Chief Business and Legal Officer Len Smith is responsible for all business and legal affairs for Heliae. Heliae is a mid-sized biotechnology company that focuses on the development and manufacture of products from microalgae and similar pioneering biological systems in a variety of areas including health, nutrition and agriculture. His work includes primarily managing business development, licensing, sales and intellectual property.
Prior to joining Heliae as its first general counsel, Smith held the position of Vice President of Business & Legal Affairs for Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Chief Intellectual Property Counsel for Medicis Pharmaceuticals and Corporate Counsel for Novo Nordisk, Inc. In all of these positions, he negotiated major deals, managed litigation and implemented intellectual property and regulatory strategy.
Smith shares his insight and knowledge in running a successful business.
(Photo courtesy of Len Smith)
What are the top five things small businesses can do to be successful in terms of legal matters?
- Small businesses can differentiate themselves in terms of legal matters through wise choice of legal counsel. Costs in the legal industry are escalating, at best, and often simply out of control. Many attorneys do not get business and either over complicate matters, focus on the unimportant or operate based on tradition rather than practical strategy. Picking the right legal team is the best way for a small company to differentiate itself in terms of legal matters.
- Small businesses can creatively control legal spending by performing smart risk analysis in approaching legal issues and risks. This is one of the things small businesses struggle with. Most attorneys are driven by tradition or by risk avoidance, without consideration of such practicalities. Accordingly, small companies either have too little protection or too much, and too much cost in the latter case. Uber is a great example. Most attorneys would have shot this concept down due to the risks, losing lots of value. LegalZoom is another example of a business that similarly would have been killed at the start due to legal risk.
- Small businesses can similarly streamline transactional legal processes, such as contracts, and reduce legal costs accordingly while providing reasonable levels of protection. Through training, much of this work can be done by non-attorney professionals, saving significant costs.
- Small businesses can best benefit from smart use of legal systems by obtaining intellectual property protection for their innovations. This allows small companies to protect such innovation against competition from better funded competitors and permits them to recoup R&D investments.
- Small businesses can take advantage of creative ways to approach the raising of funds in a compliant manner and manage the life cycle of their firms as they approach either an exit through acquisition or expansion through IPO. Bringing capital to the firm provides opportunity for growth. It is critical to manage the legal process and control costs in approaching such matters.
This article was written by Michelle Guilbeau for Small Business Pulse