Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

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PwnLaw
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Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby PwnLaw » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:06 am

Hey folks. Been a while since I last did one of these and figured I'd drop in and answer questions. Happy to talk about being an associate, building a book of business/network, making the transition out of law and so forth.

I currently do a mix of business development, law and game design at a venture backed startup. Before that I worked as an associate in the entertainment group of an AmLaw 100 firm.

Will probably be around a couple of hours while I watch a movie.

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bk1
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby bk1 » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:17 am

I saw that you made yourself knowledgeable about the industry in general. Would you have worked for a big studio like Epic/Blizzard/THQ/etc if they had come knocking or was that not something you wanted to do? What made you choose working with startups? Granted there are a lot more social/mobile startups, but did you make a conscious choice to choose one of those over a startup that worked on platforms?

How do the hours compare to what you worked as an associate? You actually do some game design at your current startup?

ETA: Why the video game industry? (Don't think I saw that in your previous threads, but my mistake if I missed it.)

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tedalbany
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby tedalbany » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:25 am

I'm very interested in business dev and working with startups (and hopefully launching my own startups later on), so this is relevant to my interests. Any general advice on how to set myself up to transition into that sort of work?
What do you think would be the most logical steps coming out of law school to begin working with start ups (i.e. would starting out in Big Law be most useful?)

How do you like the work?

PwnLaw
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby PwnLaw » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:26 am

bk1 wrote:I saw that you made yourself knowledgeable about the industry in general. Would you have worked for a big studio like Epic/Blizzard/THQ/etc if they had come knocking or was that not something you wanted to do? What made you choose working with startups? Granted there are a lot more social/mobile startups, but did you make a conscious choice to choose one of those over a startup that worked on platforms?

How do the hours compare to what you worked as an associate? You actually do some game design at your current startup?

ETA: Why the video game industry? (Don't think I saw that in your previous threads, but my mistake if I missed it.)


I've had a lot of opportunities to work in studios, but the jobs are pretty narrow. I like start-ups because I can do atypical blends of work (like mixing law and game design). I also wouldn't consider going to a studio unless I could enter as a sufficiently senior position. It's way too hard to work your way up from the bottom; far easier to lateral in with momentum from another area.

I passed on a number of platforms to work at a game developer. I wouldn't recommend that choice to people who are driven by money; development is really a passion play that is highly volatile. I'll admit that there have been some extremely compelling offers on the platform side, and I may consider the hop over to one at some point, but I really like my current position. I spend most of my days doing a mix of networking, designing game mechanics and playing office run Magic: The Gathering tournaments. It's a ridiculous life.

I really like working, so I spend maybe 70 hours a week doing stuff related to the job. When I was an associate, I averaged about 80 (I normally billed about 2100 and did networking for another 1000-1200 on top of it).

I really don't care for the movie industry, so I made efforts to move away from it relatively quickly. It's not that there is anything wrong with it, but it's really not for me.

PwnLaw
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby PwnLaw » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:33 am

tedalbany wrote:I'm very interested in business dev and working with startups (and hopefully launching my own startups later on), so this is relevant to my interests. Any general advice on how to set myself up to transition into that sort of work?
What do you think would be the most logical steps coming out of law school to begin working with start ups (i.e. would starting out in Big Law be most useful?)

How do you like the work?


Business development positions are almost never publicly listed; you need to be well networked enough to get the heads up. My last 2-3 jobs never went on the market, and I'm generally offered new positions before they are made "official". That's a roundabout way of saying that you need to network. A lot. If you want to go into start-ups, I recommend being in the Bay Area and networking aggressively with VCs. When I was an associate I had a good relationship with ~15 VCs and they often referred me to interesting opportunities.

BigLaw for a SV facing firm is a great place to start (Gunderson, Wilson, Goodwin, Fenwick, etc.). If you know someone at a funded start-up that has a position for you, that's even better. Once you're in the ecosystem, it's pretty easy to move around. Breaking in is tough.

The work is pretty awesome. I'm the "old man" in my company at 29 years old and we have a lot of fun. It's very us versus the world, which I like. We just focus on hiring smart people and building our product. No bureaucracy or other shenanigans.

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bk1
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby bk1 » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:37 am

What do you mean by narrow? I don't really know too much in-house counsel type stuff. Were the opportunities you had typical in-house counsel positions?

Was the work you did at your firm was primarily in the movie industry? If so, do you think you would have stuck around at the firm longer had you been doing VG startup work there?

PwnLaw
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby PwnLaw » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:44 am

bk1 wrote:What do you mean by narrow? I don't really know too much in-house counsel type stuff. Were the opportunities you had typical in-house counsel positions?

Was the work you did at your firm was primarily in the movie industry? If so, do you think you would have stuck around at the firm longer had you been doing VG startup work there?


You just end up focusing on a narrow set of responsibilities in those positions. Like you're in charge of IP licensing or employment work. I prefer diversity in my day to day. When I was an associate, I was approached pretty consistently about in house counsel positions. Now folks generally want me for business development.

The firm was known for movie/tv work. I founded the video game group at my firm as a junior associate and built it into a pretty solid book of business by the time I was a third year. I typically worked on my clients at that point. Doing that type of work and interacting with start-up CEOs is what convinced me I wanted to leave. I always liked law, but I really enjoyed the start-up scene.

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bk1
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby bk1 » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:49 am

Thanks for taking questions (this time and the others).

How'd you find TLS? Why'd you decide to take questions here and continue to do so?

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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:58 am

Thanks for taking questions.

Working at some of the firms you mentioned (or others focusing on VC) do you think moving to a business position either at a VC or a start up is a feasible plan (I know that you were able to accomplish this, but is this an improbable aspiration or is it a fairly doable move)? Do you think the skills you learned as an associate are transferable in the business development sphere or did you learn on the (new) job?

Also, what is the compensation like at your start-up? Are you getting a stake in equity?

PwnLaw
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby PwnLaw » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:01 am

bk1 wrote:Thanks for taking questions (this time and the others).

How'd you find TLS? Why'd you decide to take questions here and continue to do so?


I honestly don't remember. Maybe a friend sent me a link at some point.

People make a lot of terrible decisions in their legal careers. If few minutes of my time could have a decent impact on making someone else's life better, it's a worthwhile tradeoff in my eyes. I mentor/give advice to about 6-7 law students on their careers, so this is a natural extension I guess.

071816
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby 071816 » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:03 am

Where'd you go to law school?

PwnLaw
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby PwnLaw » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:09 am

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks for taking questions.

Working at some of the firms you mentioned (or others focusing on VC) do you think moving to a business position either at a VC or a start up is a feasible plan (I know that you were able to accomplish this, but is this an improbable aspiration or is it a fairly doable move)? Do you think the skills you learned as an associate are transferable in the business development sphere or did you learn on the (new) job?

Also, what is the compensation like at your start-up? Are you getting a stake in equity?


Moving to VC is pretty tough -- you'll need to go through a start-up and show some chops first. They generally only hire folks with MBA backgrounds or people that show themselves to be smart entrepreneurs.

The odds of making the transition is really up to you. If you're the typical lawyer (risk adverse, prefering stability, introverted) it's probably not gonna work out for you. Early stage start-ups are about leaps of faith (calculated ones). Later stage start-ups act a lot more like large businesses, so you can find a natural home as a lawyer there. I generally don't like later stage stuff.

Ability to network is an innate trait that is tough to learn. Legal knowledge is a brutally awesome asset as a business developer. Most of the people on the other side of the table aren't strategic, or even particularly thoughtful, with their deal terms so a savvy lawyer can run mayhem with the contract. You always learn more about the industry on the job, but the underlying skills for business development aren't really learned (except maybe how to make a PowerPoint and do some basic financial modeling).

I took a 50% haircut on pay to go to a start-up (not including equity). I get options when I join, typically vesting over a period. I bring a lot of value (multiple proficiencies, large network, experience), so I can ask for a decent chunk.
Last edited by PwnLaw on Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

PwnLaw
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby PwnLaw » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:09 am

chimp wrote:Where'd you go to law school?


UVA.

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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:21 am

I know you said you are at a venture backed start-up, do you know what your start-up's exit strategy is? Is there a small window of time in the near future during which your start up is expected it grow quickly (which I think is usually preferred by VCs)? I ask this mostly to determine what you plan on doing once you leave there, and also some what to determine whether your position has the potential to pay off significantly financially.

On a related note, you mentioned that you get business development offers now, are these from other start ups or companies generally? (Just trying to determine the exit options after working at a start up).

Thanks!

PwnLaw
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby PwnLaw » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:33 am

Anonymous User wrote:I know you said you are at a venture backed start-up, do you know what your start-up's exit strategy is? Is there a small window of time in the near future during which your start up is expected it grow quickly (which I think is usually preferred by VCs)? I ask this mostly to determine what you plan on doing once you leave there, and also some what to determine whether your position has the potential to pay off significantly financially.

On a related note, you mentioned that you get business development offers now, are these from other start ups or companies generally? (Just trying to determine the exit options after working at a start up).

Thanks!


Yes. I knew both of the VCs that funded the company (before the put the cash in) and we're all pretty much on the same page. Game developers are often content dependent. Our game is very successful and growing more popular, so I've got high hopes for the future. We have no desire to be acquired at the moment.

I'm not worried about the future. I a few unsolicited job offers a month, so I don't really expect to have issues if something pops up. The last two times I became "available" for hiring, I had a job within 3 days.

I suppose it depends on what you mean by significantly. I could potentially get a few mil, but I didn't really pick this startup for that reason. If you want to cash in, you go after a platform.

I hear about opportunities from everything from 3 man teams to VCs to Fortune 500s. I'll admit that this may be atypical; my area of expertise (mobile/social games) is in very high demand.

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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 29, 2012 4:59 am

I'm a 2L who is most likely not getting big law (or market-paying midlaw) barring some serious, ridiculous hustle. Law school background is all over the map: Firm experience 1L, experience with white collar regs this semester and prosecution crime this summer. I had a media background before coming to law school. I know a few friends who are involved in various levels of the game industry, like business development at a start-up, production, etc. What would be the best way, if any, to leverage what contacts I do have now or in the future?

And, in the (very) off chance I am able to jump into a "decent" firm (think NLJ250ish, not V100/AmLaw100), what would a good "5 year plan" if I want to eventually make the jump like you did?

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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:13 am

PwnLaw wrote:If you want to go into start-ups, I recommend being in the Bay Area and networking aggressively with VCs.

What do you hear about Boston? Obviously different kinds of start-ups and a lot smaller, but I've heard it's the second best place for start-ups after SV. Any thoughts?

Thanks again for taking questions.

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Mad Hatter
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby Mad Hatter » Sun Apr 29, 2012 9:23 am

How did you build up a video game practice as a junior associate? Was it just networking, or was there something more involved? How did you convince your firm to greenlight something like that?

johndhi
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby johndhi » Sun Apr 29, 2012 11:34 am

Hi - thanks for posting. I'm a bay area native and former (I think!) video game nerd so this is highly interesting to me.

I'm more litigation-oriented, though, so I'm wondering if you can get a little more general with what you mean by "networking" - as someone entering Bay Area biglaw in the litigation side, what kind of goals can I have for networking? My mind kind of boggles when you say you spent about 1000 hours networking as an associate - what can I do to even approach that number? That sounds like fun to me, and aspects of what you've described sound great to me, although I'd probably prefer to stay a little closer to litigation than you have.

Thanks again!

PwnLaw
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby PwnLaw » Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
PwnLaw wrote:If you want to go into start-ups, I recommend being in the Bay Area and networking aggressively with VCs.

What do you hear about Boston? Obviously different kinds of start-ups and a lot smaller, but I've heard it's the second best place for start-ups after SV. Any thoughts?

Thanks again for taking questions.


I really can't comment much, having never been in that space first hand. I'd say it's a few orders of magnitude smaller. A lot of the promising startups out there end up making their way out here eventually.

PwnLaw
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby PwnLaw » Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:33 pm

Mad Hatter wrote:How did you build up a video game practice as a junior associate? Was it just networking, or was there something more involved? How did you convince your firm to greenlight something like that?


I spent a lot of time networking (sending cold e-mails to people I thought were interesting, going to conferences, taking a ton of people out to lunch, etc.). Once I networked up to a senior position in a larger company, I'd generally bring in a partner or two for the pitch to close things out. I also helped expand existing relationships the firm already had. With startups, where age generally wasn't an impediment, I could generally close the deal by myself.

As for more, I spent an enormous amount of my time educating myself on the industy -- I read a lot of contracts, listened to investor calls on publicly traded companies, reading the trades and so forth. I also played a lot of video games. The hope was to immediately distinguish myself from other lawyers by showing a deep familiarity with the space.

The #2 person at my firm was a big advocate for associates undertaking projects that could further the firm. He was instrumental in getting me access to resources.

PwnLaw
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby PwnLaw » Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:39 pm

johndhi wrote:Hi - thanks for posting. I'm a bay area native and former (I think!) video game nerd so this is highly interesting to me.

I'm more litigation-oriented, though, so I'm wondering if you can get a little more general with what you mean by "networking" - as someone entering Bay Area biglaw in the litigation side, what kind of goals can I have for networking? My mind kind of boggles when you say you spent about 1000 hours networking as an associate - what can I do to even approach that number? That sounds like fun to me, and aspects of what you've described sound great to me, although I'd probably prefer to stay a little closer to litigation than you have.

Thanks again!


I started out in litigation. It's a lot harder to bring in work on the litigation side because the stakes are so much higher. You can often get a foot in the door by giving off the cuff advice to people on minor disputes and build up long term relationships that time. Networking with people in your firm is a key since they'll be the ones most likely to refer work back when they exit to greener pastures.

I also don't think there's any downside to networking with people that don't have an immediate need for litigation work but may have it into the future. Startup CEOs, friends from college in finance and the like come to mind. I've found that being a lawyer opens a lot of doors for networking because people will often want your high level thoughts on a particular issue they're facing. It makes sense to take advantage of that fact to start building trust with folks.

PwnLaw
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby PwnLaw » Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a 2L who is most likely not getting big law (or market-paying midlaw) barring some serious, ridiculous hustle. Law school background is all over the map: Firm experience 1L, experience with white collar regs this semester and prosecution crime this summer. I had a media background before coming to law school. I know a few friends who are involved in various levels of the game industry, like business development at a start-up, production, etc. What would be the best way, if any, to leverage what contacts I do have now or in the future?

And, in the (very) off chance I am able to jump into a "decent" firm (think NLJ250ish, not V100/AmLaw100), what would a good "5 year plan" if I want to eventually make the jump like you did?


If your goal is to create opportunities for yourself, you should try to develop your network in a specific direction. Having 3 connections in 20 industries is a lot less valuable than 60 connections in one. Social proof is very valuable for opening doors, and you can only really achieve that by accumulating a lot of people in a single space.

It's tough when you're starting from scratch because you don't offer immediate value. With a law degree, you should be able to help people analyze some of their contracts and find the gaps. It's tough without at least some training, but it's probably better than nothing. Being helpful without asking for anything in return is a solid way to build good will. My general approach is never to ask for anything in the first few meetings with someone, just focus on learning more about them and what they care about. It helps if you're actually genuinely interested in what they do.

Inside a law firm, I think you need to determine what your goal is. I'd network very differently depending on whether I wanted to be a partner, lateral out to a law job or move into a non-legal position. The relevant contacts can often change (though their is a fair amount of overlap). If you want to go into business development, I'd focus on having a broad cross section of contacts. The goal is to have a decent contact at almost every major company in a space. Business developers get hired for their network, not their education.

johndhi
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby johndhi » Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:07 pm

PwnLaw wrote:
johndhi wrote:Hi - thanks for posting. I'm a bay area native and former (I think!) video game nerd so this is highly interesting to me.

I'm more litigation-oriented, though, so I'm wondering if you can get a little more general with what you mean by "networking" - as someone entering Bay Area biglaw in the litigation side, what kind of goals can I have for networking? My mind kind of boggles when you say you spent about 1000 hours networking as an associate - what can I do to even approach that number? That sounds like fun to me, and aspects of what you've described sound great to me, although I'd probably prefer to stay a little closer to litigation than you have.

Thanks again!


I started out in litigation. It's a lot harder to bring in work on the litigation side because the stakes are so much higher. You can often get a foot in the door by giving off the cuff advice to people on minor disputes and build up long term relationships that time. Networking with people in your firm is a key since they'll be the ones most likely to refer work back when they exit to greener pastures.

I also don't think there's any downside to networking with people that don't have an immediate need for litigation work but may have it into the future. Startup CEOs, friends from college in finance and the like come to mind. I've found that being a lawyer opens a lot of doors for networking because people will often want your high level thoughts on a particular issue they're facing. It makes sense to take advantage of that fact to start building trust with folks.



Thanks dude. I appreciate getting advice that isn't "be detail-oriented" - what you're saying relates to one of the reason I went into this profession: because human interaction plays a very important role. You've officially inspired me to meet some people in the industries in which I'm interested!

PwnLaw
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Re: Entertainment Lawyer --> Start-Up BizDev Taking Q's

Postby PwnLaw » Mon Apr 30, 2012 2:34 am

Lots of lawyers do fine as introverts, they just happen to be: 1) brilliant, 2) in a position to inheirit a book of business, or 3) service partners.




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