What Startups and Early Stage Companies Should Look for When Hiring a Lawyer

The considerations that go into hiring a lawyer are different at different stages of a company’s evolution.   In all cases, it depends on what you’re hiring the attorney to accomplish  (of course, in this context “hiring” means retaining outside counsel – there aren’t many startups who “right-off-the-bat” need an attorney on the payroll).   However, there are five broad categories of legally-related issues with which startups will need to deal in the early stages of their business:

1) Incorporation or other legal formation of the business

2) Intellectual property

3) Financing

4) If you’re business is web-based, then web-related agreements, i.e., channel partner agreements, customer agreements, website agreements, etc.

5) Day-to-day legal issues, including help with industry regulatory matters (by the way, it’s this last category where most startups run into real problems).

Yes, some companies, even early on, will be mired in issues involving litigation, joint ventures and even mergers and acquisitions, but the five areas listed above are the ones with which nearly every early stage business will have to contend.

Why? Because they’re the same issues with which big businesses have to contend.  So, that leads us to our approach to your business.

We don’t treat you like you’re always going to be “small”.  We look at your business and see what its needs will be, not just now, but well into the future as you and your business evolve and you begin to experience those growing pains that all successful businesses must live through if they are to succeed.

That’s where we’re different than all those “startup lawyers” and law firms that focus only on the startup phases of your business.  And there’s a story we’d like to share with you to highlight why this is so.

Not too long ago, there was a law firm that was headquartered at the very top of Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley.  This law firm focused exclusively on startups and on those issues with which startups are confronted as they grow into businesses first requiring seed capital, then venture capital and eventually the kind of financing that the public markets and “going public” can provide.

The problem was that by focusing only on the early-stage issues that all startups have in common, i.e., formation, financing and eventual exit, when their clients had issues that were unique or specific to the industries in which they operated, the law firm was at a loss to help them.

The result: the clients were either underserved at that point or, even worse (both for the client as well as the law firm), the client was forced to change law firms leaving the original law firm behind and falling into the unenviable position of being one of the new firm’s ”less important clients.”  Of course, that meant that the client’s account was then assigned, not to the most senior partners in the firm (who, of course, were assigned to the firm’s larger clients with whom the firm had long-standing and very profitable relationships), but rather to the newest and most “green” attorneys employed by the firm.

When you chose us, you get not only very senior, and very seasoned professionals, but individuals with a wealth of knowledge about company, securities, commercial, contractual and finance law (acquired by hard-fought battles in the trenches of large and small company commercial and financial transactions including, of course, private equity and corporate finance), but, in addition, access to the whole panoply of expertise in all of the other important areas of corporate legal life, including regulatory compliance (e.g., FDA-compliance, antitrust and regulatory M&A clearance (yes, M&A deals more often than  you’d believe need to be reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice), commercial contracts and even human resource issues (which, if left unattended, can often sink a new company).

In addition, through our relationships with the largest and highest quality law firms in the nation, we have access to some of the most experienced and qualified attorneys in business, people who, collectively, have over 100 years of experience in most of the areas of law in which a new or emerging company and its owners and management might find themselves embroiled.

So, do yourself a favor: when you’re thinking about hiring an attorney, think about hiring one for the long-term.  You’ll save both time and money in both the short and in the long-run and, perhaps, even more importantly, your company ….


R.P. Burrasca

Managing Partner