In our blog posts, we explore different ways in which lawyers can help clients achieve their business goals.
This month we are focused on the role lawyers play in helping clients get to scale – an issue that comes up a lot for us because we work with some truly excellent technology start-ups that are growing exponentially. Our clients include two out of the eight companies named this year’s “Fastest Growing Start-ups in Canada” by Inc. Magazine. So you can see why this issue is top of mind for us!
In our view, lawyers are absolutely integral to the process of getting to scale. Our ability to work with the business team to accomplish the company’s goals is fundamental to efficient deal-making and building successful business models.
In my previous life as in-house counsel at a record label, I was always impressed with the way a certain very innovative company (one that shall remain nameless but that created a world-changing business model for the sale of digital music…) handled the scaling of their business. This company’s contracts were fair, simple, and relatively short, despite the enormous complexities involved in rolling out a new business model globally.
I was also recently inspired to read about the efforts made by IBM’s in-house counsel to condense complex cloud computing contracts down to two pages (see the article by Sue Reisinger in Corporate Counsel here: http://www.corpcounsel.com/id=1202679072646/How-IBM-Shrunk-a-Complex-Contract-Down-to-2-Pages#ixzz3W3b3YWsG). Our view is, if they can do it, we can do it too – with commercial deals that protect our clients’ interests but also accomplish their business objectives. Speed to market is rarely not a business objective for a start-up client.
For our part, we try to keep our contracts as short as possible, and we write them in plain language. We educate business teams that we work with on key legal points that could impede a deal if not discussed early enough with the other side. We find innovative ways to put systems in place that allow clients to get contracts out in a timely manner, have access to lawyers when required, secure and document any necessary approvals from the company’s executives or board, and get the deal closed.
Our philosophy is that the contracts are there to facilitate business goals, minimize unacceptable risk, and document the agreement between the parties. Contracts do not exist to create work for lawyers, to add weeks to a deal process, or to kill trees. Our view is that when done properly, the contract negotiation process can actually clarify (and even strengthen) the relationship between the parties. Once all of this is done, the path to scale is clear.
Helping clients to #ScaleUp is becoming a specialty of ours –we love doing it, and we look forward to working with more clients who are going through this phase in their evolution. It’s a great “problem” to have and one that we, as in-house allies, love to help solve.