By Vivek Jayaram
A successful entrepreneur told me back in 2009, “if you can make it 10 years you can make it forever.” I really hope that’s true!
At the start of this decade, Jayaram Law was barely four months old. It was just me, a laptop, and an unwritten but clear vision of what I wanted this law firm to be: a place where everybody involved – clients, employees, partners – could be authentically themselves while solving really difficult problems for companies and people interested in shaping the future of the world.
Looking back, we’ve done a number of small things poorly. Terrified of delegation, obsessed with work product perfection, it took years for me to loosen the reigns and realize that growth is not even an option when you’re a control freak. I didn’t see the value in having non-legal staff to drive operations; I thought technology could solve all of that. And I didn’t really understand that saying no to some potential clients is just as important as saying yes to the right ones. The list goes on and on.
But even though we messed up on these things, we never lost sight of our vision. That’s why we are still here today, thriving, growing, and still solving those problems for some of the most exciting companies operating today. From our very first days, we were doing the things that have become somewhat fashionable as the decade progressed: shared workspaces, alternative fee arrangements, and a culture that takes more cues from its clients than it does from other law firms.
What I don’t think I realized at the time – but what has become clear to me now – is how much our firm’s culture has influenced the quality of the substantive work that we do for clients. By sharing the values of our clients who by and large operate businesses that advocate for change, we are able to provide better legal advice. And by better, I mean appropriate. Solving problems requires a deep understanding of a client’s goals. When you understand a client’s business, you generally understand the goals of that business. There may be several ways to use the law to achieve that goal, but part of the solution is making sure you engage the appropriate strategy to reach that objective. You can send all kinds of cease and desist letters to get someone to stop infringing your IP. But the words in your letter need to mirror your client’s values; the message needs to be on brand. Otherwise, your client becomes the subject of a viral video and the PR blowblack could be catastrophic. These are concepts that we have been playing with since the beginning, and we now know that it makes a real difference. Whether we are closing a round of funding for a blockchain venture or litigating a copyright case for a world-renowned conceptual artist, we know that we are a reflection of our clients, and we do everything to ensure that we are presenting the best version of our clients as much as possible.
And it doesn’t stop there. If we are doing things right, then I think it’s safe to say that our lawyers are more like our clients, not more like other lawyers. Because at the end of the day, our ability to connect with clients, to learn what they care about and what they don’t care about, allows us to solve their problems quicker, more effectively, and in a way that is not only legally sound but also culturally on point.
A decade later, the journey has only just started. I was on the phone with a reputable partner of a firm yesterday who – during the course of certain settlement negotiations in an IP case – was aghast that our client demands 4 or even 5 figure fees for a single social media post. By understanding our client’s goals (and by recognizing that our adversary was not familiar with this space), we are able to deliver the best solution for our client. Seizing on our knowledge of the industries in which our clients operate has been and will always be critical to any success we are lucky enough to have.
I am so excited to see what the next ten years brings to us: algorithms as art, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and an entire entrepreneurial ecosystem that will be built by digital natives. There’s a large swath of our profession that rolls their eyes at these advancements and the people that drive them. Not us; we embrace the future and know that our experience is deeply tied to their success. We are here to guide them, just as we have been here to guide you for the last ten years.
Wishing you all the best in the years to come,