January 25, 2016, 2:45pm EST
Law firm starts initiative to support emerging tech, life sciences clients
Saul Ewing created a new firmwide initiative aimed at providing emerging companies in the tech and life sciences spaces the practical support to move their businesses forward.
Called RAMP (Resources, Access and Mentoring Program), the program follows up on Saul Ewing’s announcement last month that it would lease out space in Drexel University’s Innovation Neighborhood, which is housing technology partnerships, joint ventures, academic and research programs, and business incubators.
A major part of RAMP will be the addition of an investor in residence named Revital Hirsch, an associate at local venture firm SCP Vitalife.
Hirsch will conduct a three to six month pilot during which her services will be provided free of charge to a few select companies. She will help with evaluating business plans and investor presentations, reviewing and negotiating term sheets, and modeling the impact of various financing alternatives on capital structure.
During that time, she will have access to databases about financing sources.
Philadelphia biotech company LytPhage, a partnership between Temple University, University of the Sciences and Janssen Pharmaceuticals that creates antimicrobial products that harness genetically-modified bacterial viruses (bacteriophage/phage) for the treatment of antibiotic resistant bacterial infections, will be one of three companies participating.
Saul Ewing Business and Finance Department Chairwoman Debbie Spranger said after the pilot period, the firm will evaluate whether Hirsch is the right person and the program is the right one for the firm’s clients.
RAMP will also include office hours for existing and prospective clients to discuss their corporate, intellectual property, labor and employment, real estate, litigation and other legal needs. There will also be monthly, interactive roundtables structured around topics of interest to young and growing companies that will give entrepreneurs the opportunity to network and learn from each other and the speakers.
Saul Ewing is not the only big law firm trying to woo startups.
In November, Ballard Spahr launched a new program – Project SING (Seed. Incubate. Nurture. Grow.) – designed to guide emerging companies through the legal challenges that come with starting a business. It offers quarterly education sessions conducted by Ballard Spahr lawyers and outside experts, and assigns participants with a mentor who will assist with financial, accounting, and business strategy.
Dilworth Paxson also created an innovation lab at its offices that involves potential investors reviewing pitches from potential startups.
Spranger noted the crowded field of law firms in the space but said Saul Ewing is different because it can embed itself with its startup clients. She said the firm already received a good response from its large company clientele after moving to Drexel last month.
“It’s great to have the relationships with the early stage clients, but this also helps with our more established clients,” Spranger said. “Larger companies are reliant on the emerging clients, who they now realize are better than they are at R&D. So we have received great feedback from those clients after we opened at Drexel. They love to see us supporting startups and creating future opportunities for them.”
Spranger said Saul Ewing will offer three payment options that were approved by the firm’s chief financial officer — free services, deferred fees and fixed fees.
“Our goal out of this is not to make boatloads of money,” Spranger said. “It’s to get these clients the help they need at a price they can pay. It doesn’t help them or us if they spend all of their money on legal fees. I will get paid later if the company makes money. We know that about 80 percent of them won’t make it and we won’t get paid at all. But we see this as a longterm investment.”