Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

W. David Jamieson '69: Variety is the Spice of Canadian Life

W. David Jamieson
Cmdr. Jamieson

W. David Jamieson's work has him involved in projects as diverse as producing the fries you eat at fast food restaurants, to growing the trees that end up as tissues you use for your stuffy nose. Such is life as executive vice president and the senior legal officer for J.D. Irving Limited, a private, family-owned company based in New Brunswick, Canada.

The Irving companies have investments in a wide array of businesses, including forest products, shipbuilding, manufacturing and construction, mining, petroleum refining and marketing, transportation (trucking, ships and a short-haul railroad), building supply stores, newspapers, and, yes, even a small French fry company. Irving also manages more than six million acres of timberland as well.

"It has been great to see this company grow and succeed," David said. "There has never been a dull moment here. When I started, the company had produced 100 million board feet of lumber; it didn't have tissue, newspaper or French fry operations then. Now we're at more than one billion feet per year."

That growth is typical of the many successes Irving has enjoyed since David first joined the company in 1978. In his role, he not only handles any legal issues the company might run into, but also is involved in new ventures and acquisitions.

Most of the major undertakings David has been a part of have involved big numbers, such as $6.2 billion - the amount of a turnkey contract from the Canadian government to design and build twelve 440-foot, Destroyer-size frigates for the Canadian Navy. It took twelve years to finish the contract, from 1983 to 1995. "We had experience with commercial tankers, but no military experience. This was a big opportunity and a big financial risk – a big, big contract," he said. "The commercial side of business is very competitive worldwide, and we were running out of commercial business. This was an opportunity to do something different that turned out very well."

Another big number? How about one million acres?

David oversaw a staff of eight who assembled the deeds for one million acres of timberland in Maine that the company was going to acquire. When all was said and done, he sat down in front of two five-foot high piles of deeds.

Ten: that's the number of years he invested into a precedent-setting case dealing with a fire on an offshore drilling rig built by the company. The case was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in a decision which introduced contributory negligence into Canadian Maritime law. "It was an expensive endurance contest, but it was a total success for us in the end," he said.

One billion pounds: the amount of frozen French fries the company manufactures each year. The company sells to fast food operations such as Wendy's, Burger King and Sonic. In addition, the company also produces fries for sale in grocery stores, under individual store labels in the U.S. and under the Cavendish Farms label in Canada.

David came to Irving after ten years in finance and corporate law. Upon graduating from OSU, he spent eight years at Dewey Ballantine in New York City, followed by two years with Peabody Brown in Boston.

David pursues his passion:  sailing
David pursues his passion: sailing

"I've always been interested in finance and corporate law," David said. "It is rewarding to put deals together and see them come to fruition after all that work."

It was at Dewey Ballantine where he first encountered the Irving family, who were clients of his firm. He joined Irving to build and manage the company's in-house law group.

His work there has netted him an array of accolades, but one of the highest was a mention in a 2003 issue of LEXPERT , a Canadian business magazine for lawyers. The magazine named the top 25 general counsels in the country. David said he asked to not be named, since he is easing into retirement, so the magazine complied and left him off the list; however, it could not resist giving him due credit, and so proceeded to mention him and his work in an editor's note. He said he was flattered by the honor.

David's life also included a stint as a commander and flight officer in the U.S. Naval Reserves. He was on active duty from 1962 to 1966 with service in Vietnam, and was awarded the Navy Air Medal. His Navy experience, he said, brought an added level of interest for him with respect to Irving's military shipbuilding operations.

As for the impending retirement, David said his biggest goal is to spend more time on his sailboat in Maine, a fantastic place to sail, and spending time with his family, which includes his wife Judith and his daughter Jessica, a 1997 graduate of the Moritz College of Law, who was a patent lawyer at Goodwin Procter and is now with King Pharmaceuticals. "It is a nice result that Jessica went to OSU and into law. It's not something I pushed for. This is a demanding, tough profession. You have to want to do it on your own."