Who’s Who at Hinckley Allen: Daniel L. Gottfried
February 21, 2018
By: Daniel L. Gottfried
At Hinckley Allen, our attorneys pride themselves on being trusted partners that provide well-rounded, strategic counsel to our clients. This is part of a series of interviews with our attorneys that highlights the unique talents, life experiences, and perspectives that each person brings to their respective practices. These interviews seek to uncover what makes our attorneys tick in both their professional and personal lives.
Based in our Hartford office, Dan’s practice encompasses structuring, negotiating, and documenting business deals and investment transactions throughout the United States and around the world. He assists clients with domestic and international tax planning and compliance, tax audits and appeals, as well as general corporate matters that affect his wide variety of business clients. Additionally, Dan is an adjunct professor at The University of Connecticut (School of Law and School of Business), and serves in leadership roles for a variety of professional and charitable organizations.
- How did you get involved in, or what led you to practicing Corporate & Business Law—more specifically Tax Law?
My career began at the end of my first year of law school, when I became a summer associate at a firm well-known for tax law. My positive experience there at a young age, and the relationship I built with its founder, laid the foundation for the rest of my career. I’m drawn to tax law because it requires a lot of creativity, and allows me to provide demonstrable value. Clients can easily see that I am working hard for them, saving them money, and helping them avoid risk. I also enjoy that there is a great deal of creativity and collaboration involved in tax law. My colleagues and I call upon each other frequently to work on matters across legal disciplines, including real estate, corporate transactions, and litigation, and to be creative in blending the desired tax outcome with other relevant variables. Working at a full-service law firm like Hinckley Allen allows my clients to benefit from this multidisciplinary collaboration – it results in excellent value for my clients. In short, I love that my work allows me to support my clients and get to know my colleagues better all at the same time.
- What unique skill/perspective/philosophy do you think you bring to your work?
I bring a unique perspective to my work because I did not have a traditional path to law. Prior to college, I was a full time musician. I think my creative background helps me see my work and client challenges differently. Rather than fixating on tax rules, I’m much more interested in understanding and delivering what my clients want. I’m very bottom line-oriented. And the bottom line is, clients come to our firm for counsel, direction, and results.
- Given the challenges working in the tax industry, what makes it all worth it to you?
Strong client relationships make it all worthwhile. The importance of cementing a foundation of trust, respect, and open dialogue with a client cannot be overstated. I constantly tell younger associates to put themselves in the client’s shoes and never lose sight of what’s most important to the client. Relationships and a client-centric mindset are pivotal in my ability to provide effective counsel and advocacy. A strong relationship ensures that my clients feel comfortable enough to fully disclose all relevant information, express concerns without fear, and trust that I am looking out for their best interests. Many of my clients and colleagues have become close personal friends, which I also find very meaningful.
- Who was the biggest influence in your career (mentor/teacher/relative) and why?
I’m fortunate to have had many mentors and supportive colleagues throughout my career. In the earliest years of my career, the late Newton Brenner served as a sage mentor who invested in me. He founded the firm where I worked during law school as summer associate and law clerk, and then as a full time associate. He was on the verge of retiring during the years that we worked together. Despite our differences in age and experience level, he used to take me to lunch and assign me interesting projects. As a summer associate, my first project for Newton was unorthodox, yet practical. He asked me to buy an HP 12c calculator, an old-fashioned financial calculator many attorneys don’t know how to use. He then asked me to study the instruction manual and practice its functions. He told me that I can’t win over a deal, or the hearts of my clients, through my knowledge of the law alone. I needed to master the numbers faster than anyone else in the room. He said, “If you aren’t one step ahead, your clients won’t do as well.” I remember that lesson often, and am forever grateful to Newton for reinforcing the importance of understanding the bottom line, not just legal rules and regulations.
- What are the top trends in the tax industry right now?
The biggest news in the US today is the tax reform bill that was just signed into law on December 22, 2017. No matter one’s views of the particulars, I think it is fair to state that this is the most significant overhaul of the US tax code since it was completely rewritten in 1986. Changes impact individuals, businesses, foreign activities, charities, university endowments – virtually every US taxpayer will be impacted in one way or another. Much of 2018 will likely be spent with the tax industry understanding these rules, seeking opportunities, and addressing compliance challenges.
In addition, over the past 10 years there’s been an overarching theme of international enforcement. International business has also been growing, and is an important component of my work. In summary, there has been a changing tide of norms and expectations, which has led to greater enforcement and more cooperation between the tax authorities in various countries. Many of the provisions of the just-passed US tax reform are intended to address perceived inadequacies in the US international tax rules.
Another emerging trends I’m following, along with my colleagues in our Banking & Financial Institutions practice, is the increasing prevalence of cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin. There are still many unknowns at this point. But in the last year or so, we have watched Bitcoin move from the fringe and into the mainstream. A number of venture capital funds, for example, have strategies dedicated to the cryptocurrency industry. There are now futures markets in Bitcoin. In fact, some pundits are calling Bitcoin “the new gold,” as some investors are using Bitcoin instead of gold to hedge against risk. Moving forward, we will continue to address tax, regulatory and business issues relating to cryptocurrency.
- How are you involved in the community? What makes you passionate about this cause/organization?
Broadly speaking, I am involved in the legal community and philanthropy.
I’m committed to giving back to the University of Connecticut for all it has done for me. I have taught at the law school for a number of years, and recently agreed to teach at the business school. I waive any professor salary for this – my only motivation is to give back to UConn and to hopefully make a positive impact on the next generation. For instance, in January, I led a study abroad trip for the business school to Israel, where the students learned about entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology.
Outside of UConn, I’m a past chair of the Connecticut Bar Association, and have held leadership roles in tax groups, bar associations, and various groups interested in the Connecticut state economy.
Philanthropically, I have been involved in a number of Jewish charities. I am currently the chair of the Solomon Society of the Greater Hartford Jewish Federation, and an alumni of the Wexner Heritage Program. The work I like doing most for Jewish charities is arranging important speakers and experiences to help encourage education, debate, and a sense of community.