Startups · Technology Commercialization

What do founders look for when selecting legal representation?

Michael CISSP Attorney/Consultant at Self Employed

May 27th, 2015

You have worked long and hard and put skin in the game.  What are you looking for when selecting legal counsel?  Does it depend on the nature of the work?  Are you looking for big name firms or more personal relationships?  Is flexibility in billing more important than location?  Are you looking for a longer term relationship or a one off helping hand? 
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L. Marshall-Smith

May 27th, 2015

Hi Michael...

Like most things in life for me, building relationships are important. I like to meet with and get to know the lawyer or legal team first.  If we hit it off, then I would be looking for a long-term relationship, having the legal arm part of the overall team, even if outsourced.  Big name firms are great, and typically carry a lot of weight, but with that also comes lots of bureaucracy and red tape, and dealing with assistants and paralegals, etc.  I do prefer a one-on-one directly with my lawyer, so would tend to gravitate to a smaller, or boutique firm.  Flexibility in billing is also a consideration, especially at the very early stages of a start up when legal advice is quite necessary, but there may be very little in the budget to pay for it, especially if the start up is pre funded. The absolute MUST HAVE for me is a proven track record in the start up space, connections to possible investors, technology partners, etc. 

Jeff Dennis Entrepreneur in Residence at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin

May 27th, 2015

I am what I believe to be the world's only Entrepreneur in Residence in a law firm (at least I haven't found another so far). I am a lawyer by training, but spent the last 25 years or so as a serial entrepreneur. I joined one of Canada's largest and most international law firms a few years ago to provide commercialization and financing strategic advice to early stage entrepreneurs and to assist Fasken Martineau in figuring out how "big law" does business with these companies.

In my experience, you need a combination of a trusted advisor who you can build a long term relationship with, who, if they haven't walked a mile in your shoes, are able to understand the practical issues involved in running an early stage business. Price is often a factor, as a result, we have instituted a "law firm as a service" subscription model as well as fixed fee pricing to address affordability and certainty.

Lastly, and most importantly, an advisor with a network who can advance your business is critical. Most lawyers can handle the technical legal work, however, very few can open the doors that you need opened.