The Very Model of a Modern General Litigator

Brian Goodman has fun every summer with Gilbert and Sullivan

Published in 2010 Maryland Super Lawyers — January 2010

Arthur Sullivan, the composer, wasn’t, but W.S. Gilbert, the lyricist, was. And that accounts for some of the themes in their now-century-old operettas.

“Gilbert was a lawyer,” says Brian S. Goodman, a general litigation attorney in Baltimore who moonlights as general manager of the Young Victorian Theatre, aka “the Young Vic,” which exclusively performs Gilbert and Sullivan shows two weekends every summer.

“Their first operetta together was called Trial by Jury, which was a hysterical satire on trial lawyers and judges,” Goodman says. “The Pirates of Penzance was a satire on strict interpretation of contract [law]. H.M.S. Pinafore has a lot of satire about class status and the legal problems that ensue from that. The Mikado has a lot of legal satire about the interpretations of decrees and laws from governments. Iolanthe was an early satire on the women’s movement—about a bunch of fairies that take over the House of Parliament, and they start controlling all these men.

“You know, these guys were really ahead of their time.”

As manager of the Young Vic, Goodman oversees a $180,000 budget, deals with the board of directors and is in constant contact with artists and actors.

“It’s really about administering a very diverse group of people, and I think that can only help you as a trial lawyer, because you’re dealing with human problems,” says Goodman, a married father of one teenage daughter. “I do mostly tort work—mostly insurance defense and a lot of high-end personal injury and wrongful death cases, mostly from the defense side. I’m also general counsel to the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, which my grandfather founded in 1951.”

Goodman got his B.A. from Johns Hopkins University, where he managed the lacrosse team. He attributes that experience (“lacrosse at Johns Hopkins is like football at Notre Dame”) and his position as head of litigation at Hodes, Pessin & Katz as secrets to his success with Young Vic. In the end, though, it may be more of an innate calling. Andrew Jay Graham of Kramon & Graham calls Goodman “one of the most energetic, charismatic and funny people I’ve met. He’s got this sort of leprechaun quality to him. He’s on the go all the time.”

“I don’t really know where I got the skills to do all this,” Goodman admits. “I joined the group graduating out of high school, and back then I really didn’t know a whole lot about Gilbert and Sullivan. But over the years—I’ve been running the theater for 34 years, and I’ve been with the theater for 36 years—I have come to appreciate it as a really special and unique art form.

“These guys were the forerunners of the composer-lyricist team, and their operettas really were the forerunner of the Broadway musical. … I take a lot of pride in the fact that we built this up from a small, nothing little student organization to Baltimore’s only real solvent opera company. We were a bunch of high school and college kids who were into music and theater, and we were just looking to have a good time each summer.”

Next summer, Goodman and his Young Vic crew will put on Iolanthe, which kicked off the Theatre’s inaugural season 40 years ago. Some things never change—as Gilbert and Sullivan knew all too well.

“We did Pirates of Penzance this summer,” says Goodman, “and Gilbert could have written that this year. One of the famous songs is ‘I Am a Pirate King’ and he sings, ‘Away to the cheating world go you/Where pirates all are well-to-do.’

“When he sang that, we had a guy come out with an AIG sign. We did Pirates at the height of these corporate bailouts, and it’s more relevant than any show that’s been written recently about that stuff. The themes these guys had were timeless and universal.”

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