Christopher Graham, Esq. '14

Partner In-Charge
Edwards Wildman Palmer

Award Profile

Courageous Thinking and Action
Early in Chris’ legal career, he learned both the importance of an entrepreneurial approach to problems and the benefits of informed discussion in successfully navigating challenges. Furthering those lessons, two of Junior Achievement’s core themes, the promotion of entrepreneurial behavior and the education of our youth, first attracted Chris to JA and have sustained his commitment to the organization since.

Those insights have led Chris to the conclusion that a cornerstone of Rhode Island’s economic development plan must be the promotion of a better educated workforce. He holds a passionate belief that if our schools become among the best in New England, our local economy will thrive. It is this passion that led Chris to help welcome Teach For America to Rhode Island and to lead a number of his partners at Edwards Wildman in making substantial financial commitments to ensure TFA’s success here. It is this belief that underlies Chris’ leadership of his firm’s pro bono participation and charitable giving among innovative educational programs throughout the State.

Vision and Innovation
Chris is a business lawyer who advises business clients of all types, although he invests much of his time on matters involving private equity. He has led teams of lawyers in many different corporate transactions, both domestic and cross-border. He counsels start-up enterprises and assists in their capital formation, represents emerging companies and private equity investors in different rounds of equity financing, and negotiates acquisitions, dispositions and management buyouts for corporate buyers and sellers, private equity funds and management teams. Chris has worked tirelessly on behalf of Rhode Island startup companies and the
organizations that support their entrepreneurial endeavors, actively engaging with the Brown Venture Forum and groups that succeeded to its mission, with the Slater Technology Fund and with Betaspring. He has also been instrumental in helping his firm establish business law presence in London, Hong Kong and Istanbul, bringing international legal services to many US middle market clients.

Inspiring Leadership
Chris has served as Co-Chair of the Business Law Department of Edwards Wildman since 2008, overseeing the Department’s growth from 136 corporate attorneys in 6 cities to 152 attorneys in 13 cities, including 3 international offices. He also serves as the Partner-in-Charge of his firm’s Providence Office, one of the largest of its 16 offices. As a lawyer, Chris understands that he is uniquely situated to provide services that help make a difference in people’s lives both professionally and personally. He has actively supported Junior Achievement of Rhode Island since 1984, serving as its legal counsel, on its Board, including a term as Chairman, and on its Executive and Investment Committees. He believes in its mission to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. Chris has been listed among The Best Lawyers in America for over 10 years, he is cited in Chambers USA as one of America’s Leading Business Lawyers, and is included in Thompson Reuters’ Rhode Island Super Lawyers. Recently he was
named by Best Lawyers as Rhode Island “Lawyer of the Year” for Corporate Law.

Community Mindedness
Chris serves as counsel to several non-profits, including the internationally recognized Gordon Research Conferences based in Kingston, Rhode Island, is an active advisor to Slater Technology Fund, a state-sponsored seed fund that invests in Rhode Island technology companies, and a mentor to start-ups at Betaspring, a Providence-based business accelerator. He was an active participant in the Brown Venture Forum and its successor organizations for many years, he helped organize both the Rhode Island Venture Forum and the first Rhode Island Business Plan Competition, and he sometimes serves as a guest lecturer for entrepreneurship courses offered at Brown University. He sits on the Board of Directors of Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council and on the Board of Trustees of the Providence
Chamber of Commerce. In the past, Chris has served on the Board of Trustees of Newman Congregational Church, including a term as Chair, and as its Moderator.

JA Mission Moment
Having taught a 3rd grade class for JA In A Day at Carl Lauro Elementary School in Providence for several years, Chris appreciates most the “I get it” moment when 8 and 9 year old students suddenly understand that as owners of a “pizza restaurant”, formed as part of the class discussion reflecting “market demand” for the food identified by them as their favorite, they must adjust their proposed prices in order to be certain their expenses are covered leaving some “profit” to take home, but all the while wary of losing customers to the “other restaurant”
next door charging less. It is a sophisticated thought process for such young students, combined with a little math, and the smiles on the faces of the many who come to understand are priceless.