Louis Lehot is founder of L2 Counsel, P.C., an elite boutique law firm in Palo Alto, California, established to serve a gap in the market for innovators, disruptors, entrepreneurs and their investors with personalized and technology enabled strategic solutions that make sense. Whether your company is two people just getting off the ground, or a large publicly traded company, Louis’ team has the experience and expertise to serve your interests. L2 Counsel specializes in representing high growth, innovative companies, helping them at all stages of development. From assisting with formation to financing, from seed or venture capital investors, to preparing for an exit, a public financing on a major international joint venture, Louis takes pride in his clients achieving meaningful growth objectives. Helping a business thrive, go public, or attract acquisition interest, is his specialty. Louis works seamlessly across the innovation economy. His experience affords his clients clarity when formulating, developing, adapting and monetizing their business models for artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, fintech, enterprise software, real estate, life sciences, clean energy technologies and renewable energy projects. This broad experience uniquely positions him to provide tailored advice to drive outcomes for his clients. Louis is widely known for his expertise in cross-border transactions. He is a prominent business and legal leader in Silicon Valley. Louis welcomes conversations to help ideas reach their growth objectives and regularly shares offers actionable guidance through keynote presentations at conferences globally.
Where did the idea for L2 Counsel come from?
The idea for launching a new innovation law practice 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.
I have designed my law practice to educate entrepreneurs and investors on the legal building blocks and benchmarks for success so that their impact can achieve its greatest potential in the innovation economy. What makes us unique is that we are more than just a law firm – we are dedicated to sharing information, knowledge and relationships that can be the tipping point for a growth business.
We form relationships on a foundation of mutual trust and confidence that is earned many times over, and every day. We 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, I am empathizing, I am strategizing, and I am 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 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.
I try and 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 “hacks” to enable growth). This takes me about 15 minutes. Amplifying positive thoughts, expressing thanks, counting blessings, and removing negative charges through forgiveness, helps me stay focused in the present. Incorporating physical exercise into my daily routine has been a challenge, but a necessary habit to mental as well as physical fitness. The morning is a perfect time for 15-30 minutes of Peleton time.
On weekends, I make superfood green veggie smoothies with my daughter for the week 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 try and eat fresh foods, with plenty of vegetables, avoid sugar, processed foods and minimize alcohol, a challenge for wine lovers. While I consume copious amounts of expresso coffee throughout the morning, I try and balance the caffeine with at least a liter of water per day to stay hydrated.
Then, it’s full speed ahead with getting Adam and Ella to school and into the office. While remote work will be an increasing trend with the need for social distancing, I value face-to-face communication with my team mates and clients. I try to set meetings with clients and team members where possible between 9am to 11am and 2pm to 5pm. I make a priority of going out of the office several times a week to attend events, host meals and visit with those people in my network that I admire. It’s important for clients to see me and they appreciate my emphasis on communication and commitment to ensuring that they stay abreast of the issues that matter.
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.
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 feel that rent is due every day. Staying present 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.
In a prior leadership role at a global law firm, we had a disparate approach to marketing our services to the emerging growth company and venture capital markets. Simply put, there was no unified strategy. Everyone had their own marketing documents, legal documents, and “pitch”. Unfortunately, this often times exacerbated our differences and put us at odds with each other.
In a series of meetings with lawyers and professionals across the firm, we formulated a game plan to build a website that would be a unified go-to-market approach. This resource offered free legal documents, document generators for all sorts of end uses, a matching service for locating investors, answers to frequently asked questions, blogs, team profiles that were designed to appeal to our target clients, a client profile site, a Q&A engine and market data that were not available anywhere else. It became like a “pitch deck” and helped us amplify our message all around the world. The hard part was getting everyone around the world to contribute something. As a result, that the site had the look and feel of the global clients and lawyers that represented the firm.
In two years’ time, we created the world’s leading legal resource site for emerging growth companies and venture capital firms. This “one-stop” (versatile) shop for what startups and VC’s need most was recognized with awards from legal technology publications and associated organizations from all around the world.
What I am most proud of is the living, unified “go-to-market” vehicle that entrepreneurs, investors and companies can use – whether or not they are clients. The collaborative group effort that came together to create it, where all of the lawyers in the practice contributed. This flexible process, where everyone could bring their unique personalities, practices and views to a single place, underpinned our success. It is another proof point that a smart person may learn from her or his own mistakes, but a wise person will learn and benefit from collaboration with others. With this platform now created, we was afforded a global network of successful entrepreneurs, investors, companies and their attorneys to learn from and work with. The relationship capital built over decades is a definitive asset and intangible competitive advantage that I offer my clients.
What’s one trend that excites you?
As I write this article, we are under a “shelter-in-place” order from governments all around the world and exploring how and when it will be possible to emerge from quarantine. With the gravity of the crisis posed by COVID-19, 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 evolving. Verizon recently 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.
Demand for artificial intelligence, machine learning, workflow automation, dev-ops, blockchain, cyber-security and healthcare solutions that enable digital transformation, augmented analytics, smarter cities for remote living may further catalyse 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 is more than triple the $220 million 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 cancelled 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 both 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 along my journey by a strong group of inspirational people, including teachers, counsellors, 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 can 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 be done.
My advice to my younger self would be not to worry about the future as 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 affirmation). This would have helped my younger self-esteem to be more confident, and probably would have started my journey to help people help the world sooner. Self-awareness of what is needed at a specific time is truly a skill one must hone 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 transcends those physical barriers. Despite talk of tariffs, trade wars and global pandemics, this trend continues unabated and even at an increasing rate in 2020.
If you look at the cultural diversity in America and many developed market economies, borders are more rooted in tradition than practically.
In my professional and personal life, I seek to operate as if there are no borders. This sentiment underpins why over the past 24 months I have travelled to 13 countries in four continents to serve my clients.
As an entrepreneur, 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.
Before I was a partner leading my own law practice, 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 be encouraging to this entrepreneur, and reward his initiative with my account. I did this without any expectation of something in return. 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 has 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 business?
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 seven 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 on a consistent basis. 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 Internet surfing. This time regained allows me to be more productive.
Several years into the development of my independent law practice, I found myself suffering from exhaustion and burnout. I hired a consultant to help me understand what 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 on what of my many activities 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.
In addition to getting out of the office and meeting with people, I also try and make time to for meaningfully follow-up with my friends. I believe each face-to-face meeting or catch-up call (or Zoom in these times) 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 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 finding 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 actually 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?
In the current circumstances of “shelter in place” amidst a global pandemic where in-person meetings and travel are prohibited, our ability to collaborate is relegated to audio and video-conference calls (e.g., Zoom, Skype, Webex, BlueJeans), with some limited collaboration tools. As weeks go by when we are shut inside of our homes, we are all craving human contact. They 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 through 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 accept more than $100 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 technology enabled vendors to offer the widest array of technology enabled legal services so as to reduce my fees for commoditized work. 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 am also constantly updating 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 chuckle 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 actually millennials.
Like many of my friends and family members, I am leveraging 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 share delicate information with me. Zoom allows me to do so with them and that is invaluable to my business.
One new piece of software that I have begun integrating in my written work product to be more productive is Grammarly. This software helps me avoid obvious errors that might otherwise be overlooked in a sea of demands for my time.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
While I am an avid reader, and devour works of both fiction and non-fiction work as part of my daily routine, there is one touchstone that I always return to: The Pilgrimmage, by Paolo Coelho, the legendary Brazilian writer. Stepping inside the author’s mind as he travels by foot from France to Santiago de Compostelo 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 between enchantment and insight. One of my favourite passages:
“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 catalyse change for the better.
Warren Buffet reminds us that no one can take away what you invest in yourself.
What is your favorite quote?
In one of my favorite quotes, Paulo Coelho writes in The Pilgrimmage:
“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, founder of L2 Counsel, specializes in representing 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 is key. From learning how to be more social media friendly to having work calls effectively virtually.
• 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.