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Jerome Sowalsky joined the circus without ever having to squeeze into a clown car. As the executive vice president and general counsel of Vienna, Virginia�based Feld Entertainment, Inc., Sowalsky, 69, handles legal affairs for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Disney on Ice, and Siegfried & Roy. Sowalsky came to Feld back in 1973 by chance. Working as an in-house lawyer at American Airlines, he was looking to relocate to the nation’s capital. Sowalsky interviewed with a law firm scouring for a GC for a Virginia-based client � Ringling Brothers � which had yet to be acquired by Feld. He got the job, signing on as its first in-house lawyer. Today, he supervises a staff of three. So, no, Sowalsky didn’t exactly run away to join the circus. And he’s never walked on a tightrope. But life at Feld isn’t exactly dull. How many GCs have given career advice to a clown? Below, more tales of circus life. What kind of legal issues do you deal with? A lot of our work is transactional. We have contracts with virtually everyone we deal with. Ours is a very high-risk business. Ninety percent of our liability issues are tort cases like slip-and-fall. From time to time, we do have more unusual issues. One year we had a claim from someone who had parked his Volkswagen near Madison Square Garden. When he returned to his car, it had been demolished. It turns out one of our elephants had been walking down Seventh Avenue and sat on it. Fortunately, the claim was just for the cost of the Volkswagen. How often do you see one of Feld Entertainment’s shows? It varies from year to year. I see each show when it opens in Florida. I also see it in New York. Over the course of the year, at least three shows come to Washington, D.C. I see all of them, and usually shows in a lot of other cities. When you were a child, did you ever dream of running away and joining the circus? No, not really. People ask me that all the time. [The fact that I work for the circus] was just one of those happenstance things. Have you ever participated in any of the circus activities � like walking from a high wire or swinging from a trapeze? I’ve never gotten on a high wire. For people who are inexperienced, they use a low wire. I’ve tried that. I’ve never gotten on a trapeze. I probably could have done that when I was younger [laughs]. What are the clowns like in real life? They’re all different. Some are kind of goofy. Some are shy. They’re all very talented and creative. Many years ago the receptionist in our office called me and said, “There’s someone here to see you.” I hadn’t been expecting anyone, and asked who it was. She replied, “You’ll know him when you see him.” I went out and there was a big guy in a clown costume, with clown shoes and everything. He was one of our “advance clowns” who does promotional work before the circus arrives in a city. I invited him back to my office. He was a graduate of UCLA Law School [and] wasn’t sure if he wanted to be a clown or a lawyer, and he wanted some advice. I asked him, “Do you want to be a clown or a lawyer?” He said, “I want to be a lawyer.” I said, “Well, you better get going on it, then.”

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