In honor of the Hutchison PLLC's recent 25th birthday celebration, we chatted with Partner Justyn Kasierski to ask for a few lessons learned and pro-tips for our startGNV followers. Check out our interview below!
How does startGNV sponsor Hutchison PLLC stand out as a law firm?
For starters, their team exclusively serves clients in the technology, life sciences, venture capital, and entrepreneurial space. But perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of their business is that internally they also operate with a lean and mean startup efficiency.
In honor of the firm's recent 25th birthday celebration, we chatted with Hutchison Partner Justyn Kasierski to ask for a few lessons learned and pro-tips for our startGNV followers. Check out our interview below!
How Justyn became interested in the entrepreneurial ecosystem
Justyn Kasierski went to law school in Durham, NC in the late 1990s, and in the early 2000s began practicing with Gunderson Dettmer, a global venture law firm in their Greater Boston office. He enjoyed the practice area and when he decided to move back to the Triangle in 2004, he went to Hutchison, where he’s been ever since.
Why is the culture of Hutchison so special?
The boutique firm is focused on venture capital and venture capital backed companies.
“We really operate like a startup style law firm too,” says Justyn. “The first person turns on the coffee maker and the last person takes out the mail.”
How did you enter the GNV innovation ecosystem?
“The University of Florida is one of the best schools in the country for spinout companies,” says Justyn. “But as we expanded into the community, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the ecosystem outside of UF as well.”
Hutchison’s new attorney, Dan Alfino, also hails from Gainesville.
“There are natural questions early on when you’re thinking about starting your own company -- and taking your time to surround yourself with advisors makes sense.”
While we’re on that subject- favorite GNV hangouts?
“Downtown is great, the hotels are great, and the food and bar scene- great!” says Justyn. “I also really like the Innovation Hub.”
When should budding entrepreneurs and startups start engaging with an attorney?
According to Hutchison, the earlier = the better. As soon as you’re thinking about starting your company you can benefit from legal counsel.
“There are natural questions early on when you’re thinking about starting your own company -- and taking your time to surround yourself with advisors makes sense,” says Justyn. “Getting an attorney early on is helpful so you can navigate handling your current employment situation, having a cofounder, allocations of equity, investing, you name it.”
How is Hutchison different from other law firms?
“We’re an entire law firm built to serve entrepreneurs and VCs,” says Justyn. “Startups are not just a practice area - this is solely what we do. From our marketing, to the attorneys we hire… we all think about the same types of clients and the same type of problems. The model works well for our clients and our clients' feedback supports that theory. At your typical full-service firm, they might have a practice group that does what Hutch does. But that’s one of 25 practice groups. Their mission is to be a law firm and provide good legal service. Our mission is to serve entrepreneurs and VCs. We’re happy to refer people to other great firms for outside needs though.”
How did you build such a strong team?
“When it comes to hiring, a lot of our attorneys self-select, they know they want to be here and work with startups, entrepreneurs, and VCs,” says Justyn. “For me, I looked around and this was my number one choice because this is what Hutchison does. Our attorneys typically have a bit of broader experience and then they decide they want to take their career into this area.”
“It’s about finding the right person at the right opportunity and more often than not, the right people find us.”
Your website has a TON of resources, tell us about your favorites and which ones startups should consider essential reading? On that note, any external resources you recommend tracking?
“Our marketing team has put together a fantastic website of resources,” says Justyn.
Here are a few of our favorites:
-Employment Law Resources Page: for anyone, from a small to a large firm, vaccination policies, getting people back into the office, etc.
-Workshops: keep your eyes open for these awesome webinars. Hutch attorneys always pick topics that are relevant to what’s happening in real-time.
How can people find out more?
Visit the Hutchison website, sign up for the newsletter, and follow their very active @hutchlaw twitter account where they not only link Hutchison resources, but share other great resources from the broader innovation community.
You're celebrating 25 years as a firm! Any tips for smart growth?
According to Justyn, sometimes sticking through the tough times can create opportunities for advancement.
“Know who you are, know what you want to do, and stay in your lane,” says Justyn. “When the tech bubble burst, we said to ourselves, ‘This is what we do.’ So we stuck with what we’re doing and that’s when all the tourists vacated and we really advanced as a firm.”
He also credits organizational success to creating the right team.
“The importance of people- I’ve got amazing partners,” he says. “That’s where it starts for any law firm-- the partnership. When you think about that in the context of venture backed companies, it's about the team more than the idea. It's better to have an A team with a B idea than the opposite.”
People are so responsive here in Gainesville and that’s what we love about it. They’ll make time, meet you for coffee, and welcome you to the ecosystem.
Any additional resources you can recommend for GNV entrepreneurs?
“There are a ton of great resources out there for entrepreneurs. At the national level, I’d recommend following Ben Horowitz at Andreessen Horowitz, Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures, Brad Feld at Foundry Group, PitchBook, techstars, and Y Combinator. Subscribe to their emails and newsletters.”
“At the local level, Aidan Augustin and Aleksander Levental at Feathr are terrific and very generous with their time- ask them who they’re following and what they’re reading. Dan Rua and Will Richardson at Admiral are wonderful, James Gibson of Quottly is also super helpful, and Augi Lye of Chromatic Games has also been very generous. People are so responsive here in Gainesville and that’s what we love about it. They’ll make time, meet you for coffee, and welcome you to the ecosystem.”