Louis Lehot is a partner and business lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP, based in the firm’s Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Los Angeles offices, where he is a member of the Private Equity & Venture Capital, M&A and Transactions Practices and the Technology, Health Care, and Energy Industry Teams. Louis focuses his practice on advising entrepreneurs and their management teams, investors, and financial advisors at all stages of growth, from garage to global. Louis especially enjoys being able to help his clients achieve hyper-growth, go public, and to successfully obtain optimal liquidity events. Prior to joining Foley, Louis was the founder of a Silicon Valley boutique law firm called L2 Counsel.
You recently joined Foley & Lardner. How did that come about?
My colleagues associated with my former boutique law firm, L2 Counsel, and I joined Foley & Lardner LLP in February 2021 to serve clients from an AmLaw Global 50 firm that serves clients entrepreneurially. Now, our clients will have access to us as well as to a plethora of other like-minded lawyers supported by a world-class professional staff and high-end technology. It also offers the opportunity to help Foley & Lardner increase its presence on the West Coast. I am at my best when I am collaborating with others to help realize a vision. My colleagues and I are excited about what comes next. Joining Foley is a logical outgrowth of the path embarked on when I launched L2 Counsel.
The idea for launching a new innovation law practice—and now, housing it within a global firm—originated from my passion for enabling disruptive entrepreneurs and investors at all stages of the growth curve to reach new heights. This ranges from entrepreneurs coming out of the Stanford University labs and their venture capital and private equity investors, to CEOs of large publicly traded “bigtech” and life science businesses. In my daily life as a Silicon Valley lawyer, I help entrepreneurs move from ideation to formation, from formation to Minimum Viable Product (MVP), from MVP to commercial shipment, from financing to scaling, from scaling to global, and then from global to exit.
We are best when we form relationships on a foundation of mutual trust and confidence that is earned many times over, and every day. My colleagues and I are known for fostering relationships with and among some of the very best industry professionals, entrepreneurs and investors, buyers and sellers. These connections inside and outside our areas of legal expertise empower our clients with a framework for successful innovation and monetization.
Life is about relationships. Knowing who people are is very different from being able to make qualified introductions. Our ability to connect and collaborate with leaders across industries creates real innovation. And the associated value we offer our growth and established company clients is what we do best.
Inevitably, my idea came from the belief that a deep focus on the innovation economy will lead the world to a better place.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I am always trying new “hacks” to improve my effectiveness and productivity, and I firmly believe it’s about adopting and maintaining good habits.
When I am truly present, I am listening, empathizing, strategizing, and dispensing guidance and advice. If I can do one thing for a client, it is making them feel covered. People never forget how you make them feel. Whatever track record of success and productivity I have experienced is predicated on the fact that I remain present on one task, one relationship, and one goal at a time. This allows the force of impact of my advice to give cover to my clients to proceed safely in everything that they do. Despite the myriad of distractions and commitments, when I am meeting with or on the phone with a client, that conversation is my sole focus. By remaining true to my heart and mind, I mitigate the risk of overlooking a detail or missing an opportunity to provide value. This discipline enhances my productivity over time.
If productivity is based on being present and being fully in the here and now, I recognize my inherent need for help to stay focused and disciplined. With time, I have learned that this requires good habits. You are what you eat and how much you sleep. Your ideas and thoughts are your reality. It is always a great time to find new “hacks” to establish better habits to enable presence and productivity.
Getting to bed at a regular time and consistently affording myself a full night’s sleep is not always easy, but consciously striving for the very same is a key part of the balancing act.
I try to start my day with guided meditation, gratitude and forgiveness practices, and I access them through apps like Omvana from Mindvalley on my phone (I embrace technology-based solutions, and love finding new techniques to enable growth). My morning practice takes me about 15 minutes. Amplifying positive thoughts, expressing thanks, counting blessings, and removing negative charges through forgiveness, helps me stay grounded. Incorporating physical exercise into my daily routine has been a challenge, but exercise is necessary for mental as well as physical fitness. Early morning is perfect for 15-30 minutes of Peloton time.
On weekends, I make superfood green veggie smoothies for the week with my daughter—to ensure healthy nutrition when we start each day. (My favorite ingredients are spinach, leafy green and rainbow chard, avocado, celery, and a pinch of ginger). I prioritize eating fresh foods, with plenty of vegetables, and I minimize consumption of sugar, processed foods and alcohol (a challenge for wine lovers). While I consume copious amounts of expresso throughout the morning, I balance the caffeine with at least a liter of water to stay hydrated.
Then, it’s full speed ahead to get Adam and Ella to school and myself into the office. Even though remote work will likely continue to be observed at least in part, I value face-to-face communication with my teammates and clients. I set meetings with clients and team members between 9am to 11am and 2pm to 5pm, where possible. I make a priority of leaving my office several times a week to attend events, host meals and visit with those people in my network that I admire, all while observing safety protocols. It’s important for clients to see me. They appreciate my emphasis on communication and commitment to ensuring that they stay abreast of the issues that matter.
When confronted with negative thoughts and anxieties, I thank the universe for the many opportunities afforded and blessings received. This commitment to gratitude helps me overcome the inevitable challenges I encounter. Life is short. Success is leased and rent is due every day. Staying present and grateful is the key to being productive.
How do you bring ideas to life?
To bring an idea to life, you have to boil it down to its most integral parts, and build from there, collaboratively, taking care that you are solving a problem that needs solving and creating something for the greater good. You persevere when the inevitable roadblocks occur, and you can do so because you keep your vision in clear sight. As Peter Block wrote (in a wonderful book by the same title), “The answer to how is yes.”
What’s one trend that excites you?
As we begin to emerge from the depths of the pandemic, I am more convinced than ever that private industry, academia, and the government will unite to drive a new revolution in regenerative medicine.
Concurrently with a renewed focus on public/private partnerships, I believe that digital transformation will rapidly accelerate the adaptation of business models and operations to a remote workforce. While Zoom and Webex have been ubiquitous names in remote video and document collaboration for some time, established blue-chip companies are also evolving. Last April, Verizon spent $500 million to acquire BlueJean Networks, a competing venture-backed video and document collaboration tool with unique features. The combination of BlueJean with Verizon’s massive installed customer base further strengthens its opportunity set as a formidable competitor. We are more likely than ever to witness a technology arms race between these three competitors to develop new and better features for remote video and document collaboration.
Additionally, demand for artificial intelligence, machine learning, workflow automation, dev-ops, blockchain, cyber-security and healthcare solutions that enable digital transformation, augmented analytics, and smarter cities for remote living may further catalyze investors to deploy massive amounts of capital to these sectors.
For example, venture capital funding for telemedicine companies surged in the first quarter of 2020 to $788 million. That funding level was more than triple the amount telemedicine companies raised in the first quarter of 2019, according to communications and research firm Mercom Capital Group.
As the technology and health solutions required to meet the needs of the times accelerate, they will intersect with our personal privacy. Lawyers will be asked to come up with tools to balance the needs of society with individual civil liberties. I am working with many entrepreneurs to design business models that synergize both missions.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My grandfather was an immigrant to this country from Sweden right before the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and taught me that the key to success lies in practicing positive thinking and always contributing value to relationships, whether or not solicited. Surviving first the great earthquake, then the ensuing fire, and at a very young age, and then navigating two world wars and a great depression, my grandfather never let bad news be the story of his life. As Bob Proctor wrote, “[t]houghts become things.” So being positive in your mind translates into positive outcomes. To manifest a positive outcome, you have to have positive thoughts. As Proctor says, “[i]f you see it in your mind, you will hold it in your hand.”
In the midst of the global pandemic this year, I have helped many clients apply for assistance from the SBA to make payroll and other time-sensitive payables. I console and formulate new avenues for moving forward for those whose transactions were canceled or delayed by their counterparties. In other instances, I help professionals who call me for help navigating her or his exit from her or his firm. I spend countless hours a week making thoughtful and targeted introductions for entrepreneurs, investors, and professionals to potential new opportunities. Rather than asking clients to pay me for these mission-critical tasks, often undertaken in their hour of greatest need and when they have the least available resources, I do not seek any financial remuneration (or compensation). There are times when “[w]e make a living not by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” (Sir Winston Churchill).
In addition to finding ways to contribute value to entrepreneurs, I also spend time every day following their companies, industries, competitors, and how current events may impact their businesses. Always going the extra mile for my clients – that’s how I have built loyalty and trust. When I plant seeds and water them regularly, green sprouts grow for my clients and my practice. While there is never a transactional quid pro quo to these contributions, I am infinitely more productive for entrepreneurs when I am concentrating on giving and not getting.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Growing up in Oakland, California, I wondered and worried whether I would ever be able to impact the world in a meaningful way. I told myself that if I worked harder, and with a singular focus on the next step, that I would succeed. I was fortunate to have support from a strong group of inspirational people, including teachers, counselors, coaches, clergy members, my parents, my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Their encouragement and belief in me instilled a confident resolve in my desire to become my very best so that I could help other people. I adopted very simple rules, the most important of which was to always do well by people and to invest in myself and all those around me. With the heritage of this rich set of immigrant values and a positive outlook, I stuck to the principles taught by my parents and grandparents.
I would tell myself to be true to myself, to follow my heart, and all that I wanted to accomplish would come to fruition. My advice to my younger self would be to not worry about the future so long as I remained true to my core. I would have patted myself on the back more, and engaged in more exercises of self-love and positive self-talk (maybe affirmations). This would have helped the younger me to be more confident, and probably would have started my journey to help people help the world sooner. To be self-aware and know what is needed at a specific time is truly a skill one must hone from a place six inches between the temples.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
When Henry Ford invented the assembly line, our industrial organization accelerated according to geographic concentration of supply chains and integrated distribution channels inside the United States. As a result of globalization, success is now dependent on sourcing the very best products wherever they may be found. Client delivery is specialized at the places most economical and closest to the customer, and delivery is just in time. Indeed, the integrated assembly line and supply chain was replaced by disassembly and open-sourced supply chains, where countries are arranged according to their comparative and competitive advantages. While traditional boundaries still exist, the Internet and global trade transcend those physical barriers. Despite talk of tariffs, trade wars, and global pandemics, this trend continues to accelerate in 2021.
If you look at the cultural diversity in America and many developed market economies, borders are more rooted in tradition than practicality.
In my professional and personal life, I seek to operate as if there were no borders. That is why prior to the pandemic, I traveled to 13 countries on 4 continents over the span of 24 months—all to serve my clients.
As an entrepreneurial lawyer, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
The number one job of an entrepreneur is to inspire the complete disruption of an industry by evangelizing potential users, customers, engineers, product creators, employees, and investors. The Art of Enchantment, a famous book written by Guy Kawasaki, former CMO of Apple, starts with a smile, continues with laughter, and is infused with positive energy. I try to give smiles and positive energy to all people that I run across.
A few years ago, I agreed to take a meeting with a young upstart entrepreneur who sought my counsel on a mission-critical business task integral to executing transactions. I listened to his pitch. I still remember this meeting. He was bullish, positive and reassuring. While his upstart firm did not have the track record of its competitors, I wanted to encourage this entrepreneur and reward his initiative with my account. I did this without any expectation of something in return. Later, when I struck out on my own to develop my own law practice, this entrepreneur insisted on being my first client. From our reciprocally positive energy and mutual trust emanating from a random meeting, I created a lifelong friend and a key client, connector and referral source.
Optimism, positive energy and creativity have a ripple effect. When you beam it out from your heart, I believe it comes back to you in amounts exponentially greater. To me, this is karma.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your practice?
In my practice as a corporate, venture capital, securities and M&A lawyer, my business success depends not only on my personal expertise and experience but also on having a great team supported by the confidence of the business community in the global Silicon Valley. This means I need to meet a lot of people, build relationships on trust, and still somehow remain “top of mind” with them when opportunities arise for them to engage with outside counsel. At the same time, I am a father, husband and human being, and there are only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week.
Everyone in history has had the same 24 hours. As Abraham Lincoln said, the beauty of the future is that it comes one day at a time. In order to be effective, I have to be exceedingly efficient with those 24 hours. Most importantly, I love my wife, my children and my family. As such, I make time for them consistently. I am likewise intentional about spending more time meeting with clients, referral sources and important pillars of the community. I make time for networking and speaking to new friends. I recognize the fundamental importance of enriching my existing friendships. This means I have had to cut some areas where people can lose time, like watching television, shopping or surfing the internet. This time regained allows me to be more productive.
Several years ago I found myself suffering from exhaustion and burnout. I hired a consultant to help me understand which of my many activities was driving the most legal business to my law practice, so as to have better focus. After a careful analysis of each client, each transaction, each relationship, where it came from, how much I enjoyed it, and how much revenue was generated, there was no answer as to what was working and what was a waste of time. We came to the conclusion that it was the art of practicing regular acts of kindness and being present in as many venues in the business community as possible that created a volume effect. And more activity meant more business. Conversely, less activity led to less business.
Following that realization, in addition to getting out of the office and meeting with people, I also try to make time to for meaningful follow-up with my friends. I believe each face-to-face meeting or catch-up call (or Zoom, these days) should generate three follow-up items for each side. Making sure to follow up with your friends encourages them to reciprocate and follow up with you.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Early in my career, I was single-mindedly focused on serving two clients and one senior partner. When the “great recession” came upon us in late 2008 and went on into 2009, my prospects suffered greatly. Those two clients and one senior partner did not generate enough ongoing work to ensure the viability of my practice. As a result, I lost my chance to become a partner at that law firm.
Following John Wooden’s lesson that “failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be,” I set about to find a platform where I could serve my own clients with the full suite of services that they would need. I also sought the flexibility to offer my time at a price point that would work in that economic environment. I needed to do this on a greater scale than I had ever done before to adapt to the prevailing market conditions. I took months to meet with as many firms and potential clients as I could, and honed my pitch, learning from each piece of feedback I got. The response to my efforts was nothing short of astonishing, even in the midst of the greatest economic recession that the new century had seen to date. New clients signed up in droves, and my practice took off.
As Brandon Mull wrote, “[s]mart people learn from their own mistakes and wise ones learn from the mistakes of others.” I also tried to learn why others around me were failing. My conclusion was that it was a failure to adapt to the market. One must listen to and provide a novel solution to the pain points that clients share.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
As I saw during the nadir of Covid-19, the key to my business is meeting and staying top of mind with my clients so that when their need to engage with outside counsel arises, they remember me. I love to travel and visit with family, friends, and clients.
My idea would be to invent some mode of teleporting to recreate more of the visual, sensual and auditory experience of an in-person meeting. Imagine if our avatars could be transported to a room where we could order our avatar to shake a hand and feel the sensory pressure of the other person’s hand shaking ours in return.
The demand for remote experiences will only increase in the months and years to come. Through artificial intelligence, we may move closer to the aforementioned becoming a reality more so than I ever thought possible in my lifetime.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I am a big believer in personal growth through coaching, whether for general enrichment or to solve a specific problem that I am experiencing. I hire coaches and experts in all walks of life when I perceive a gap in my perception, understanding or health. I also engage the very best when I need guidance on mastering a given topic or task.
Recently, I ran across a challenge in communicating my value proposition to a client with a specific need. I was quickly connected to a world-renowned sales coach, John Livesay, who specializes in selling through better storytelling. John helped me craft my response to the client through a very intentional, authentic and relevant story that was personal to me and relational to the client. The advice John gave me was right on point and the best value for money in a long time. While he did not require compensation for his time out of appreciation for the mutual friend who introduced us, I insisted that he payment in gratitude.
I am constantly assessing opportunities for personal growth and improvement, and I am very intentional and purposeful about building on strengths and filling gaps to be both a better person and a better lawyer.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
As a lawyer for technology, life science, real estate, clean energy and innovation clients, I have to be constantly thinking of how to integrate and leverage new and better technology to do more for less, faster and smarter. In the period that follows the current COVID19-induced recession, I believe that those lawyers and law firms that survive and excel will be those that integrate technology to change the paradigm of how services have historically been delivered.
I am constantly updating my suite of vendors to offer the widest array of technology-enabled legal services so that my fees continue to reflect value. When my clients can save money by using technology-enabled vendors, they see me as a value-added business partner rather than a tax.
I also constantly update my digital presence to communicate on a wide variety of issues and developments. I am a huge fan of videoblogs in addition to podcasts for communicating on legal, business and leadership topics. While my friends comment that I sometimes resemble millennials in my avid use of technology, I think to myself that I must be doing something right because many of my most disruptive clients are millennials.
Like many of my friends and family members, I leveraged Zoom heavily to communicate during the shelter-in-place period, and suspect that its use will persist post-COVID. As a lawyer and a friend, my clients need me to be available and receive delicate information from them. Zoom has allowed me to do so with them and that is invaluable to my business.
I also integrated Grammarly into my written work to be more productive. This software helps me avoid obvious errors that might otherwise be overlooked when the demands for my time are elevated.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
While I am an avid reader and devour works of fiction and non-fiction work as part of my daily routine, there is one touchstone that I always return to The Pilgrimage, by Paolo Coelho, the legendary Brazilian writer. Stepping inside the author’s mind as he travels by foot from France to Santiago de Compostela on a quest to find his “sword,” I am reminded that everyone must find their own path. In the end, we discover that the extraordinary is always found in the ordinary and simple ways of everyday people. Part adventure, part guide to self-discovery, the book straddles enchantment and insight. One of my favorite passages is this:
“The busiest people I have known in my life always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do. They complain constantly that the day is too short. The truth is, they are afraid to fight the good fight.”
The best leaders are leaders of themselves first. While I mastered a long time ago that I am the only one who controls my own destiny, by investing in myself, I am able to help more people and catalyze change for the better.
Warren Buffet also reminds us that no one can take away what you invest in yourself.
What is your favorite quote?
In another of my favorite quotes from The Pilgrimage, Coelho writes: “We must never stop dreaming. Dreams provide nourishment for the soul, just as a meal does for the body.”
Many times in our lives, we will see our dreams shattered and our desires frustrated, but we have to continue dreaming.
• Louis Lehot, a partner at Foley & Lardner, represents high-growth, innovative companies, helping them at all stages of development, from garage to global.
• A deliberate focus on an economy driven by technology innovation, cleaner energy, smarter cities, and regenerative medicine, will set the tone for the future and make the world a better place to live in.
• Flexibility and the ability to adapt to change are key. From learning how to be more social-media-friendly to having effective, virtual work calls.
• Loyalty and trust are the backbone to building relationships, whether it be personal or professional. One must make an intentional effort to maintain relationships and investing time building and connecting new relationships.
• Invest in appreciation. Even if someone does not ask for monetary compensation, ensure that you deliver the message that their help was valued.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.