Lawyer Jose Ancer Discusses Legal Issues Tech Entrepreneurs Face on the Ideas to Invoices Podcast
May 19, 2018
Jose Ancer is a tech and venture capital focused corporate partner in the Startup and Emerging Technology Group of Egan Nelson and the firm’s Chief Technology Officer. He received his B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and his Law Degree from Harvard. He represents early-stage companies across a variety of tech-focused industries and in multiple cities. Ancer is also the author of the hugely popular Silicon Hills Lawyer blog. He writes blog posts on core startup law and finance concepts and aggregates useful resources for entrepreneurs. In this episode of the Ideas to Invoices podcast, Ancer talks about some of the issues facing early stage entrepreneurs and how a lawyer can help them navigate them. Ancer created Silicon Hills Lawyer blog because he always enjoyed writing. When he attended the University of Texas, he switched from pursuing an honors business degree to philosophy. “It kind of started out as an experiment to put my thoughts down on various issues to see who would read it and over time it evolved to this interesting way to get info out to clients and prospective clients,” Ancer said. “And perhaps say things that I think the market needs to hear but people who usually control the microphone won’t let you say it.”
Ancer writes the Silicon Hills Lawyer blog in a way that a business person can understand. “I try really hard to make it accessible to the people who don’t have law degrees,” he said. Austin-based Egan Nelson is a “small, top-tier law firm, that can just like top startups, out-compete firms 100 times their size,” according to Ancer. “All of the lawyers that practice at our firm, or the vast majority of them, came from larger firms, the marquee names, the 1,000 lawyer international firms and I did too,” Ancer said. Big firms needed to exist ten years ago when it was impossible for smaller boutique firms to coordinate with each other. “If you are going to build a scaling company, you need IP lawyers, trademark lawyers, corporate tax, twelve different kinds of lawyers,” Ancer said. “There was no infrastructure to collaborate across firms. You had to have this massive overhead, the file room, the secretaries, all of that so a high economic model necessitates lots of lawyers to spread it across.”
What has happened over the last ten years is you have this enormous growth in software as a service products, and so the cost to run a law firm has gone down 90 percent, Ancer said. “It’s sort of the same story for startups,” he said. “It’s why you see so many more startups today. You are seeing a lot more law firms pop up.”
The firm is comprised of serious lawyers that are right-sized to serve the classic non-unicorn startups, Ancer said. Egan Nelson also does not represent venture capital firms, Ancer said. He wrote a blog post recently on how to avoid captivate company counsel. VC firms sometimes recommend a law firm to a first-time entrepreneur that is also the VC firm’s lawyer. That can lead to conflicts of interest, Ancer said. Ancer also wrote a blog post about why startup founders don’t trust startup lawyers and it has a lot to do with the law firms that serve both the investors and the companies, Ancer said. Despite all the software available today, entrepreneurs still need startup lawyers. Legal services like Clerky and Legal Zoom can take care of some standard issues, but there is an enormous role to be played by a human with experience in the startup industry that can tailor advice to your company, Ancer said. Egan Nelson charges $500 a month for up to six months for its formation package for early-stage entrepreneurs. It is highly selective about who it takes on as clients, Ancer said. The hourly rate is about $300 to $400 per hour for senior attorneys, he said. The firm’s focus is commercial, corporate and tax. For more, listen to the entire interview below where Ancer talks about everything from CEO startup pay to the quest for work-life balance and founder burnout.