Aug. 23, 2022
To answer this question, we need to first understand what is “startup law”. This is the first question I ask my students at the beginning of each semester (I teach Entrepreneurial Law at Fordham Law School). Startup law is at the intersection of different practice areas, such as securities law, corporate, employment, intellectual property, and tax, with a particular focus on representing young and fast-growing companies. A good startup lawyer is an issue spotter, who can identify and address various legal challenges while working with experts in more focused practice areas (such as tax, employment, etc.). Also, a good startup lawyer is someone who enables founders to succeed by advancing their interests and smoothing out the path to opportunity.
So, I like startup law because it challenges me to brainstorm “on my feet” and tackle interesting legal issues. No two startups are alike. This is one of the most intellectually stimulating practice areas. Also, the founders’ enthusiasm is simply contagious.
I admire attorneys with strong work ethic and respect towards their colleagues (no matter the level of pressure). I admire attorneys who believe in working in teams rather than as solos because working in teams always produces higher quality work product. I also admire those who are not afraid to think outside the box and consider novel solutions and approaches. Finally, I admire those who are “go-getters” and who are not intimidated to speak up.
My advice would be to not be afraid if you do not have all of the answers. The key is to ask the right questions, because then you can always find the answers. Even seasoned practitioners read legal books, blogs, and brainstorm with colleagues. In the practice of law, the learning never stops. This is the most scary and is also the most exciting aspect of this profession.
I considered leaving Big Law twelve years ago to start my own practice and grow it to the level of Big Law to be my biggest accomplishment up to date. This allowed me the opportunity to look at my own law firm as a startup, which led me to better understand my startup clients and relate to them even more. Growing my own practice allowed me to nurture my entrepreneurial spirit, learn how to be the best startup lawyer I can, and have the flexibility I needed to be with my family.
The projected economic downturn may lead to fewer startup financings and M&A transactions. So, it is important for attorneys to have broader practices to be able to stay busy during the recession. As for me, in addition to representing technology startups, my clients include emerging fund managers, gaming companies, DAOs, and startups issuing various forms of digital assets.
Another challenge I see is the ever increasing legal fees and the affordability of legal services for pre-funded startups. As a result, more startup founders attempt to handle their legal needs themselves (and not always successfully). I believe that more law firms should be open to alternative fee arrangements and offer various legal packages to ensure that all startups get the legal representation they need. I have been using a variety of fixed fee legal packages and various other fee arrangements to be able to represent the best interests of the startup clients without effectively reducing the fees.
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