Global, Advice
15 July 2013

Startups and Law Firms

Lawyers often act as a startups first outside advisor, even before angels or venture capital investors, explained Gabor Garai, partner at Foley & Lardner. Weve worked with more startups than even the most experienced serial entrepreneur, so weve seen the best practices among startups, and weve also seen some of the worst, so we can give you the lay of the land. 
 
Foley & Lardners attorneys have served as the legal counsel for emerging companies at various stages of development, from fledgling entrepreneurs to venture-backed companies with hundreds of employees.
 
Foley & Lardner has helped us think deeply about strategy and legal requirements for validating and scaling the company, said Sombit Mishra, founder of QMedic and 2013 Finalist. The true sign of a good patent team is one where the attorneys bring relevant domain expertise in engineering. All of our patent filings are handled through Foley and their patent attorneys are second to none.
 
Foley & Lardner sponsored last weeks Bootcamp events in addition to hosting a day of sessions and the Life Sciences & Healthcare industry Mentor Matching event at their offices in the Prudential Center. 
 
One of my key takeaways from Bootcamp is that successful entrepreneurs have to mitigate the fall, said Nick Dougherty, CEO of Verbal Applications, remembering Colin Angles metaphor for entrepreneurship from last Tuesdays session at FCAT. 
 
I realized that as an entrepreneur, you are a rock climber, said Dougherty. Do not climb without a rope. The jump from the rock face must be calculated.  Whether it's financing, partnerships, or consulting, you must give yourself a rope so you do not crash into the earth.
 
Starting a company is one of the hardest things you can do, and you need a lot of help along the way to get you there. Good legal advice is like a safety net to prevent those very common but potentially devastating mistakes or missteps from being made. 
Gabor Garai, partner, Foley & Lardner
 
If you have an idea and people worth protecting and obviously, I am of the opinion that all of the Finalists do then you need to understand the law and you need a legal strategy. 
 

Three challenges startups face and ways an attorney can help:

  1. Making sure all of the founders are equally committed and incentivized to work towards the success of the enterprise. To this end, you must create a simple but effective structure to tie equity to performance. 
  2. Protecting your intellectual property. Its not just about patents (though theyre important for a large number of startups); often, know-how, trade secrets and other confidential information are critical and must be safeguarded through a combination of agreements, procedures and policies.
  3. Finding VCs who will be supportive of your role as the founders of the company. These VCs will work with the founders to hone their skills as leaders, managers and strategists, and will be there for the company during the inevitable crises, as well as the successes.

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