Monday, August 20, 2012

Chicago's Best Lawyers for Startups

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/20/2012


& Comment

Getting a good startup lawyer right from the beginning, can often be the difference between "off to the races" and "oops, why didn't we think of that before".  Picking a good lawyer often revolves around their expertise with startups, expertise in your industry, expertise for your specific project, bench strength of their firm, affordability, references and personality fit with your organization.  So, speak with several, to assess who is best for your business and liking, before making your decision.

There are several worthy lawyers in Chicago, with deep expertise in serving the startup community.  Below is a list of some of my favorites (in alphabetical order), having worked with them over the years.  You will be well-served by any of their counsel.

Frank Ballantine at Dykema
Online Bio: 
Contact: 312-627-2509 or fballantine
Firm Size: 450 lawyers nationally ($$$ , but startup discounts) broad scope and depth of skills for all business needs
Clients: Confidential, but over 50 times outside general counsel, countless equity and debt transactions, 100+ M&A deals
Expertise: Strategic and legal counsel, entity formation and governance, IP protection and licensing, equity and debt financing, incentive compensation, M&A and joint ventures
Industries: AI, Fin Tech, Saas, mobile, software, digital security, tech services and development, healthcare and medical innovation, specialty materials, advanced manufacturing
Involvement: Advisory board of two venture funds; have invested personally  in 24 startups, venture funds and PE funds; served/serving ex officio on 26 client Boards of Directors, founding sponsor Hyde Park Angels, finals judge Booth Business School New Venture Challenge and Harvard Business School Regional  Business Plan Competition,  speak regularly on emerging growth corporate finance at Chicago business schools

Craig Bradley at Much Shelist
Online Bio:
Contact:  312-521-2780 or
Firm Size: 85 attorneys ($$$).  Wide range of talent for all needs.
Clients:  Hireology, UrbanBound, UICO, Mediafly, Vertex, FourKites, Goby, Regenerative Medical Solutions, RedWave Energy.  100+ deals since 1993.
Expertise:  formation, fund raising, distribution, partnering, licensing, IP, M&A, compensation.  Highly rated by Chambers.
Industries:  technology, software, internet, communications, life sciences, health care, energy, materials
Involvement: director at ITA, faculty at Kellogg, founder Wildcat Angels, steering committee for TEDxMidwest, 1871 mentor and speaker 

Matthew Brown at Katten Muchin Rosenman (or his partner Jeffrey Patt)
Online Bio
Contact:  312-902-5207 or matthew.brown
Firm Size: 650 attorneys on three continents ($$$$, but flexible for startups).  Wide range of talent for all needs.
Clients:  BCV Evolve, eSpark Learning, LiveOne, Eved, Bloom Nation, Vaporstream, iKonverse
Expertise:  formation, fund raising, transactions, compensation, M&A, governance, strategy, IP.  Two recommendations from other lawyers on this list.
Industries:  technology, software, healthcare, financial services, entertainment
Involvement: director at Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, sponsor Booth Seed Con, sponsor New Venture Challenge, sponsor Clean Energy Challenge

Chris Cain at Foley & Lardner
Online Bio
Contact: 312-832-4553 or ccain@
Firm Size: 900 attorneys in 21 offices in three continents ($$$$, but flexible for startups including deferred or discounted fees).  Wide range of talent for all needs.
Clients:  StyleSeek, VLinks Media, Bid Med, Procured Health, Shiftgig, Tap.Me,
Expertise:  formation, fund raising, M&A, outsourcing, IP, litigation, strategy.  Former general counsel at Sonic Foundry and CPA from Arthur Andersen.
Industries: software, hardware, technology, social media, private equity.
Involvement: co-founder and host of Catapult Chicago

Leslee Cohen at Hershman Cohen
Online Bio:
Contact:  312-445-9628 or lcohen
Firm Size: 2 attorneys ($$).  Partners with other small firms on an as-needed basis.
Clients:  CompassMD, Cognitive Advisors, Mobile Doorman, Trusted Mobile, Realync, Resident Gifts, StockTrendSpotter, BeyondTags.
Expertise:  formation, fund raising, distribution, partnering, licensing, M&A, compensation.  Super Lawyers Top 50 Women Lawyers and Top 100 Lawyers in Illinois 2012-present.
Industries: real estate, technology, retail, health care, education
Involvement: She has been named a Top 10 Lawyers in the State of Illinois by Super Lawyers. Co-founder of SBACConnects, mentor at WiSTEM, Elmspring, Bunker, Start-up Instititute, 1871 speaker, co-founder Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law.  Outstanding Service to Entrepreneurs Award from the Herald Daily Business Ledger.

Jon Fieldman (Independent)
Online Bio
Contact: 312-961-3844 or fieldman
Firm Size: sole practice ($$).  Partners with other lawyers on an as-needed basis.
Clients:  Policy of non-disclosure.  But, many venture-backed startups.
Expertise:  Formation, fund raising, employment, litigation, IP, contracts, strategy.  A former partner with Sidley & Austin and a former CIO/COO (with deep business experience).
Industries: technology, finance, manufacturing, distribution, transportation, retail, food & beverage
Involvement: past-chairman of Lumity, member Friends of Blaine, producer of Transformational Leadership events

Scott Glickson at McGuire Woods
Online Bio
Contact: 312-321-7652 or sglickson
Firm Size: 950 attorneys in 19 cities in U.S. & Europe ($$$$, but flexible for startups).  120 in Chicago and 30 in tech practice.  Wide range of talent for all needs. 
Clients:  Sagence, Give Forward, ContextMedia, Code Academy, Akoo, Northstar, Future Simple, Fango (sold to GrubHub), FeeFighters (sold to Groupon).  Worked for me at iExplore.
Expertise: formation, fund raising, licensing, outsourcing, IP, team building, partnerships, disputes.  Two recommendations from other lawyers on this list.
Industries: information technology, clean tech, healthcare, private equity
Involvement: director emeritus ITA (20 years), director i.c. Stars

Michael Gray at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg
Online Bio
Contact: 312-269-8086 or mgray
Firm Size: 175 attorneys ($$$$, but flexible for startups).  Wide range of talent for all needs.
Clients:  Built in Chicago, FireStarter Fund and others that are confidential.
Expertise:  formation, fund raising, M&A, IP, agreements, employment, compensation, taxation, estate planning, strategy.  Former VC, understands both sides.  Highly rated by Chambers.  Six recommendations from other lawyers on this list.
Industries: information technology
Involvement: member IVCA, member ITA, speaker 1871, speaker Booth School

Darren Green (Independent)
Online Bio
Contact: 847-205-0977 or dgreen
Firm Size: Sole practice ($$). 
Clients:  Total Attorneys, Local Offer Network, Inventables, Ad Gooroo, mFoundry, Body Shop Bids, Belly, Lightswitch, Code Academy, BankVue, Luxemi, Moving Station, Psylotech, Revenew
Expertise:  formation, fund raising, IP, M&A, JVs, agreements, compensation, employment, T&Cs, strategy.  One recommendation from another lawyer on this list.
Industries:  information technology 
Involvement: professor Northwestern Law School (teaching venture capital), partner Old Willow Partners (buy-out fund), writer Chicago Tribune

Greg Grove at Much Shelist
Online Bio
Contact: ggrove
Firm Size: 85 attorneys ($$$).  Wide range of talent for all needs.
Clients:  Voxsup, Engage-a-Pro, Noblivity, Conceivex, Pegasus Biosolutions, Blossom Coffee, Guardian Angel, Lemnos Labs
Expertise:  formation, fund raising, M&A, IP.  Silicon Valley based lawyer for 11 years. Former electrical engineer (MIT).
Industries: software, internet, communications, technology, electrical devices, healthcare tech
Involvement: sponsor and host of Founder Institute Chicago, speaker and free hours at 1871 

Jim Jerue at Horwood Marcus & Berk
Online Bio
Contact: 312-606-3202 or jjerue
Firm Size:  52 attorneys in Chicago ($$$).  Wide range of talent for most needs.
Clients:  eSpark Learning, KLUTCHclub, Smarteys, Vibes Media, HireBrite
Expertise:  formation, fund raising, M&A, partnerships, employment, contracts, taxation, estate planning. Two recommendations from other lawyers on this list.
Industries:  technology, healthcare
Involvement: mentor Excelerate Labs and Chicago Booth Accelerator, sponsor and investor Hyde Park Angels, co-chair private equity subcommittee at Chicago Bar Association

Ben Kern at Winston & Strawn LLP
Online Bio
Firm Size: 900 attorneys in the US, Europe and Asia ($$$$, but flexible for startups)
Contact: 312-558-3747 or
Clients: Fruition Partners (sold to CSC); Base (FutureSimple); SIM Partners; Amstatz; Momentum Dynamics; Synapse Games; Liquidus; also represents venture capital investors and large strategic buyers and investors.
Expertise: venture capital, M&A, joint ventures, strategy investing and acquisition, technology transactions
Industries: software, SaaS, technology services, devices and medical devices, wireless, life sciences, gaming, new technologies

Bart Loethen at Tucker Ellis LLP
Online Bio:
Contact: bartly.loethen@
Firm Size: Founded in 2003, Tucker Ellis LLP has strategically grown to more than 215 lawyers serving clients nationwide from seven locations ($$$).
Clients: policy of non-disclosure, but has a great list (e.g., Bart has done my legal work for Red Rocket and MediaRecall).
Expertise: formation, fund raising, taxation, litigation, M&A, IP, licensing.  Two recommendations from other lawyers on this list.
Industries: technology, high growth, healthcare, software
Involvement: board SmartBet

Galen Mason  at Michael Best
Online Bio:
Contact: 312-596-5814 gmason
Firm Size: 300 attorneys in 13 offices ($$$, but flexible for startups including deferred and discounted fees).  Wide range of talent for all needs.  Very founder focused.
Clients:  Lumere, Tillable, Reconstruct, Serra Ventures, Network Ventures, Woodlawn Partners
Expertise:  formation, venture fund raising, M&A, outsourcing, regulatory, IP, litigation, strategy. Runs a Series A venture capital index fund focused on the Midwest, Service Provider Capital.
Industries: software, hardware, consumer goods, manufacturing, technology, social media, private equity.
Involvement: co-founder of Catapult Chicago, co-founder of Service Provider Capital

Ken Obel at goodcounsel
Online Bio
Contact: email or using contact form on site is best.
Firm Size: 3 attorneys and paralegal ($$).  Partners with other lawyers for other full-service needs (e.g., patent prosecution).  Often fixed-fee projects instead of hourly rate based.  Also offers subscription-based Counsel-as-a-Service packages.
Clients:  ItemMaster,, Pictarine, SingleHop, SkinIO, Upfront Health Services
Expertise: Entity formation and structuring, co-founder matters, debt/equity financing rounds, incentive compensation, commercial agreements. Also offers internal legal process automation to streamline client operations and reduce contract cycle times. Was the co-founder of a local startup (Fox & Obel Food Market) and served for 10 years thereafter as general counsel for early-stage companies (HighBeam Research, Viewpoints Network), so has firsthand legal and business experience in startups. An avid cyclist, Ken is willing to hold an introductory meeting on a ride with you. Two recommendations from other lawyers on this list.
Industries: SaaS platforms, information technology, EdTech, consumer, healthcare
Involvement: Class mentoring at Northwestern/Kellogg. LawMeets judge at Northwestern University Law School

Michael Rosenthal at Polsinelli Shughart
Online Bio
Firm Size: 600 attorneys nationwide ($$$$, but flexible for startups).  40 lawyers in tech practice, many with computer science and engineering degrees.
Contact: 312-463-6318 or mrosenthal@
Clients: C-Sam, ViMedicus, Advanced Molecular plus many venture firms (e.g., Adams Street, River Cities, Amiti, Psilos).
Expertise: formation, fund raising, strategy, partnerships, IP, compensation, M&A, JV's, litigation, data privacy, a bridge to capital/strategic partners globally.  Highly rated by Chambers.  Three recommendations from other lawyers on this list.
Industries: information technology, healthcare, medical
Involvement: member IVCA and ACG, sponsor of Chicago chapter of Startup Leadership Program, sponsor Illinois Business and Investor Forum and Chicago New Media Summit

Spencer Wood at Polsinelli Shughart (or his partner Teddy Scott)
Online Bio
Contact: 312-873-3677 or swood@
Firm Size: 600 attorneys nationwide ($$$$, but flexible for startups).  40 lawyers in tech practice, many with computer science and engineering degrees.
Clients:  policy of non-disclosure.
Expertise:  formation, fund raising, M&A, IP, tech development
Industries: technology, software, internet, medical, financial, digital media, life sciences, clean tech, energy.
Involvement: lecturer at Tribeca Flashpoint Academy, mentor at PROPEL and Chicago Innovation Mentors, hosts Venture Capital Group meetings of Business Network Chicago (BNC).

Anthony J. Zeoli at Freeborn & Peters LLP
Online Bio
Contact:  312-360-6798 (Phone); azeoli@ (email)
Firm Size: 125 attorneys ($$$).  Full service law firm, with expertise for all needs.
Clients:  Range from entrepreneurs and small, privately held, businesses to multi-million dollar entities. 
Expertise:  Specializes in the areas of real estate, commercial lending, private equity, securities/private placements, M&A, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, Regulation A+ offerings, and general corporate law. Industry-recognized crowdfunding, Regulation A+ and JOBS Act expert and author of the Illinois Intrastate Crowdfunding Exemption (House Bill 3420).
Industries:  Real estate, crowdfunding/P2P lending, technology, commercial finance and general start-up.
Involvement: Board member and Secretary of the CfPA (Crowdfunding Professional Association) and an active member of CFIRA (Crowdfund Intermediary Regulatory Advocates); Board member of the New York Distance Learning Association (NYDLA); Mentor and a student advisor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Bruce Zivian at Barnes & Thornberg
Online Bio
Contact: 312-214-5601 or bzivian
Firm Size: 600 attorneys in 18 offices in U.S. ($$$$, but flexible for startups).  Wide range of talent for all needs.
Clients:  policy of non-disclosure.
Expertise:  Formation, fund raising, JV's, distribution, compensation, licensing, IP.  Three recommendations from other lawyers on this list.
Industries: biotech, medical products and devices, web based services, software
Involvement: director Urban Students Empowered

If you think I am missing anybody, or think you should be included in this discussion, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments field below.

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