Randy Bowman, former Dallas associate, is the founder and CEO of AT LAST!—The Urban Boarding Experience (“AL!”). Recently, Randy shared what he has been up to in recent years, his experience at Jackson Walker, and what lies ahead for his career. Below is a Q&A featuring the JW alumnus:
Where do you work and what is the nature of your responsibilities?
Interesting question, in that I do not generally think of my life in terms of “where do you work”. My responsibilities, on the other hand, I think of constantly.
I am the founder and CEO of AT LAST!—The Urban Boarding Experience (“AL!”). AL! is a Dallas-based 501(c)(3) that—via pragmatic innovation—attacks intergenerational poverty by improving educational outcomes for impoverished elementary school-aged children. What is a “boarding experience”? Think of it as a “boarding school” without the “school” part. AL! enables poor kids to perform better during the 7 hours per day they are in school by focusing on their educational resources during the 17 hours they are not.
It gives children the educational resources during their home life hours that they would have had if there were born into more prosperous families. Texas Monthly magazine recently featured AT LAST!
My responsibilities include leading AL! to achieving its strategic plan. As I participate in this Alumni Spotlight, I am also participating in ongoing conversations with those interested in having an additional AL! locations in Dallas, and with those in other cities that believe AL! could improve educational outcomes for its impoverished children.
My primary responsibility, however, is to ensure that AL! remains what I promised the moms who entrusted their children to AL! it would be.
My work also includes
- Serving on the board of a publicly-traded company, and I enjoy that work thoroughly. I owned a logistics company for 17 years, and we experienced 49 consecutive quarters of operating profit. I sold my interest in the company in January 2017 to diversify my holdings and activities (including enabling me to start AL!). I feared I’d miss business. Serving on this board keeps me routinely engaged in complex business issues.
- Working within my real estate investment vehicle to be a good thought partner in my investments, whether made alone or with others, in the effort to create the outcomes that drew me to the investments.
What do you appreciate the most about the time you spent at JW?
I hope this is received in the right spirit.
While there are many, the thing I appreciate most about my time at JW is that it is the place where I first felt the joy of lifting my family out of poverty. From my summer clerkship at JW onward, my mother’s life became a lot less difficult. I was able to send my youngest brother, and all three of my sister’s daughters to college. JW was the place where I learned by personal experience that educating one impoverished child could end intergenerational poverty for an entire family. There are a lot of other things I appreciate about my time at JW (e.g., the people, the learnings, the culture, the chance to practice corporate finance law and establish an entertainment law practice and client base, etc.). Those things were great, as well. Combined, those things carved out a special place in my heart for JW, and I am proud to have started my professional journey there.
Do you have a favorite JW memory you would like to share?
I have a few. My absolute favorite I cannot reveal, as it is a Vanilla Ice thing that must rest comfortably behind attorney-client privilege.
Second would be a matter involving MC Hammer (a market-dominating, multi-platinum rap artist from the 1990s). He infringed on the copyright of a client of mine for the song “Here Comes The Hammer” (the first song on one of his largest-selling projects). The steps for demonstrating copyright infringement on a song, and understanding the entertainment industry’s methodologies for calculating damages? Those things I could do, but I have never been a litigator. This representation clearly required one, so I asked then JW partner Gerald Conley—one of my absolute favorite JW lawyers ever—to be the litigator on the matter.
Success required deposing MC Hammer, which required serving him. Ever tried serving the world’s most popular rapper when he’s seeking to evade service? It’s not easy. So, Conley and I decided we had to go to Oakland, and find Hammer and a member of his crew by—for a host of reasons—starting in his old neighborhood. We went by places in the old neighborhood frequented by folks with the information that we sought on Hammer and/or his crew member.
With Conley driving and me in the passenger seat, we would approach people—some alone and some not—and I’d get them to come to my passenger window for a conversation. Without fail, the person would come over to the passenger window, lean in to continue the conversation with me, see Conley, and instantly back away and walk off.
We were running out of time before our flight back to Dallas, and we needed a different plan. Black people in Oakland were willing to talk to me, but were beating a hasty retreat at the sight of Conley. So, in the middle of Oakland’s hood, I asked Conley to pull into a Burger King. I get out of the car, go around to the driver’s side, open the door and tell him to go inside, have a Whopper and fries, and post up for an hour. He protested briefly, said mean things to me, then relented.
I drove off, and—in an hour—returned to pick him up. He came out to the car, scared but intact, and I greeted him with ALL of the information we went to Oakland to obtain. As we drove to the airport, he spoke with amazement at the effect his Opie factor had on my ability to have a conversation and get information we needed. I gave him that knowing look.
Within a couple of months we sat across the table from MC Hammer, got all of the information we sought, established what we needed to establish, and came away with a very favorable outcome. When I’d see Conley during the years after our Hammer experience, and he would—as expected—misbehave, I’d sometimes threaten to drop him off at a sketchy Burger King with a promise that I would not return for him this time.
Good times; great outcomes.
Where do you see your career heading?
I expect to continue on the path that I’ve identified. I will continue to lead AT LAST! as it scales in Dallas, around Texas and throughout the country. I will continue to look at acquisition and investment opportunities through my investment vehicle. And I expect that I will continue to serve on the boards of publicly-traded companies, as well as private equity portfolio companies. Finally, I am going to see if I can do a better job of staying connected with JW, the firm where it all began for me!