Our firm, Egan Nelson LLP (E/N), is a lean, top-tier boutique law firm designed to give emerging companies access to highly experienced Partners and Senior Lawyers under an efficient, flexible law firm model; with a particular emphasis on startups outside of Silicon Valley. We’ve taken companies from formation, through complex high-stakes financings, to 9-figure exits, with hourly rates that are $300+ per hour below the traditional BigLaw firms that we recruit from; and at which many of our Partners originally built their practices. While it’s required a significant re-thinking of how law firms are designed, we achieve this without (i) representing or having economic ties to tech venture capitalists, and all the conflicts of interest that entails, or (ii) watering down specialized, top-tier legal advisory into some half-baked, cookie-cutter approach that treats all companies as if they’re the same.
But there’s a lot to unpack there as to why we’ve designed E/N the way we have, and why we’ve avoided approaches that other firms have adopted. Below are my favorite posts on startup lawyers as a topic, law firm economics, and how founders should assess law firms/legal services for their own startups.
The Race to the Bottom in Startup Law – Startups need regular access to experienced, flexible senior-level expertise for key decisions, but a number of firms play games, in order to cut costs/corners and expand their revenue, by having founders interact with conflicted junior professionals following inflexible scripts.
Startups Scale. Solo Lawyers Don’t. – Countless attempts have been made to market solo lawyer “marketplaces” as a replacement for firms. While helpful for small businesses with limited needs and discrete niche projects, solo corporate lawyers always fail for scaling startups because they lack the institutional resources and infrastructure to scalable represent a growing company. Boutiques deliver far more efficiency than “BigLaw” without all the problems of solos.
Legal Technical Debt and Lies About Startup Legal Fees – A lot of advice floating around startup ecosystems on how to “save” money on legal fees is given by people who don’t have a clue how startup law actually works; and it ends up costing founders a lot more in the long-run.
The Tech Law Ecosystem v. BigLaw; Except in Silicon Valley and When the A-Lawyers Break Free: BigLaw 2.0 – The Cloud and SaaS have rendered large “full service” law firms, in many cases, unnecessary and inefficient.
Startups Need Specialist Lawyers and Flexibility in Choice of Counsel – Founders should understand the importance of specialist lawyers, and why they shouldn’t let “generalists” do everything, but they should also understand why sourcing all of their specialist lawyers from one firm will lead to a lot of wasted money, and possibly costly mistakes.
How to Avoid “Captive” Company Counsel – Many startup lawyers and law firms have flouted conflicts of interest (with VCs/Funds) to the point of rendering their counsel untrustworthy for entrepreneurs.
When Startup Law Firms Don’t Sell Legal Services – Many law firms are doing a whole lot of things that aren’t actual legal services, and that inflates their costs. Lots of clients are tired of it.
Standardization v. Flexibility in Startup Law and Startup Law Pricing: Fixed v. Hourly – A mindset is emerging that all “startups” should follow the same path for corporate structure, financing, etc. While standardization carries many efficiencies, its constraints can dramatically hurt companies that aren’t cookie-cutter. Real counsel maintains flexibility, while taking advantage of appropriate standardization.