WSGR’s Yokum Taku – the Valley’s Best Start-up Lawyer?

DISCLAIMER: My company, Moonshoot is a client of WSGR and Yokum Taku.  While I think this is a fair commentary, I’m absolutely not above writing a puff piece as a way to try and build kharma / discounts in the future (I am an entrepreneur after all).  So reader beware; you’ve been warned. :)

About this post: This is partly a post on WSGR and Yokum Taku.  As title suggests, I’ve been happy with them.  Yokum’s work in the industry in general and for us in particular has been great.  Its also my brief lessons learned on choosing and working with attorneys as a startup founder. 

This week, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati’s Yokum Taku released the Automated Term Sheet Generator.  It’s like Quicken for Term Sheets.  This is a great thing for founding teams and entrepreneurs.  It enables them to raise initial capital with a minimum of legal fees and hassle, while still promising to ensure decent hygiene for when the firm gets to a point of needing full-time, professional representation.  If you’re just getting started, this is a great resource.   It’s yet another resource Yokum’s help put together to support entrepreneurs and to drive WSGR’s reputation. 

Yokum is also the author of Startupcompanylawyer.com, a super valuable resource for entrepreneurs who have a need to ‘go deep’ on provisions associated with financings.  I’ve done a few, and I’ve found Yokum’s articles here super in helping me get my head wrapped around complex topics.  If you’re raising money and have questions, before you call a lawyer, go to his site, read and digest. 

Yokum is also our attorney, and I’ve worked with Yokum for over a year as a founder.  I’d give him and his team at WSGR high marks.   I have 3 key reasons. 

WSGR actually keeps costs down by providing rockstar Associates.  Many startup founders whom I asked for a recommendation argued against WSGR, on the grounds that they were too expensive.   WSGR’s rates at an hourly level are at the high end, but this is only really half the story. 

The legal bill you get at the end of a month is the weighted average of the following, in general:

Legal Bill = ((Partner (Hours & Rate)) + (Associate (Hours * Rate)) + (Paralegal (Hours * Rate))

Where Rate (Partner > Associate > Paralegal)

Thus to minimize Legal Bill, you need a few things:

  • Minimize total time, of course
  • Of time you do spend, maximize time that Paralegal and Associate are working

If you think about the total bill in this way, you’ll find then that the real key in managing legal bills is this: find an awesome Associate and Paralegal.  If you can do this through a great firm, then my strong belief is that you’ll be able to manage the cost. 

Our team beyond Yokum are rock stars—our Associate Jesse Chew has my complete trust, and the paralegal Andrew Wang has also been super efficient and competent. 

So benefit to me is that I’ve got Yokum when I need heavy hitting.  At same time, our associate and paralegal can handle the vast amount of legal billing.  I’d estimate that vast, vast majority of billable hours has not needed Yokum.  This saves us cash, while giving me confidence that if the chips are down, Yokum’s available. 

Yokum calls it like he sees it, and helps figure out what to do.  Pay advisors to advise; pay cheerleaders to cheer.  I’ve met several attorneys who make me feel great everytime I meet them.  I come out of meetings feeling like I walk on water, like Venture Hacks might start quoting me. :)

Having worked in the industry a while though, cheery lawyers spook me a bit–a little like the feeling I’d get if a doctor came in, looked at an X-Ray, and said “uh-oh”.  I feel much more comfortable with an attorney who says, basically “Look, I’ve done this a few hundred times.  You are nuts to think that [insert idea here] is going to happen.  Here’s my strong belief as to what will likely happen.  Here’s what I’d suggest we do.”  This is much more Yokum’s approach, and for me, it’s what I prefer.  May not be for everyone, I get that. 

Responds to everything within the business day.   Though I’ve never heard it stated, Yokum and WSGR appear to have a policy that ensures they get back to you same day, no matter what time of day.   I’ve got a very early stage company, we’re no Google (yet).  Still, as a client, I’m treated well.  This predictability is very nice to have.  They’re the only service provider I’ve worked with about whom I can claim this.  It stands out. 

 

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