2019 Northwestern Law MSL Entrepreneurship Trip — Morrison Foerster

By Jay Jiang & Sage Yang

Day 2 – Tuesday, March 26: Morrison Foerster

After our first night’s rest in the Bay area, the MSL EnTP team kicked off the second day of our trip at Morrison Foerster, also known as MoFo. We were excited to delve deeper into the big law’s success in the land of the startups.

MoFo was founded in 1883, and has been a leading global law firm with practices in many areas such as M&A, IP, bankruptcy, regulatory, tax, international law, and more. It has 17 offices across the globe. Morrison Foerster has been ranked by entrepreneurs as a top four startup law firm in Silicon Valley. MoFo has represented companies likes Softbank and Sequoia Capital in IPO and M&A transactions.

At MoFo, our group received a warm welcome from Tim Harris, who is both a partner and an enlightening educator. Like the MSL students, Tim also started out with a technical background in computer engineering and worked in the industry for some years before going into law.

Tim began the conversation with a brief overview of the history of Silicon Valley, and how it grew from the humble suburbs to the tech hub of the world. In the 1940s, Palo Alto became home to Hewlett-Packard, in an era when computers still took up the space of an entire room. In the next decade, Mountain View saw the founding of William Shockley’s semiconductor company, employing many bright and capable graduates from Stanford. Among the most famous was George Moore, whose law, Moore’s law, was developed when the semiconductor industry was still in its infancy. He later partnered with Robert Noyce and founded “Integrated Electronics, Inc.,” known today to all of us as Intel.

When asked about where he sees law and technology intersect, Tim told the group about Morrison Foerster’s knowledge exchange system. It is a comprehensive database where associates can pull up resources they need for particular projects, such as legal documents drafted by their colleagues. Such technology enables the firm to continuously improve on its practice as a whole.

Tim also elaborated on the importance of innovation within a law firm, especially regarding big firms like Morrison Foerster. Under this subject, we discussed many important topics, one of them being evaluation of performance metrics of associates within the firm. Given the wide range of available software technologies today and the increasingly diverse roles undertaken by associates, their performance should not and cannot be evaluated based solely on the hours billed.

Another interesting topic discussed was the importance of business development for law firms. As one of the oldest professions in the country, law firms have traditionally focused on excelling in their core function – providing legal advice and services. However, as the world evolves to be more and more interconnected, lawyers are forced to consider the brand influence they develop for themselves and for their firms. Even at an associate-level, prioritizing the expansion of their network and the firm’s outreach has become of similar importance as excelling in their professional work. Other than referrals from past and current clients, law firms turn to their own outreach efforts to generate a substantial amount of their potential business.

Tim understands the value of networking and personal interaction. For the past decade, Tim has been very active in this regard: he regularly holds “office hours” providing affordable legal clinics to university students in San Francisco. Tim is also the organizer and main speaker at a 9-week lecture series at the firm, which educates entrepreneurs about legal considerations when scaling up their companies.

Our conversation conluded with Tim sharing his perspective on how candidates with multi-disciplinary backgrounds could fit in at law firms, tying the conversation back to MSL students. Tim’s personality and the informative insight on various topics captured our attention throughout the conversation, leading to a strong start to the second day of the EnTP trip.

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