In a stroke of brilliance and great timing, Craig Johnson started a law firm in 1993 that focused exclusively on high tech start-ups.
Johnson’s firm, Venture Law Group, helped launch Yahoo, Inc. and Hotmail Corp., among others. Johnson, who died September 29 at age 62, apparently never stopped trying to reshape the firm model.
VLG struggled during the dot-com bust and merged with Heller Ehrman in 2003, which closed in 2008. But when times were good, they were really good. Johnson promoted a lack of hierarchy and all attorneys shared in the profits, including first-year associates who made up to $1 million, The Wall Street Journal said.
WSJ: In addition to providing legal services, VLG gave business advice, helped arrange venture financing and took an equity position in clients. It routinely turned investments of $20,000 to $40,000 into multimillion-dollar gains following an IPO…
It often delayed billing for its services until after a client had received venture-capital funding.
The business model, which Mr. Johnson claimed came to him in a dream, worked so well that small firms literally camped out on VLG’s doorstep. At the height of the Internet boom, VLG rejected more than 90% of prospective clients. But those it accepted usually got funded.
Virtual Law Partners’ press release about Johnson’s death is here (pdf).
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