A column where Jayaram leadership discuss their philosophy on practicing law.
There are literally thousands of lawyers who practice in the same areas in which we practice. They advise founders, investors, and brands on things like intellectual property and corporate law. Like us, these lawyers put together deals, tactfully handle disputes, and advise their clients on a wide range of compliance issues.
But what, then, makes our approach unique, and why do scaling entrepreneurs repeatedly and specifically seek out our counsel? Vivek, Wendy and Heidi discuss below.
VJ: Founders need lawyers who are helping move their business forward towards an objective quickly, not lawyers who they perceive are slowing them down. This requires us to become closely acquainted with our clients’ ventures, to understand them well enough so that we can strategically place guardrails in place to ensure that things don’t go sideways. But the planning helps us also move fast and make decisions even faster, provided that we’ve put in the time and attention up front to understand the Company’s goals. Unlike a lot of businesses, startups are often times racing to reach a milestone or another hurdle that will help the Company get more financing to survive and grow. This is unique and lawyers serving these ventures need to understand that. Time literally is money.
WH: As a founder myself, I can appreciate that my clients want to do things their way – why else would they be starting something new? We treat each client as its own bespoke project. Sure we don’t reinvent the wheel, we use templates and precedent documents whenever it makes sense, but each company and each client really is unique. We also fundamentally believe in getting to YES. If our clients wants X, it is our job to try to set-up X for them. I think a legal training prepares us to say, No more often than it prepares us to say Yes – we try to always come from YES when our clients ask. Sometimes we have to say, “Yes, and . . .” and occasionally we do have to say, “No,” but that pains us terribly.
HY: Most of us are lawyers who’ve worked in other capacities. We’ve all seen the approach of lawyers who identify roadblocks to getting stuff done, rather than offering solutions. We see ourselves as partners with our clients to help them assess risk and then to help identify different pathways or solutions that might lower that risk. My partners and I want to understand the business and why the next project is important to the client. I think we also want to know, from the business team, what their biggest fear is. When we know the business issues, we can be better advisors and partners in building a great business.
With our novel approach to running a business, we are starting to see a lot of incredible young attorneys and other professionals interested in working with us. How do we define what is a successful professional at Jayaram Law?
WH: If we consider the basic legal skills (writing, oral communication, research, editing, distilling ideas) as table stakes, then I think it boils down to flexibility. Not that that’s the ONLY value, but it really permeates most of what we do. Clients come to us all day with all sorts of questions and we need to be flexible in order to deliver quality legal services that fit their unique needs and desires. If we lived in an alternate reality where each client had the same problem, we would still answer and solve each one differently because each client is unique. So a successful attorney at Jayaram Law is one who will pivot and act flexibly with each problem they face.
VJ: The basic legal skills (really strong ones, I might add) are table stakes indeed. Because without those, the rest crumbles. I tend to look at this question as multi-tiered. The legal skills are the first tier. That’s the skill that allows you to read a document and understand the real world effect of the words on the page. The second tier is your ability to synthesize those words on the page for your client in a way that isn’t merely a translation from legalese to English, but rather from legalese to their business. What does it mean for the client? The next tier, I think, is the ability to see the larger picture in a way that allows you to advise your client on which of these translations are an acceptable annoyance, and which ones are truly objectionable and need to be negotiated out or drafted differently. Then, the sort of “final” tier, I think, is the ability to pick the most important points for your client and communicate them to the other lawyer, a judge, whomever needs to be persuaded of your view. This tier is all about breaking down the consequences of the words on the page in a way that moves the other side.
HY: So much of what we do comes down to relationships – we build relationships with each other and we build relationships with our clients. To be a successful lawyer here, you need to be good at what you do – of course – but we want people that can collaborate with other lawyers, with our support team, and with our clients. Clients often think that the originating lawyers are the only one responsible for work product. That’s rarely true at a firm like Jayaram. Our associates challenge our partners and bring ideas to the table. Our support team pays our bills, keeps our computers running, reminds us of the next item on the to-do list, and takes the lead in making us an orderly and well-run business. We view everyone as a valued member of our team, and successful lawyers here are collaborators and team players.