My reaction to the recent Venture Hacks post on lawyers was that we need to help entrepreneurs find good attorneys! They are out there — I am certainly happy with my current attorney, Brian Hutchings at Gunderson, and when I was selling the first company I founded, my attorney at Fenwick was indispensable.
So today I reached out to a whole bunch of entrepreneurs around North America and asked who they would recommend. I asked for folks who would fit the following criteria:
- has a practice with several Web startups, and understands startup issues
- keeps billable hours reasonable, respecting cash of clients
- is both an excellent lawyer and communicator
- does not lose sight of business needs when thinking through legal issues
- truly cares about representing your business (without conflicts of interests with VCs or other)
Thank you all who sent in recommendations and helped spread the word. So far I have over 25 recommendations across 11 different regions (Austin, Boston, Minneapolis, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Silicon Valley / San Francisco, Toronto, Washington D.C.
To check out the list, which I’m continuing to update as suggestions and comments roll in from entrepreneurs, you can click here (or see the tab at top of page). To send in your own suggestions, email me at giff(dot)constable @gmail.
William Carleton, one of the lawyers recommended to me for the list, blogged about the criteria above and I thought I would append this post with my comment left on his blog:
I should note that when I talk about keeping billable hours reasonable, it’s not really about getting lots of free upfront work, but rather a conscious effort by the attorney to both practice and bill efficiently, fairly, and cost-effectively. With some firms, especially big ones with big clients, if they think you have means and VC backing, all thoughts of cost-effectiveness go out the window and the bills can rack up fast. I don’t think it’s even greed as much as thoughtlessness.
Deferred fees are an obvious risk from the lawyer’s perspective, but even from the entrepreneur’s perspective you have to be careful because at some point, if you are making the headway you hope for, that bill will come due. It’s not free, and young entrepreneurs need to watch what they ask for, both to respect the time of the attorney as well as manage the balance due.