Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

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PwnLaw
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Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby PwnLaw » Thu Dec 04, 2014 5:32 am

You can read my post history for more info. I run one of these things every 5-6 months. I've had a lot of fun talking to different people from the board (even hired one) so I find myself wandering back every so often.

Background info:
- T14 School. Scholarship.
- BigLaw.
- Started in Los Angeles in an entertainment practice doing litigation before switching to transactional work.
- Made the move to SV office to focus on media/tech startups (specifically video games)
- Built a pretty sizable book of business as a junior associate.
- Left BigLaw for a startup to do General Counsel/Business Development.
- Joined another startup for Business Development. Started doing product work. Became CEO at that startup. Led that startup to acquisition.
- Senior at a very large startup in the middle of its hockey stick.

I guess I can answer questions about everything. Interviewing. Firm life. How to build a book of business. Leaving firm life. Startups. Los Angeles. SV. Take your pick.

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Dr Clifford Huxtable
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby Dr Clifford Huxtable » Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:34 am

Cool, thanks for doing this.

How did you go about building up your book of business?

There's lots of talk about the volatility of the start-up market. What are your thoughts on that?

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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 04, 2014 11:56 am

When you say you worked in business development, what did that entail in your first post-firm job? Were you doing tech sales work?

Are you happy you made the jump out of law? Would you have done it sooner if you could have?

Similar question to the poster above, but how would you evaluate the long-term viability of a startup you were thinking of joining?

For people considering a transition that don't want to do legal work, would you suggest shooting for very junior/entry level startup roles?

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fats provolone
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby fats provolone » Thu Dec 04, 2014 11:58 am

xbone or ps4?

Anonymous User
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 04, 2014 12:05 pm

Knowing what you do now, what would you tell someone leaving a top NYC shop (CSM/S&C) who wanted to make a relatively safe/guaranteed 250k/year (somewhat arbitrary amount, but for NYC that's what I guess is a comfortable salary to raise a family).
Thanks.

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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 04, 2014 12:17 pm

I'm a junior at a regional office of WSGR/Cooley/Gunderson/Fenwick.

Few Questions:

-Any tips for building a book? I have a pretty extensive network in emerging growth companies, so I'm just trying to build on that but was wondering if you had any other tips.

-Did you ever try to leverage your book into partnership? Curious how you made the decision to go business side vs. pursue partnership at the firm.

-How do you think the regional offices of those firms are viewed in SV? Same as the mothership? For reference, think Seattle, Austin, Boulder, etc...

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cookiejar1
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby cookiejar1 » Thu Dec 04, 2014 12:42 pm

Will eSports ever be bigger than the NFL in our life time?

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Nebby
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby Nebby » Thu Dec 04, 2014 1:27 pm

fats provolone wrote:xbone or ps4?

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bk1
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby bk1 » Thu Dec 04, 2014 1:32 pm

@OP: Appreciate you coming back to answer Qs.

For everyone else's reference, here are OP's previous threads: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 04, 2014 1:38 pm

What kind of work do in-house counsel tend to do at large startups? What qualities do you think large startups look for when hiring an attorney for an in-house position? How much more difficult (or impossible) would it be for a litigator to get hired as an in-house attorney at a medium or large startup?

FSK
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby FSK » Thu Dec 04, 2014 1:39 pm

Glad to see you back!

The most recent post I've read of yours was offering to look at resumes for a non-legal entry level job at your video game startup. Lets say I finish my JD and want to pursue these options. What's the best way to go about that?

PwnLaw
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby PwnLaw » Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:30 pm

Dr Clifford Huxtable wrote:Cool, thanks for doing this.

How did you go about building up your book of business?

There's lots of talk about the volatility of the start-up market. What are your thoughts on that?


Book of business: When I joined my firm, we traditionally handled movie studio work. I noticed that all of the partners were young (unlikely to retire and hand me a book) and our coverage in the industry was broad (we handled work for most of the major studios). In the setting, I knew I had to branch out in order to get a reasonable chance. I focused on video games because it was similar to the skill sets we had in the office but no one else really knew much about it.

In order to build a book, I focused on three things: education, network and profile.

For education, I spent an inordinate amount of my "free" time reading about the industry. I read all of the online trade magazines, I bought books on game design, I spoke with anyone who might know anything, etc. I also played a lot of video games. I wanted to be more knowledgeable about the game industry than any other lawyer they were likely to talk to.

As for networking, I began building my book by taking people from the industry out to lunch 3-4 times a week. I'd send out 30-40 linkedin messages and then meet up with the people who were willing to talk about themselves for an hour in exchange for a solid lunch. I'd also attend conferences and go through the super awkward process of walking up to random groups of people and inserting myself into the conversation. I hated the latter part, but it was required to get anywhere.

I also spent a lot of time networking within the firm so I could call on partners to help out with pitches. I had a group of 5-7 attorneys that I regularly gave work too and had a vested interest in my success.

For profile, I focused on building up a team within my firm and leveraging our marketing resources. I did things like build a firm blog around games, create a structured "industry team", write articles for other outlets, and so on. It certainly helped that I came from a decent firm, starting from absolute scratch would have been hard.


Volatility: They're startups. Unless you like gambling, don't bother. I think the volatility is part of the reason I come across so few lawyers within companies.

PwnLaw
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby PwnLaw » Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:When you say you worked in business development, what did that entail in your first post-firm job? Were you doing tech sales work?

Are you happy you made the jump out of law? Would you have done it sooner if you could have?

Similar question to the poster above, but how would you evaluate the long-term viability of a startup you were thinking of joining?

For people considering a transition that don't want to do legal work, would you suggest shooting for very junior/entry level startup roles?


1) Sales is very different than business development. Business development is about establishing strategic relationships between companies. It's basically about forging alliances for mutual benefit. Sales is about selling products.

2) I made the jump after about 3 years. I think all 3 were required to get a good sense for what I wanted professionally and also shore up my resume. I like what I do better now, but I'm not sure I would be as good at it if I didn't have the background I do.

3) I guess I don't really spend much timing thinking about volatility. I look for teams that I respect that are working on projects I find interesting. I don't really care about anything else. I know that sounds odd, but I left law because I cared more about doing what I want to do than protecting my downside. I've been more successful than I thought I would be.

4) Sure, go for a junior role. I'd suggest having some sense of why that role is what you want to do and what you want to parlay it into. I see a lot of people that gravitate to startups because they're cool. Those folks don't make much of their careers unless they have very good timing.

PwnLaw
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby PwnLaw » Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:45 pm

fats provolone wrote:xbone or ps4?


Xbox. I don't like the PS4 controller.

PwnLaw
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby PwnLaw » Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Knowing what you do now, what would you tell someone leaving a top NYC shop (CSM/S&C) who wanted to make a relatively safe/guaranteed 250k/year (somewhat arbitrary amount, but for NYC that's what I guess is a comfortable salary to raise a family).
Thanks.


Stay long enough to get an AGC/GC role at a large company. Definitely the easiest/safest way to lock in that salary without killing yourself downstream. I don't recommend startups for stability or maximizing salary.

PwnLaw
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby PwnLaw » Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a junior at a regional office of WSGR/Cooley/Gunderson/Fenwick.

Few Questions:

-Any tips for building a book? I have a pretty extensive network in emerging growth companies, so I'm just trying to build on that but was wondering if you had any other tips.

-Did you ever try to leverage your book into partnership? Curious how you made the decision to go business side vs. pursue partnership at the firm.

-How do you think the regional offices of those firms are viewed in SV? Same as the mothership? For reference, think Seattle, Austin, Boulder, etc...


1) Network aggressively. Make sure you keep up with entrepreneurs that seem well connected. I have a friend at W/C/G/F that is likely to make partner in the next year or two and he's incredible interpersonally. I love referring people to him because I know he'll do a good job in a legal and market advice capacity. That said, be careful with your time, there are a lot of people floating around and many of them won't make good clients. Learn how to determine which ones are likely to get funding.

2) I think the firm would have made me partner 2-3 years early. So I probably needed to stick around for at least another few years. It didn't seem interesting enough to do that. Ultimately, I recognized partnership for what it was (more of the same) and I didn't enjoy what I was doing enough to pass up the shenanigans I thought I could engage in elsewhere. Also, I hate the fact that law is a non-scaleable job -- it bothers me that my value being priced in terms of time spent rather than contribution.

3) I think regionals have a decent reputation but you take an ENORMOUS hit on network. When I use a lawyer right now, the lawyers on the other side almost always know the person. The valley is a small place and generally you need to be here to be relevant here. Firm reputation will get you in the door, but you need to attend the party to get anywhere.

PwnLaw
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby PwnLaw » Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:58 pm

cookiejar1 wrote:Will eSports ever be bigger than the NFL in our life time?


Barring substantial advancements in things like VR, probably not. I say this as someone who's gone to the world finals for LoL and follows LCS avidly.

The simple fact is that there aren't many game designs that lend themselves to spectating. Additionally, there is a ton of stratification in the market based upon player interests, so it's harder to aggregate populations of size outside of viral hits. eSports has very little value without substantial audiences to drive investment. This wave of eSports is already waning a bit, but I'm optimistic it will stay on in some capacity for a longer period than the last wave.
Last edited by PwnLaw on Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Anonymous User
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:02 pm

Can you comment on what you think are the advantages/disadvantages of working in non-legal positions in start-up tech/media companies as opposed to larger, more established companies?

PwnLaw
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby PwnLaw » Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What kind of work do in-house counsel tend to do at large startups? What qualities do you think large startups look for when hiring an attorney for an in-house position? How much more difficult (or impossible) would it be for a litigator to get hired as an in-house attorney at a medium or large startup?


1) Generally a broad mix of transactional work and management of outside counsel. Some dispute resolution, but generally not.

2) Prior relationship generally. After that, they look for someone from a firm they recognize or that is referred to them. Startups are generally pretty bad at evaluating lawyers so they rely on folks with knowledge to help them make a choice.

3) Much harder, but not impossible. The first lawyer hire is generally late in the process and it is usually someone they've interacted with regularly. Litigators just don't have that sort of regular client interaction. Their skill set is also only periodically useful as opposed to transactional attorneys that are useful on a daily basis. You'd need to be right place, right time to make it work.

PwnLaw
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby PwnLaw » Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:05 pm

flawschoolkid wrote:Glad to see you back!

The most recent post I've read of yours was offering to look at resumes for a non-legal entry level job at your video game startup. Lets say I finish my JD and want to pursue these options. What's the best way to go about that?


People are always welcome to PM me and see if I'm hiring.

Otherwise, just send out resumes to all of the positions you'd be interested in and hope something pans out. Moving out to try and build a network doesn't hurt either. People are much more likely to take a chance on someone they've met.

PwnLaw
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby PwnLaw » Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Can you comment on what you think are the advantages/disadvantages of working in non-legal positions in start-up tech/media companies as opposed to larger, more established companies?


Startup advantages:
- Being able to experience unimaginable success
- More impact on company prospects
- Speed of progress
- Options to work multiple roles (I've done everything from negotiate acquisitions to design video games)
- Possible financial upside
- High quality of coworkers

Startup disadvantages:
- Being forced to experience unimaginable failure
- Emotional volatility (lots of highs and lows)
- Financial volatility
- Wildly unpredictable work hours

Big companies strike me as slow and steady and a great way to enjoy career stability but not much progress.

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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:36 pm

PwnLaw wrote:
1) Sales is very different than business development. Business development is about establishing strategic relationships between companies. It's basically about forging alliances for mutual benefit. Sales is about selling products.


Were you able to obtain the two business development roles because the companies which hired you were looking to tap into your existing network/contacts?

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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 04, 2014 9:04 pm

1. Thank you.

2. I saw you mentioned VR. I am hoping to do what you did with video games, with the VR community. I want to meet a bunch of people in it, learn about it, think about potential legal issues, and hopefully build up a reputation in the community. What do you think of VR and its possibilities? Do you have any recommendations for companies to research in the Bay Area on this topic? General tips for doing this, specific to VR?

3. I'm in litigation. Do you think I should leave litigation for transactional if I want to, eventually, get into a role similar to yours? Or should I just get into a company ASAP? If the former, what sort of transactional practice would be best?

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fats provolone
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby fats provolone » Thu Dec 04, 2014 9:59 pm

PwnLaw wrote:
fats provolone wrote:xbone or ps4?

Xbox. I don't like the PS4 controller.

alright 0Ls you can trust this guy, he has good opinions

PwnLaw
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Re: Startup Exec Taking Questions (Former Lawyer)

Postby PwnLaw » Fri Dec 05, 2014 12:04 am

Anonymous User wrote:
PwnLaw wrote:
1) Sales is very different than business development. Business development is about establishing strategic relationships between companies. It's basically about forging alliances for mutual benefit. Sales is about selling products.


Were you able to obtain the two business development roles because the companies which hired you were looking to tap into your existing network/contacts?


I was generally already known to them through the advice I had given to them. In many cases, I had made connections they found valuable previously. As a general rule, BD people are only as valuable as their network and their ability to evaluate deals.




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