4 Tips For Becoming a Successful Attorney In Silicon Valley

Louis Lehot, business lawyer and partner at Foley & Lardner LLP in Silicon Valley, and formerly the founder of L2 Counsel, P.C.

Louis Lehot gives advice from the trenches.

Successful law firms are full of successful lawyers. That said, is success defined by revenue generated, or are other factors in play?

I sat down with Louis Lehot, business lawyer and partner at Foley & Lardner LLP in Silicon Valley, and formerly the founder of L2 Counsel, and asked him the questions above and his advice for younger lawyers on how to kickstart their legal career in Silicon Valley. Louis Lehot is a corporate, securities and M&A lawyer, and he helps his clients, whether they be public or private companies, financial sponsors, venture capitalists, investors or investment banks, in forming, financing, governing, buying and selling companies.

Hailing from the hills east of San Francisco, California, and growing up in and around Silicon Valley, Louis Lehot knew he wanted to be a lawyer from his earliest memories. He was fortunate enough to have the unwavering support of his family, friends and mentors, and a compass by which to guide his studies.

Louis Lehot will tell you, Silicon Valley is a place where new ideas are activated.

From South Park in SOMA to Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park and beyond, venture capital, private equity and other financial and strategic investors of all types can be found to sponsor innovative companies that startup with an idea in a lab or garage, and bring them to markets far and wide. Some of the brightest thinkers in law, accounting, investing, finance, management, and strategy have moved from Wall Street to the San Francisco Bay to create new products and services.

He’d tell an aspiring lawyer, their first task would be to take advantage of every opportunity in law school to master the courses that are most relevant to technology. Start with the basics of corporations, secured transactions, securities regulation, and business bankruptcy. Young lawyers should have a general outline of income and corporate tax. This is your one shot at learning how to take a business from formation to exit without consequence. Bring your passion to the classroom and your internships, from your job interview to your first job.

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He’d say, in your first years after law school, it’s helpful to work in a place where you can serve innovative companies from startup to exit. There are many skill sets needed to take an idea and turn it into a company. You should try and obtain the experience of taking a company public through IPO or direct listing and buying and selling companies in the M&A group. While there are a plethora of industry guides that rank the very top law firms and companies, you will get the most extensive experience in a law firm, and it need not be the one at the top of the chart. As long as you are in a place where your energy can be harnessed and where there are clients that you can work on, opportunities will abound.

Louis Lehot shared this advice for younger lawyers on how to kickstart their legal career in Silicon Valley:

1. Learn the trade. More than working hard, you want to dig into as many different areas of expertise that a startup needs, take on a wide variety of clients, and gain exposure to the broadest array of transactions as you can capably and expertly handle. There is no substitute for learning the trade and honing your craft.

2. Outward and inward focus. Your clients start with the internal lawyers at your firm. Be the path of least resistance to getting something done right. The very best impression you can make is in delivering top quality work. When this is accomplished, you can develop an external focus, attend events, speak on panels, build a social media profile. Humility, as well as a variety of perspectives, are appreciated in an external as well as internal focus.

3. Build and maintain a network of relationships. Every client you meet, every deal you do, is an opportunity to be exposed to a new technology, a new vertical, a new platform, a new channel or strain of entrepreneurs, and professionals from all walks of life. Link up with them. Be practical, commercial, and professional, and remember your integrity will follow you wherever you go. While we live in a global world, it can be small and very flat. One way of building and maintaining relationships is to commit to activities in the community and outside the office. Plant your flag in at least three places where you can develop and maintain new relationships and nourish existing ones. These need not be purely business-related. When you meet people that share your passions and priorities, you have the opportunity to make deeper relationships with kindred spirits, whether they be physical (think outside the box, like boxing), spiritual (think not just of the church, but of yoga) or artistic (think of cooking, painting or taking pictures). Make commitments to attend over the long term.

4. Develop great communication skills. Lawyers need excellent verbal and written skills. You not only need to communicate concisely but to actively listen during conversations, and avoid multitasking.

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As you navigate this path, don’t’ be afraid to ask questions, whether about the law itself or the profession thereof. Commit to a path of excellence and unleash your passion for your chosen profession.

Elizabeth Lampert is the founder of Elizabeth Lampert Public Relations. She is a crisis communication strategist, writer, and media relations counselor.

Louis Lehot is a partner and business lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP, based in the firm’s Silicon Valley office. Follow on Twitter @lehotlouis