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Cocktails with KB | Louis Grilli

Harvey and Mike. Alicia Florrick. Denny Crane. Saul Goodman. They’re the lawyers we love and hate from television. Their lives are glamourous and gritty, they’re powerful and petty. They’re also completely fictional. This month, I had cocktails with lawyer Louis Grilli of Agro Zaffiro. He’s a rising star in local business, and there’s nothing fictional about him. He has the ability to take the complex concept of the law and break it down so anyone could understand it. He is the type of guy with whom you feel immediately comfortable. He is hard working, sincere, and generous. His love for Hamilton and commitment to its success only grows stronger the longer he is here. In short, he is someone who is making Hamilton better simply by living, working and playing in it. We sat on the patio at Sarcoa (before a huge thunderstorm) one Friday afternoon and chatted about the city, grandparents, trips, work, school and life over martinis (for me) and Manhattans (for him). Pour yourself a cocktail and get to know a Hamilton asset.

Louis_1_Photo Credit KB_small

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve ever received is from my Nonno which was “watch the pennies and the dollars will come.” I think it’s true and apt. He was a guy who came from Italy with just the clothes on his back in search of a better life for his family. He built it all from nothing, it’s very admirable and that advice sums up how he lived his life. It’s not to say that he was a cheap guy. He loved friends and family and would spend largely on that. But, to get to where he was, he was very mindful of the Ps and Qs I think and I try to keep sight of that.

Why Hamilton?
I am from here, born and raised. I went away to school. During my time away, I was constantly defending this place to everybody that I met — people in Montreal when I was at McGill, people in Halifax when I was at Dalhousie. It was evident that this is the only place I’m really passionate about. I had opportunities to work elsewhere but I didn’t pursue them because I wanted to be here. In sum, Hamilton because it’s me, it’s family, and I’m very passionate about the place, about the city. I want to see it succeed and continue to get better as it is every single day. It’s probably pretty cliché, but it’s right, it’s me, it’s who I am.

Who has inspired you and why?
I’m very inspired by my parents. They came to Hamilton with their family as immigrants; my mother is from Belfast, Northern Ireland and my father is from a little town in Italy called Pettorano Sul Gizio. They built what they have from the ground up. They worked hard to give me opportunities that I attempt to capitalize on every day. I take inspiration from their strength.

What’s the best thing about what you do?
I get to help people. In some types of law, you don’t get to ever meet the people you’re working for, you work for big companies. But, people come to me with an idea to start a business, or conversely, they’re buying a piece of property and I get to help them through that process and see the end result. I like to say that I practice happy law, because we’re always working toward a happy result.

What’s the worst thing about what you do?
The worst thing about what I do is having the lawyer label attached to me. It’s something that I battle hard against. Everybody has a pre- conceived notion about what a lawyer is and what type of person they are, and that’s just not me. I don’t dress conservatively, I’m not clean shaven and I am as at home in a dive bar as I am in the Hamilton Club. I guess my point is that lawyers are not all as seen on TV.

What is your motto?
Scared money don’t make money. I like to be a calculated risk taker and see how it works out. When I started at the firm, they asked why I wanted to work there — I was clearly en route to be a business lawyer and they were largely an insurance defense firm. My answer was “I’m going to help you grow your business practice.” And that was in my interview and it happened. That was a risk. I had other opportunities, but, I decided I liked the firm and they took a risk on me. So, to get back to it, to be a calculated risk taker, but at the same time to be socially minded about what I’m doing. Everything I’m doing in law and business I’d like to think is helping this city move forward.

Best thing about 2015 so far?
Cocktails with KB.

What has been the biggest learning experience of your life?
Failure is a good teacher. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of different jobs, I’ve been everything from a garbage man to a steelworker. I have a lot of schooling, but I think my work experience has made me into the person I’ve become. I worked at the Hamilton General Hospital for 10 years, from when I was 16 to right before I became a lawyer. It’s how I helped to pay my way through school during summers, Christmas holidays and weekends.

I started as a janitor and then I became a business clerk. I made an unfortunate mistake once. Someone passed away and they donated their organs, in particular their eyes, and I was inputting their information into the computer system. I key stroked “yes” when I should have key stroked “no” and, because of that the body was taken away to the morgue and somebody who could have had eyesight, didn’t, because of that mistake. Making big mistakes like that, it’s not about how you fall, it’s about how you get up. From that, the computer system for Hamilton Health Sciences on that particular point was modified. That was a big learning experience.

If you found 10 dollars in your pocket, what would you do with it?
I would buy Government of Canada bond, with a 25 year maturity.

We all know that TV shows about the law are not really based on reality (Suits, Law & Order, etc). What is the biggest misconception about the law?
Lawyers are specialists. We aren’t like Harvey Specter, who is one day doing a criminal trial, the next day closing a multi-national mega merger and then the following day doing a family law dispute. Lawyers specialize in one thing. I have people come up to me at cocktail parties all the time asking me questions about their divorce or whatever, and I don’t have the answers because I specialize in corporate law.

Lightning Round:

WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT THESE DAYS? A trip to Barcelona.

BEST GIFT YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED? A painting.

HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR COFFEE? Often!

FAVOURITE BAND? Radiohead.

FAVOURITE SOLO ARTIST? Action Bronson.

A BOOK YOU PLAN ON READING? Jared Diamond’s Collapse (follow-up to Guns, Germs, and Steel).

HIDDEN TALENT? Football, I was an offensive lineman at McGill University.

THE FIRST THING I DO WHEN I GET HOME IS? Take off my suit.

BEST WAY TO DECOMPRESS? Golf.

IF YOUR LIFE WERE A SONG, WHAT WOULD THE TITLE BE? Organized Chaos.

FAVOURITE HOLIDAY? Christmas.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHEN YOU’RE ALONE IN YOUR CAR? Work.

 

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© 2024 Robert Cekan Professional Real Estate Corporation. All rights reserved. Robert Cekan is a Broker at Real Broker Ontario Ltd., Brokerage.