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Business-Minded Attorneys Wanted by Startups

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on July 12, 2016 12:59 PM

New startups are facing complex legal problems that need sharp, business-minded attorneys to help them work through the processes. Small companies trying to make it big are relying ever more on their attorneys to guide them. If you are an entrepreneur at heart, then that attorney could be you.

The Business-Minded Lawyer

Given the many hats that in-house lawyers are being asked to wear these days, many companies are in the position to demand an employee or even executive type that happens to be a lawyer. In many corporate structures, their is an acceptable personality type for each person within the group. Executives are allowed to be business-minded. Board members are allowed to be business-minded. The standard employee isn't.

The lawyer, on the other hand, is turning out to be a hybrid of the two, which is making things difficult -- for lawyers. But it also means opportunity.

Experience Is Good, but Attitude Is Also Important

Startups run on good feelings and can-do attitude. By contrast, most corporate attorneys usually take a much more restrained view of what a company should and should not do. After all, they've had to keep their last company from making what could have been potentially serious legal mistakes.

Commentators have noticed some startups are on the hunt for attorneys who are business-minded as well as positive and who won't simply act as the company's legal conscience. It is almost a direct contradiction of what old-time lawyers thought of as good practice, the old mantra being: "dreams are good, but reality is something else."

Now companies, full of millennial vigor, want attorneys who fit the company culture and who can work with teams within the company.

Two Hats Can Lead to Trouble

But there's a problem with this. There is a trend of in-house counsel becoming business-person first, lawyer second -- and this presents an ethical dilemma. Sure, startups want to keep their startup culture as positive and fresh as possible, but asking the lawyer to get too comfortable with employees in the company could potentially lead to troubles.

So, if you land an exciting gig as a startup's lawyer, just remember that the job of the in-house lawyer is to guide the company along a legal journey, not to contribute to unfounded enthusiasm.

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