John Marcil partner, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP

Law firms partner to aid area startups

Christopher A. Gunlikson
Partner
Holland & Hart LLP

BOULDER — Boulder Valley law firms are growing and have an extra motivation to get creative about how to best position themselves as the best go-to firm to meet local clients’ needs.

These firms — like those offering other professional services — are drawn to the Boulder Valley by its entrepreneurial climate, which spawns startups at an increasing rate as the national economy improves. Successful startups, in turn, create substantial capital, and much of that money is invested back into the community — including into the pockets of the lawyers who helped them along the way.

Law firms have no single strategy when it comes to marketing themselves in today’s competitive environment.

“Legal markets are getting a lot more competitive,´ said John Marcil, partner in charge of the Boulder office of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, which employs 16 lawyers locally and 750 nationally and internationally.

“What we’re doing is the next evolutionary step of what law firms have done for a long time,” Marcil said. “For a long time, we have sponsored local trade associations, paid fees to get our name on a website, networked with similar groups.

“We have evolved from that. We are still going to do those things. But now, we are partnering with another firm — a marketing firm or an accounting firm — to present issues to the local business community in a way that is educational and that allows for networking by both sides.

“We are trying to engage the community in an industry partnership as a way to (spur) business development and increasing our visibility, but also to help promote and educate small businesses and to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.”

An example, Marcil said, is the firm’s outreach to the organic and natural-foods industry, in which Boulder is becoming a hub. Last June, New Jersey-based Smart Balance acquired Denver-based Udi’s Healthy Foods and its gluten-free product lines for $125 million. The company then changed its name to Boulder Brands Inc. and moved its headquarters to Boulder. Boulder is the place natural-food companies want to be, company chairman and chief executive Steve Hughes said when he announced the move.

Seizing an opportunity, Marcil is collaborating with a national marketing firm to sponsor a food law seminar for the organic and natural-food industry in Boulder that will be held later this summer.

“This is a way for us to provide the expertise we can to clients and non-clients from food startups to established executives in the area,” Marcil said. “The food industry is heavily regulated to ensure product safety. Our lawyers can advise on how to conduct food and safety audits, and can help when issues with regulatory authorities arise.

“It’s definitely a way to build our reputation, but also to be a good citizen of the community.”

Another example is in the life science industry, which also is flourishing in the Boulder area.

“Boulder has a robust life science industry,” Marcil said, with multiple pharmaceutical companies and federal labs located here. Marcil’s firm has targeted this area of growth and is planning a life science event, which will be a forum for people to get to get to know one another. “We’re creating good will within the community, while enhancing the brand,” he said.

Faegre Baker Daniels is active at the University of Colorado’s entrepreneurial law clinic and works pro bono with incubators and accelerators, Marcil said.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s fast-paced; and it’s great to see Boulder be recognized nationally for its technology startups and organic and natural-foods industry.”

Not all law firms see these type of partnerships as the key to their future success.

“Creating partnerships with new industry is one model for driving business and community interests,´ said Mark W. Weakley, managing partner of the Boulder office of Bryan Cave HRO LLP.

A better model, he said, is “where we see law firms collaborating, sometimes financially, with other industry segments as thought leaders. One area where this is happening is in the technology area around TechStars.”

Law firms, accounting firms, professional investors and many others collaborate to provide bedrock for entrepreneurs to grow their ideas faster through TechStars, Weakley said.

“TechStars is a true platform where law firms can do something other than give money for a banner or hold a seminar to sell services,” he said.

TechStars provides seed funding from more than 75 top venture capital firms and angel investors who are vested in the success of program startups. Recipients also receive intense mentorship from hundreds of the best entrepreneurs in the world, including legal firms such as Bryan Cave, and the chance to pitch to angel investors and venture capitalists at the end of the program.

TechStars companies each receive $118,000 — $18,000 in seed funding and an optional $100,000 convertible-debt note. They average more than $1.6 million in outside venture capital raised after leaving the TechStars program.

The law firms get an opportunity to support the community by mentoring its top young talent — and then if a successful TechStars company’s leaders need legal aid later and remember that great mentor they had from Bryan Cave, well, it’s a win-win.

“The challenge for the law firms is to decide how they can collaborate beyond providing sponsorship dollars,” Weakley said. “We are moving away from sponsoring events to becoming involved in leadership positions.”

The Boulder office of Holland & Hart LLP is in a growth mode and recently hired 10 new attorneys in its Boulder office, said Christopher A. Gunlikson, managing partner in the Boulder office. The firm is seeing significant growth in all of its practice groups.

“IP is a huge growth area, specifically within the Boulder area,” Gunlikson said. The firm recently completed an expansion of its downtown Boulder office.

Partnerships with industry initiatives are done by individual attorneys on a case-by-case basis than as a corporate initiative, said Gunlikson, adding that “some are tailored toward individual practice areas.”

Holland and Hart is a large Colorado firm with a strong Boulder market.

“We are not targeting one type of litigation,” he said. “Many of our attorneys do mentoring on an individual basis. We participate in panels and business organizations within the Boulder Chamber and networking events through the (Boulder County Business Report). We teach courses at CU and participate in panels there. That’s our outreach.”

Holland & Hart opened its Boulder offices in 1993 as the Boulder County business community rapidly expanded. Since its inception in 1947, it has grown into a full-service law firm of more than 440 lawyers in 15 offices across the Rocky Mountain West and in Washington, D.C. The company also delivers integrated legal solutions to regional, national and international clients of all sizes.

Holland & Hart also has an internationally recognized mining practice, an intellectual property group responsible for trademark registrations and patent portfolios in more than 170 countries. One of the firm’s Boulder-based attorneys, Michael Drapkin, was one of three Colorado lawyers who were instrumental in bringing a U.S. Patent and Trademark regional satellite office to Denver.

Christopher A. Gunlikson
Partner
Holland & Hart LLP

BOULDER — Boulder Valley law firms are growing and have an extra motivation to get creative about how to best position themselves as the best go-to firm to meet local clients’ needs.

These firms — like those offering other professional services — are drawn to the Boulder Valley by its entrepreneurial climate, which spawns startups at an increasing rate as the national economy improves. Successful startups, in turn, create substantial capital, and much of that money is invested back into the community — including into the pockets of the lawyers who helped them along the way.

Law firms have no single strategy when it comes to marketing themselves in today’s competitive environment.

“Legal markets are getting a lot more competitive,´ said John Marcil, partner in charge of the Boulder office of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, which employs 16 lawyers locally and 750 nationally and internationally.

“What we’re doing is the next evolutionary step of what law firms have done for a long time,” Marcil said. “For a long time, we have sponsored local trade associations, paid fees to get our name on a website, networked with similar groups.

“We have evolved from that. We are still going to do those things. But now, we are partnering with another firm — a marketing firm or an accounting firm — to present issues to the local business community in a…