related and business-related publications and corporations.

So what has been his most controversial cartoon? On that, he pleads the Fifth. He jokes: “I can ruin my career without your help, thank you very much.”

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