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May 22, 2012

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Going for a Two-fer: Strategic/Law Partner

by marcobuchbinder

Whether your company is raising money or positioning for a sale, the support of experienced professionals is essential and the relationship with your lawyer is a very important one. Before you spend a significant amount of money and energy pursuing your financing or some other deal, it is crucial that you establish a solid legal foundation that protects your business, technology and processes.

Selecting a law firm can be a daunting task…typical advice ranges from choosing the right sized law firm (to ensure a cultural fit, and to receive the right level of attention), to finding a firm that is local (close enough to give you the opportunity to establish a closer relationship with your lawyer, which facilitates their understanding of your business, leading to an improved level of service) to avoiding big law offices (so that you don’t end up financing part of their huge overhead, via higher hourly rates).

But beyond this basic advice, if I am either starting a company or am part of a small cap public company, I am looking for a two-fer (“two for one’). In other words, beyond a law firm, I would also seek a strategic partner. So my two-fer criteria would be the following for selecting a law firm:

  1.  Legal: ethical, right sized, cultural fit, entrepreneurial minded, local, fair fee structure
  2. Strategic: highly connected (introductions to top-class advisors, board members, angels, entrepreneurs) and relevant industry business experience

So let me give you an example of a local firm here in Boston, Gennari and Aronson. Now, if this sounds like an endorsement of a legal firm, well…it is; and for those of you that know me, I don’t take that lightly. Regardless, the underlying message is equally important–whether you choose Gennari and Aronson or another firm, you should consider one that has a similar “twofer” profile and approach as them.

Larry Gennari, Neil Aronson and Laura Glynn founded the firm in 2009 and are senior attorneys with substantial big law firm corporate finance experience. They were recently recognized as New England/Massachusetts Superlawyers and hold Martindale-Hubbell Directory’s highest “AV Preeminent” rating. Larry is an Adjunct Professor at BC Law School, where he has taught corporate finance, mergers & acquisitions and advising entrepreneurs, since 1996. They serve innovative companies, entrepreneurs and the investors and venture capital firms that finance them.

“Our model really is something different and more entrepreneurial—experienced transactional lawyers without the bloated staff and heavy burden of a big law firm cost structure,” Gennari said. “It’s really kind of an outsourced general counsel model.”

Gennari and Aronson’s approach is unique in three ways:

  1. Not a one-size-fits-all approach to clients–In fact, they won’t take on a client unless referred by another client, board members, or influential investors that they know.
  2. Not a “big firm” approach (outsized hourly rates and staffing matters with multiple junior associates)
  3. True value-added: introductions to mentors, board members, potential investors and transaction experience across technology, consumer and services, and medical devices

They are also extremely well-connected and they regularly host a number of industry/networking events, with the purpose of connecting their clients to new or existing contacts of theirs.

Below are links to some of their most recent events, so that you can get an idea of their quality and though these events are free, they are almost always fully registered:

Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman is one of the writers and teachers who best captures the high stakes decisions that entrepreneurs face every day. His new book, just out, is called “The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup.” He teaches the “Founders Dilemma” course at Harvard Business School (it was so popular that it had a wait-list of 170 students last year).

Panel One: Advice from accomplished entrepreneurs for emerging growth companies

Panel Two: Financing growth, finding the right people, and staying on track

Panel Three: Strategic Partners and M&A

Keynote Remarks: Peter Howe , Business Reporter/Interim Host “CEO Corner” New Eng. Cable News

Explore the challenges and opportunities for established companies to raise money or attract a strategic or financial buyer in 2012. We’ll discuss the M&A and fundraising processes, common selling and negotiating mistakes, and leveraging strategic alternatives to maximize company valuation for a sale or subsequent round.

Join our Panel of Experts as we explore how established and growing companies can access debt and equity capital in today’s challenging economic environment

My advice: apply the two-fer selection criteria to get the most out of your law firm today.

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