Being a legal advisor to a startup is less akin to the Grisham novel The Firm and rather more to Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Just like in the novel, everyone involved in the startup (including the lawyer) embarks on an adventure down to the depths of the unknown, descending into a proverbial volcano. Each unique adventure presents challenges and obstacles along the way which must be tackled and overcome together. Some raise you up to the highest of heights and others bring you right back down to (the centre of the) earth! But like all adventures, being part of a startup’s journey you learn, grown and importantly, have fun.
Contrary to common assumption, a startup lawyer’s role is not just to hand out contracts and render fees. We need to be part of the team, strive to be considered valuable contributors of opinion and guidance for business decisions and utilised to leverage our extensive networks for the better of the startup and the ‘ecosystem’ as a whole. Historically service providers have been viewed as ‘leeches’ who look to suck any value out of the startup as soon as it emerges; they may still be seen hovering around startup functions stalking their prey! But I believe their days are numbered as startups become more savvy and discerning in the way they engage with and utilise their legal advisers. The advisers startups are now consciously seeking are those who operate under a different ethos; they believe in doing their bit to help create value, and not extract it. The core values of Startup Grind pretty much sum it up:
- We believe in making friends, not contacts.
- We believe in giving, not taking.
- We believe in helping others before helping yourself.