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February 24, 2010

Start-up clients: A "miserable and tortuous" hell?

For over ten years, our firm has shied away from representing start-ups--even those run by savvy entrepreneurs with past successes and big bucks. To be more precise, we have routinely run from them.

Reason: Start-ups are not generally sophisticated users of legal services. They cannot distinguish between, say, a David Boies or James Freund, and JoJo the Demented Car Accident Lawyer. Although creative and way fun, start-up people are moreover (a) paranoid about lawyers ("lawyers are all alike and our enemy"), (b) flat-out cheap and/or (c) too wild and crazy to listen to us.

But we have been wrong about many things. Here's a gem we missed last month at Venture Hacks, guest-authored by Scott Walker, a Los Angeles-based lawyer with a solid background, and an interesting and relatively new boutique firm focusing on start-up clients. It's called "Top 10 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Hate Lawyers". My favorites: No. 5. "Because they spend too much time on insignificant issues”. And No. 1--but you'll have to see for yourself.

Like the undersigned, Walker's a transplant to Southern California from the East and still keeps offices back there. He even mentions Skadden M&A legend and author James Freund. Freund's now decades-old classic on "lawyering" was required reading for new associates in the D.C. office I worked in at my old firm, marked the first time anyone married client service to substantive practice, and (unfortunately) would still seem revolutionary to most lawyers practicing today.

Walker also cites my talented friend Tom Kane, the lawyer-consultant who I had the honor to meet in late 2008.

So I was intrigued. There is hardly anything in Walker's post with which I disagree. None of its content is new to my firm or this blog. But it is written from the viewpoint of clients I generally think are without a clue about evaluating legal services. We do appreciate Walker's piece is in part a marketing exercise--but what isn't? (My post here and others at this blog imply that if you are an experienced GC from a publicly-traded company, please call; if you are not, don't even think about it.)

While I still think of working for start-ups as a miserable and tortuous hell, the post and the related fact that Walker's credentialed law firm specializes in that work--apparently without morning drinking, Thorazine, or routine institutionalizations of its lawyers--makes us re-think things. Nicely done. Thanks to Allison Shields at Legal Ease for bringing Walker's piece to our attention.

Posted by JD Hull at February 24, 2010 11:59 PM


You'll be hearing from me. This isn't over.

Posted by: JoJo The Demented Car Accident Lawyer at February 24, 2010 07:34 AM

Well played, sir.

Posted by: Jordan Furlong at February 24, 2010 03:48 PM

I enjoy that picture as well. I don't think a person who decides to take GHB and then drive a car really has much room to complain about his mug shot photo ending up on the internet.

I also thought this was amusing: "* Start-ups make stupid clients. [What About Clients?]" [ATL]

Posted by: Christopher Sanders at February 25, 2010 11:52 AM

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