How Do You Find A Good Law Firm?

Question: How do you find a good law firm? Which one’s can help me get in touch with VCs?

Our Take: There are many good law firms out there doing start up work. What used to be seen as solely a costal practice, has now permeated through out the country. Most major cities have at least one law firm that has the requisite experience to help you. The best referrals are from friends who have used particular attorneys. Most folks are quite open about their opinions. The key questions to ask are: “how many companies have you worked with that are now venture backed and weren’t so when you began working with them? How many venture capital (versus hedge or private equity) deals have you done in the last year? Does your firm have a dedicated startup practice, or is this just a “side business?” I’d also tell you that doing venture capital law isn’t rocket science, so if you get someone being too boastful, or putting down his / her competitors, they clearly are bragging more than it is warranted. The most important part of being a venture capital lawyer is being a good listener with sound judgment and having a good relationship with the entrepreneurs, along with the requisite experience. Make sure with whomever you choose, that you see them as a true partner, not an hourly paid servant.

As for which law firms can help you connect to VCs, again, there is good news. Ten years ago, or so, it was seemingly rare for law firms to have a close enough connection to get your business plan in front of a VC. Maybe they could send over the business plan, but the regular experience was that they usually entered a “black hole.” These days, I think VCs are more open to really looking at business plans submitted by their law firm partners. One thing that is certain: law firms that do VC fund formation work definitely have good contacts to VCs. So if you are looking for your lawyers to make some intros, you can never go wrong with a law firm that helps form the VC funds themselves.

  • I would add a couple points:
    1. Ask if they deal differently with start-ups than they do larger clients. If you are going to be thrown into the “we need to bill 1800 hrs a year” to be profitable bucket, then run for the hills. As I rant to any lawyer who wants to listen to me (you can guess how many of those there are), when I become as big as Google or Microsoft, I will be happy to have a team of lawyers all attending my meeting and crosschecking with their colleagues to ensure they didn’t miss anything. But until then I can barely afford one of you so the three “S’s” apply – ‘small, short and smart’
    2. Totally agree with the get a referral. My two lawyers (Corporate and IP) are both through connections and I love them both. They are fantastic. The one time I didn’t get a personal referral, I had to fire the firm after the first bill.
    Oh wait, that brings me to a third point… ALWAYS READ YOUR BILL.

  • An important criterion for choosing a law firm is the kind of season sports tickets they have. Behind home plate at Pac Bell Park? Right in front of the glass at the Pepsi Center in Denver?
    All else being equal, this can make or break a relationship. 🙂

  • Sara Welsh

    My friend is going to be needing a lawyer soon, and I think it’s a great to ask around. It seems like asking friends would be the best way to get a great lawyer. Also, I like the questions that you have written down for people to ask law firms. I feel like having a friend referral and asking those questions are a wonderful way of finding a law firm that will be right for that individual.

    Sara Welsh |

  • Emily Smith

    This is just the information I was looking for about law firms. Next year I will be graduating from law school and will need a place to work. The tip about asking for referrals from people who have used lawyers seems like a good idea. I better start asking around!

    Emily Smith |