When Silicon Valley companies go looking for legal representation, they generally choose from a short list of well-respected partnerships. There’s 99-year-old
Wearing a baseball cap with a little camera attached to it, Kan filmed himself 24/7 for a few months in 2007, writing code, drinking beer with his friends, and sleeping. The show, Justin.TV, eventually morphed into a video game streaming service,
Lamer than reality TV, perhaps, but maybe a much better business. Atrium has raised about $75 million from investors to rent lawyers to startups the way
The subscription includes an hour of lawyering for “general” advice. A deluxe tier costs $1,500, comes with an additional hour, and includes routine legal work on hiring, contracts, and board meetings. Major projects are available for a flat fee, which is generally cheaper than what a typical law firm would charge, according to clients who have been using an early version of Atrium’s services. Lawyering for an early round of venture funding known as a Series A starts at $30,000; if the deal gets more complicated, and thus more expensive than the price quoted upfront, Atrium, rather than its client, eats the difference.
That makes Kan’s venture, which has yet to turn a profit, riskier as a business than a traditional law firm, but the differences between Atrium and traditional firms are part of its pitch. Kan says he first got the idea after noticing that law firms, which still operate like high-end service businesses with some partners billing at hourly rates of more than $1,500, weren’t using the productivity software that had taken off in other fields, such as
Over the past two years, Atrium has landed more than 400 clients, mostly small startups, plus a number of midsize ones, such as the scooter-sharing company
The company is “shrinking the amount of work, so that the attorneys can focus on higher-value, more personalized offerings,” says
Chen, who’s known Kan since the Justin.TV days, wasn’t put off by the CEO’s track record of livestreaming from the bathroom. In fact, he considers it a positive. Kan’s career, which also included starting an on-demand assistant service,
Of course, law firms, especially those in Silicon Valley, can’t survive on empathy during a recession. They’re often among the first to feel the effects, as venture capitalists need far fewer lawyers to draw up term sheets. Kan acknowledges the risks a potential economic downturn poses to his business model, but he argues that broader trouble could make Atrium all the more attractive to whoever’s left raising money. “If you’re raising a billion-dollar round, you don’t care that you have high legal fees,” he says. “You start to care in a downturn.”
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