How entrepreneurial engineers can make effective use of lawyers and the legal perspective they offer on the challenges their startup faces.
Bridging The Chasm Between
Attorneys & Entrepreneurial Engineers
We are trying something different this month at the Lean Culture March Meetup. We have invited Steve Swernofsky, an experienced patent attorney who also worked as an engineer before going back to law school, to explore how entrepreneurial engineers can make effective use of lawyers and the legal perspective they offer on the challenges their startup faces. Steve did a fantastic job on a November 2016 panel I moderated at Hacker Dojo on “Cofounder Legal Challenges,” so I was delighted when he agreed to help explain the legal perspective to entrepreneurial engineers.
There are a number of different skills that a successful startup team needs to encompass either directly or on a contingent basis: engineering disciplines of many different flavors, user research and customer development, user experience, quality assurance, sales, marketing, finance, and legal. Entrepreneurial engineers who have worked in larger firms as engineers before branching out are often exposed to many of these other disciplines but the legal problem solving mindset may be one that they have never experienced first hand until they become a founder.
Entrepreneurs tend to look at how to build on success; attorneys are more concerned with making failure if not avoidable then survivable. While entrepreneurs often focus on how to build on anticipated success attorneys are more often constructive pessimists, concerned with having a plan for how things may go wrong with a business relationship with a cofounder, customer, partner, or investor. Startups typically face high near term viability risks which means that an entrepreneur has to provide guidance on the level of risk mitigation advice that is needed from an attorney.
Attorney Steve Swernofsky is uniquely positioned to help bridge the gap between engineering and legal mindsets as he started his career in engineering before becoming a patent attorney. Steve will offer a briefing for engineering founders on common challenges they face in understanding a legal perspective.
- The best ways to approach your relationship with an attorney.
- How to make cost effective use an attorney’s time for risk mitigation.
- How to include an attorney in your negotiations with early customers but still close the deal.
- Key problems you need to get legal input on early.
About the Presenter
Steven A. Swernofsky serves as Founding Partner at Los Altos Law, a boutique Intellectual Property firm in Silicon Valley. He has over 25 years’ experience with intellectual property and technology. This includes over ten years’ experience with various types of Intellectual Property litigation, and extensive experience with Intellectual Property due diligence, for Venture Capitalists, Angel Investment groups, and companies seeking funding. He also has extensively advised clients with respect to issues involving patent portfolio planning, infringement, validity, licensing, technical design work-around, and other related technical concerns.
Mr. Swernofsky has worked with inventors and entrepreneurial engineers on many areas of technology: artificial intelligence and machine learning, analog and digital circuitry, augmented and virtual reality, bioinformatics, biotechnology and medical devices, business methods, chaos theory techniques, clocking circuits, communications and communication protocols, component manufacture, computer construction and design (including memory, processors, storage, databases, and failure modes), distributed computing and storage, graphics computation and control, handwriting and signature recognition, lasers, natural-language translation, network interconnection and routing, network monitoring and security (including systems and techniques for detection and repair), power monitoring and control, program code modification, robotic and computer-controlled systems, software engineering, telephony, television and video, wireless communication
Mr. Swernofsky has a BS from MIT, where he studied Electrical Engineering and Computer Science with special projects in computer networking and security. He worked in at The MITRE Corporation and at Bolt, Beranek & Newman (BBN) in both computer networking and security before attending UCLA School of Law for his JD.
When, Where, and How to RSVP
- When: Tue-Mar-26 7pm to 9pm
- Where: Sacred Space Coworking, 2490 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
- Cost: No Charge
- RSVP: https://www.meetup.com/lean-culture/events/259860857/
Update: Some Key Take-Aways
Related Blog Posts
- Cofounder Legal Challenges and Solutions at Hacker Dojo Tue-Nov-29
- Q: What Lessons Should I Draw From A Painful Cofounder Experience?
- Legal Issues: Q&A with Pete Tormey of Action Patents
- Legal Advice: Start with a Plain English Agreement that Covers the Key Deal Points
- The Limits of Legal Self-Help
- Podcast with Pete Tormey on Forming a Team, Dividing Equity, and Gaining Early Traction
Image Credit: Bakhtiar Zein