Startup-friendly programs by larger law firms - what to consider?

Jonathan Heyne Co-founder & CEO at Mentive

February 27th, 2015

We're a pre-incorporation startup but have met some serious benchmarks and want to incorporate the business. We will most probably go with a Delaware C-corp, and do business from California. We won't file for patents in the foreseeable future, but are planning to raise money. I've seen some discussions here around legal issues, but most comments were about what to do (e.g. don't forget to file for 83(b) after incorporation...), or recommendations for individual lawyers.

My question - In the Bay Area, what other programs such as WilmerHale's 'QuickStart' or DLA Piper's 'NEST' are there? Is this a good option for a startup like ours? What are the things to consider when choosing which one to go with?

Robert H Lee

February 27th, 2015

Hi Jonathan

I know most of these programs and would be happy to talk to you about them. One general piece of advice: Just because a law firm has such a program, that doesn't mean it is well-organized. In many cases it might just be marketing fluff. What you have to be careful about large law in particular, because in many cases is that the partner may take on hundreds of startups clients, none of which are particularly important to him or her, because of the small revenue. Lawyers are also notoriously poor project managers.

PS I went to Haas.

Neil Gordon Board Member, Corporate Finance Advisor and Strategy Consultant

March 1st, 2015

As when you're buying just about anything, shop first for features, then for price. I'd chat with a few larger firms, a few smaller firms, and an individual practitioner or two. Find the people, not the firms, that you're most comfortable working with, consider what services you'll need over time (and whether you need them under one roof), then see how cost matches up with what you can afford to pay.

Tim Parks VP of Growth at UpCounsel, Inc.

February 27th, 2015

Hey Jonathan-

There are options like Cooley Go and Flex by Fenwick if you are dead set on starting to work with a law firm, but you can also (as you mentioned in your post) work with an individual attorney to start out or try setting it up your self with a tool like Clerky.

If you're trying to find a range of attorneys along with pricing you can also check out Upcounsel (full disclosure - I work @UpCounsel). There you could be connected with former big firm attorneys who run their own startup practices at much lower rate than they would be inside firms.

Hope this helps and let me know if you have any questions - it all really depends what you are trying to get out of your upcoming legal relationship.

Questions you may want to ask as yourself:

Is it about working with a fixed budget?
Is it about deferred fees?
Is it about the attorneys?

Randy Martinez Founder/CEO at Incendiary Games

February 28th, 2015

A good startup friendly lawyer will offer a reduced flat fee for incorporation and other services. I paid $1,500 to incorporate my startup and it included the consultation I needed.

Jonathan Heyne Co-founder & CEO at Mentive

February 28th, 2015

Tim - thanks! I'm definitely not locked on working with a law firm, but there have been several discussions on other legal options and none that I saw about this. Just wanted to get some thoughts about how to evaluate these options.

Robert - great point. I'm sure they are working with hundreds of clients, and this clearly effects quality of service. I'll write in private - thanks!

Randy - I guess the questions is also what exactly is included in this bundle.. did you also get other documents that you needed, or just advice? Were these docs generic or somehow tweaked to fit your needs? 

Rachel - thanks. I always appreciate a valuable recommendation. There have obviously been many discussions with the word 'lawyer' in them, but none touched on how to evaluate (and whether to work with) a larger law firm offering startup-specific programs. If you're not sure what these are, I'm happy to explain more.

Rachel Zheng Business Development Manager at Honyee Media

February 27th, 2015

Hi Jonathan:

It looks like there have been a lot of discussion on this topic before, I recommend you to take a search on this topic before you post. I found several questions that you might be interested in reading first