Optimizing your law firm

by Dylan on March 22, 2012

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I’ve directly negotiated ten investment rounds, four M&A deals and been indirectly (although fairly heavily) involved in about another five transactions. Plus numerous partnerships which required extensive negotiations. In every single instance, I reached a point where I wanted to murder all the lawyers involved. Usually starting with my own. I think it’s time we tried to fix this.

Here’s a few suggested optimizations for all law firms who want to work with tech/Internet/games companies/me;

1. Make sure all your senior and junior partners can pass a basic technology test
Understand what ‘open source’ is. Understand how Amazon hosting works. And for the love of God, understand that cloud computing is different to peer-to-peer file-sharing.

2. Fix your due diligence and warranty lists
Any law firms who want to be respected by their technology clients should immediately review their dd/warranty lists. Virtually every developer uses open source for something so being asked to warrant that “no third parties are using software which is core to your business” makes you look rather silly.

3. Use the sharing tools your clients use and stop blaming “the IT dept”
We’re using Dropbox. You need to use Dropbox. Stop being controlled by your IT department and modernise your firm.

4. Be more efficient
Mark Suster wrote a brilliant post (again) about trying to get lawyers and investors into a room for a single session to crunch everything. I’ve tried to make this happen but never quite managed it (I’ll get there eventually). This is the single biggest favour you could do for your client and you won’t even have to charge them any less :)

5. Have more open days for clients
This post was inspired by a great lunchtime discussion at Osborne Clarke, who genuinely do a great job of bringing together groups of interesting people. Actual value-add, people. Pay attention. (To be clear, I’m not a client of theirs but they’re still cool enough to invite me).

6. Treat document drafts like lives
When you’re negotiating documents, all firms should be allowed one draft circulation only. Any further changes can only be agreed by phone or in person.

Would love to hear other suggestions so fire them up in the comments and I’ll add to the post.

  • http://danversbaillieu.blogspot.com danvers

    Speaking as a soon-to-be-ex-lawyer, I agree with (and practice/advocate) most of this, although the warranty point (2) is a little more subtle than appreciated here. It is never the case that warranties are all supposed to be “true” simply that they drive disclosure of “stuff” – so the warranty quoted drives disclosure of OSS, which to my mind is something an investor should want to know about (even if the use of OSS is ultimately fine).

    • dylancollins

      Granted but I think they could become a bit more accurate all the same.

  • Brianfakier

    You should not force your attorneys to use Dropbox. It’s a third party server with no confidential non-disclosure agreement in place with you or your attorney. In other words, you waive privilege when you put documents in a Dropbox folder. That may be fine for a final draft agreement, but if you get in the habit of using it you will surely be upset when that information is availableto the other side in litigation. Also note that Dropbox has her powerful undelete options…. You may not want that either.

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