Monthly Feature: Get to Know... John C. Godsoe

October 1, 2022

Like many recent college graduates, John Godsoe walked into the world with a diploma and without a clear sense of what came next.

He majored in history at Wake Forest University not with a career in mind but because the subject fascinated him, and “we lean into those things we find interesting,” he says.

A native of Pawling, New York, a small town near the Connecticut border, John grew up listening to his father, an elementary school teacher, dispense “cool nuggets” of information gleaned from history. He was intrigued by the notion that a close look at yesterday can prepare us for tomorrow, and yet John’s own future remained undefined.

“I had competing unrealistic dreams to be either an NFL quarterback or a history professor,” he says. “By graduation, I knew neither would be my professional path.”

Rather than jump immediately into graduate study (“I knew I’d go back to school, but I wasn’t sure for what.”), John spent the next couple of years enrolled in real life instead. He lived for a year in his college town of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and then followed a friend to San Antonio, Texas.

“I had some interesting, odd jobs during those two years,” John says. “I was a runner at a law firm, taught SAT prep courses to high school students and worked on an archaeological dig at a Native American settlement, sleeping in a tent.”

By the end of the second year, John’s plans to attend law school crystallized, and he returned to New York to enroll at University at Buffalo School of Law. He met his wife, Karyn, there when the two had trouble finding parking on campus and shared a long walk to class.

John worked as a summer associate in Bond’s Syracuse office and then accepted a job offer from the firm after he graduated. He and Karyn, a Buffalo native, decided to relocate closer to her family in 2006, after their three daughters were born. Today, he chairs Bond’s employee benefits and executive compensation practice from the firm’s Buffalo office.

Employee benefits is a particularly complex and fluctuating area of the law that impacts employees, professionals, proprietors and businesses of all sizes. John gravitated toward the area, he says, because it involves a fair amount of tax work.

“I had a great tax professor, Ken Joyce, who was a legend at UB Law, and he got me interested in tax law in general,” John says. “And then some great practitioners at Bond led me to the practice and really made me feel like this is the type of work I could do for the rest of my career.”

When John first tells people he’s an employee benefits attorney, they sometimes nod uncertainly. Employee benefits such as tax-favored retirement plans – 401(k), 403(b), profit-sharing, etc. – simply run themselves, don’t they?

Many don’t appreciate that attorneys like John often are called upon to counsel employers on all aspects of this complex and constantly changing field of law, helping them design and maintain benefit plans and executive compensation arrangements that meet business needs and satisfy legal requirements.

“It’s an area that may seem unnuanced, but there’s a lot of complex regulatory issues to monitor,” John says. “Digging into regulations can be a dry, often mundane enterprise, so you derive satisfaction from the relationships you build. The ability to make our clients’ lives easier in a very complex area provides a lot of gratification.”