Silicon Valley’s Power Five Law Firms
In a tech world that yoyos between gigantic unicorn successes and spectacular flameouts like Juicero, startup entrepreneurs need to tread carefully — which includes getting high quality legal advice. From raising capital to employment agreements, from intellectual property protection to partnership negotiations, startups need shrewd advisory services during every stage of their growth. That advice is particularly critical for startups challenging legacy industries and government red tape — just getting their businesses functioning depends on minimizing legal risks.
Newscenter.io has rounded up five top startup law firms with offices in Silicon Valley to help entrepreneurs learn about potential options. Whether it’s intellectual property, corporate law or equity financing, these firms have deep expertise in every legal area that startups have to contend with, and they have facilitated and advised record-setting Silicon Valley IPOs and acquisition deals. Read on to learn more.
Palo Alto-headquartered Cooley is widely regarded as a top go-to law firm for Silicon Valley startups. To provide better service to its clients, Cooley introduced a mobile product in 2014: Cooley Go. Cooley Go offers a mobile-friendly microsite providing a wide range of free legal and business content covering company formation, financing, building a team, working with directors and advisors, intellectual property, M&A, IPOs and more. At the helm of the global law firm are CEO Joe Conroy and chairman Stephen Neal, the latter of whom was named as one of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America by the National Law Journal.
According to Cooley, the firm represents a full 35 percent of U.S. companies that are included in the Wall Street Journal’s Billion Dollar Startup Club — including Uber and SpaceX. The firm has 900 lawyers across 12 offices in the U.S., China and Europe, and it has represented companies involved in 1,000 merger and acquisition transactions totalling an aggregate value of more than $300 billion since 2011. Cooley has also provided legal help for more than 190 venture funds.
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR)
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is another premier legal advisor to technology, life sciences, and other growth enterprises worldwide. WSGR orchestrated Apple’s initial public offering in 1980, and it is considered by many Silicon Valley insiders to be the grandfather of startup law. WSGR represented LinkedIn in its $26.2 billion acquisition by Microsoft — Microsoft’s largest acquisition to date.
WSGR’s core advisory services cover public and private offerings of equity and debt securities, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property litigation, and joint ventures and strategic alliances. According to the firm, it has consistently rank No. 1 in the Dow Jones VentureSource for the number of venture capital deals handled each year. With 11 offices in the U.S., three in China, and one in Belgium, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati has completed more than 100 public equity and debt offerings during the past five years, helping clients raise more than $50 billion.
Morrison & Foerster
Often referred to as MoFo, Morrison & Foerster is a longstanding law firm founded in 1883, serving clients across a range of industries and practices, including intellectual property, patent litigation, corporate, business restructuring, and M&A. In July, 2013, Morrison & Foerster represented long-time client SoftBank in its $21.6 billion acquisition of a 78 percent stake in Sprint Nextel. According to The Wall Street Journal, the transaction was “one of the most complex and unusual deals in the annals of takeovers.”
The firm currently has more than 1,000 lawyers deployed across 16 offices in the U.S., Asia and Europe. Morrison and Foerster was named the 2017 Information Technology Firm of the Year by U.S. News & World Report’s Best Lawyers Guide. The firm maintains a strong commitment to social causes, and it has created one of the oldest law firm-affiliated charitable foundations in the United States — MoFo Foundation. The fund is primarily supported by Morrison & Foerster partners, and it has contributed $52 million to nonprofit organizations since its inception in 1986.
DLA Piper, which is headquartered in London, is a multinational law firm located in more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. The company website maintains that DLA Piper is the No.1 law firm in terms of global mergers and acquisition deal volume. Their areas of expertise include corporate matters, litigation, intellectual property, and international trade. DLA Piper’s clients range from multinational Global 1000 and Fortune 500 enterprises to emerging companies developing industry-leading technologies. The firm boasts that more than half of Fortune 250 companies and nearly half of the FTSE 350 or their subsidiaries use DLA Piper’s legal advisory services.
DLA Piper has attracted an impressive lineup of notable staff, including George J. Mitchell, a former U.S. senator from Maine, who served as DLA Piper’s chairman from 2003 to 2009. Michael Castle, former governor of Delaware, has been a partner at DLA Piper since 2011. Currently at the helm of DLA Piper’s U.S. operation is Roger Meltzer, who serves on the advisory board of Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession and on the board of directors of The Hain Celestial Group, Inc., and The Legal Aid Society.
Fenwick & West
Larry Kramer, dean of Stanford Law School, told Bloomberg Businessweek that Fenwick “understands how the Valley works better than most, everything from how to raise money, where to incorporate, and how to nurture and grow a startup.” With a team of more than 300 attorneys, Fenwick & West has been ranked No.1 in the Americas and No.3 worldwide for its volume of technology, media and telecommunications deals by Mergermarket. In 2012, Fenwick & West represented Facebook in the largest tech IPO in history, as well as its later $1 billion purchase of Instagram. In 2014, Fenwick represented WhatsApp in its $16 billion acquisition by Facebook.
Aside from providing legal services to startups and corporations, Fenwick & West has made a name for itself as a law firm that heavily invests in proprietary technology tools and processes to deliver best-in-class legal services, including an innovative patent management platform called Trademark Extranet. Fenwick & West was named Technology Group of the Year by Law360 for four consecutive years starting in 2012.