Lessons I Learned in Law

Daniel Glazer on why a career in law is like launching a start-up

November 04, 2021 Heriot Brown Season 2 Episode 1
Lessons I Learned in Law
Daniel Glazer on why a career in law is like launching a start-up
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Lessons I Learned in Law, Scott Brown speaks to Daniel Glazer.

Daniel is an American technology lawyer, strategic business advisor, and the Managing Partner of Wilson Sonsini's London office. 

Dan advises high-growth UK/European technology and life sciences companies on raising capital in the US and UK/Europe, expanding their businesses into US markets, and connecting with investors, corporates, and advisors.

Daniel shares the three lessons he has learned in law including:

  • Building a career in the law is like building a start-up.
  • Luck is preparation meeting opportunity.
  • Strive to find a career at the intersection of what you are good at, what you enjoy doing, what allows you to earn sufficient compensation and what creates value for society.

 Dan was appointed as a GlobalScot trade advisor by the Scottish Government. Scott and Dan have a bit of fun discusising all things Scottish Football related!! 

Presented by Scott Brown of Heriot Brown Legal Recruitment.

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This episode of Lessons I Learned in Law is brought to you by Beamery.

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Scott Brown  (0:03)  

Hi and welcome to Lessons I Learned in Law with me, Scott Brown, founder of Heriot Brown In-House Legal Recruitment. On each episode, you get to hear my conversations with a top legal mind as they break down their three key lessons that they've learned working in law. With any luck, you'll be informed, inspired and armed with a bit more knowledge to help you work your way through your own career path. Now, my guest today is Daniel Glazer. Hi, Daniel. 


Daniel Glazer  (0:29)  

Hello, good to see you today.


Scott Brown  (0:31)  

Thanks for joining me. Daniel is the London office managing partner at this Silicon Valley law firm Wilson Sonsini. Since 2012, Daniel has advised high growth UK and European Technology and life sciences companies on raising capital in the US, the UK and Europe, and also on expanding businesses into the US and connecting UK and European tech companies with investors and corporates in the US with each guest, we also have to step back and hear a bit more about them what makes them human. So you'll learn later on. This isn't the first time that Daniel has been in front of a microphone for a couple of reasons. And we also share our connection with Scotland, which I hadn't quite anticipated. But more on that later. So Daniel, just jumping straight in to your first lesson. If you could share that with me, that'd be great.


Daniel Glazer  (1:21)  

Sure, thanks, Scott, one of the things that I've certainly learned is that building a career in the law is like building a start-up. Right? And look at looking back on it, I realised now that there's sort of three, three steps in terms of potentially building a niche for yourself as a as a lawyer, certainly in private practice. And the way that I think of it is that, number one, what is the problem that you are that you're trying to solve? Right, right. And it could be a small problem, it could be a big problem, though, the one that I identified, sort of in my career currently is helping UK European tech companies think through how to commercialise in the United States expand to the United States, raise capital in the UK, Europe or in the United States, right. And identifying that as a problem that we could leverage, you know, our legal expertise and leverage our network to help solve, right. The second point is, you know, what is the solution to that problem? Right. And over the years, again, I mean, for us, it was, you know, opening the office in London being here on the ground in, in the UK, sort of taking the Silicon Valley approach to kind of paying it forward, you know, with our network and our expertise, again, trying to take a sort of a rising tide lifts all boats approach. And then the third step, which is, you know, which I think is the one that certainly start-ups and I guess me personally spend a lot of time on, then going forward is that how do you sort of, you know, help the market understand that, that, that you potentially have the solution to the problem, right. And that can be applied to all to all manner of issues in private practice, it could be, you know, a technical legal issue, it could be a type of tramp transaction, it could be a type of case, but whatever it is, right, identify what the problem is, figure out what the solution is. And then focus on ensuring right that as many people as possible, know that you potentially found the solution to the problem, and B, in other words, be helpful to others, and you can you can build a career off that


Scott Brown  (3:43)  

great advice, and which of those have been the most chatter, which of those projects presented the most challenges for yourself and setting up the practice in London?


Daniel Glazer  (3:52)  

So probably the third bit, the, you know, I looking back on it, I think that identifying the problem was funny that the problem was actually a identified for, for me, I remember a meeting that I that I took with a few people from the UK Government, but a decade ago when you know, and they said to me at the time, you know, historically, we had seen American tech companies come to the UK, but with the launch of the tech city initiative, we would see a lot more UK tech companies go to the US, you know, can we sort of collaborate and think through how to help them. Right. Well, there it is there there's the problem to solve. You know, and then in terms of coming up with solutions to the to the problem, I think the more that I found travelling to the to the UK from the US you know, I sort of found that as I sometimes joke, you know, bringing an augmented reality Silicon Valley solution to the UK You know, was sort of a good fit. In other words, bring bringing the, the, the approach, and even not only just the approach, but the but the people from the US to, to sort of, you know, bring together a US approach and the UK approach to create something new was a, you know, seemed to be the, the solution. And so now at this point, you know, going forward, it's, it's, it's honing this the solution, you know, and hopefully, you know, being as helpful as we can to the companies that that we meet.


Scott Brown  (5:35)  

Yeah, that's great. And what do you think of the main, what are the main differences in terms of doing business? And are those? Are those more applicable to legal advisors? Or is it across the board that you speak about the differences between the UK and Silicon Valley is that?


Daniel Glazer  (5:56)  

Well, you know, I mean, so since this is a legal discussion, yeah, I will, I will, I will focus on one particular legal difference, right, which we find has implications outside of law. So, you know, in the UK, now, Scott, I'll use you as a bit of a straw man here. If you and I have a business dispute. And we go to court, right, and you win, I pay most or all of your legal fees, right. It's sort of the there's a reason they call it the so called English rule, at least they do in the American law schools, they refer to that sort of loser pay system as the English rule. But what that means, practically speaking, is that there are the number of lawsuits filed are much fewer in in the UK, because it is it's a little bit more unusual to go to be willing to go double or nothing. Right. And in fact, you don't see as many lawsuits in the UK as you do in the US. And people don't threaten lawsuits in the UK as much as they do in the US because the threat just simply isn't as credible when you have a system, which is loser pays. Yeah, right. And so what that means is that a lot of times the backstop for disputes, at least what we see the backstop for disputes very often ends up being the personal relationship between the parties, and they don't necessarily bring in lawyers until, let's say, a different point of the process. And so and there's a little bit less legal risk. So what we end up seeing a lot of the time, is it comp companies taking legal advice on problems on sort of a problem solving basis? Right, which is that the company has a problem, and they reach out to instruct a lawyer to help with that problem. In the United States, it's got a view and I have a dispute, we go to court and you win, you still in general pale your own legal fees. Yeah. Right. Which means, for example, if I'm a bigger company, and you're a smaller company, and I had any sort of claim that I can, you know, that I could generate against you, I can put you in a position where your options are to sort of settle on my terms, just not great, right? Or to go to court when but now, you know, you don't get reimbursed your legal fees, which given us discovery rules can be substantial. Yeah. Right. So really, the option there is to avoid the situation altogether. But I'm reminded of a 1982 movie called War Games, where they concluded the only winning move is not to play. showing my age there, it's slightly for the audience. But when you think about it, I mean, that that really is right. I mean, there was sort of if you're in the receiving end of a claim, and that in that regard, there is no real winning option between this sort of settlement and the you know, and go into court not getting your legal fees reimbursed. So really, there's a significant motivation in the US to take problem avoidance advice. In other words, how do you avoid being in that situation in the first place? So in other words, a lot of the legal advice certainly that start-ups take in the US is focused on focused on answering the question, how do you avoid How do you achieve your commercial goals? While managing risk? Right, right. In other words, you are taking advice of counsel proactively to you know, to avoid issues as opposed to instructing a lawyer to answer a problem to address the problem afterward already has arisen. Right? That's a very different approach. And we find that that that when companies go to the other side of the Atlantic, whether it's the UK going to the US or by vice versa. There's a bit of a culture shock in


Scott Brown  (9:59)  

Yeah, yeah, no. Conducting see that thinking from an in house legal team perspective is our company's tooled up with bigger legal functions and earlier stage in the US,


Daniel Glazer  (10:08)  

certainly on average, you'll see us companies bring in, in house counsel earlier in their life cycles. But to give you a way to frame it another way, there was a consulting firm that ran a study a few years ago that found that the average American technology company spends twice as much annually on outside counsel as the average British technology company. And four times the amount annually is the average continental European tech company.


Scott Brown  (10:40)  

Wow. Oh, for those, for those in the UK that are they complain about external, external fees. That Fair enough. That's something to note,


Daniel Glazer  (10:49)  

but you know, it, I mean, that's, I will say that, that, that that point does not go unnoticed in the UK, but one of the things that, you know, I think companies often, you know, often take a look at is, okay, so the cost of doing business in the US may be higher, but the commercial upside is materially higher, right. So, so this is when, when we advise companies on thinking about the states and whether to expand their business there, it's why we focus so much on helping the company understand whether or not there is actually a market waiting for them. In other words, whether they have product market fit, you know, whether they're being pulled into the US by customer attraction or user growth, because the upfront investment, or the commitment, you know, to build a US business is, you know, significant financially, but if you get it right, the upside is massive.


Scott Brown  (11:47)  

Onto lesson two, Daniel, can you share?


Daniel Glazer  (11:50) 

this is not one I certainly think is particularly original, but I think it's, it's one that I certainly feel from experience is that luck, really is preparation meeting, opportunity. You know, and, and I can't, when I when I, when I look back on it, you know, I can't even count the number of times where it feels, you know, it feels lucky, but actually, it's more serendipity that, that an opportunity arose. And, and sort of it had been prepared for it. You know, and actually, we're going to talk a little bit about this later, Scott, but, you know, back in the day, as it were, later than 1982, but, but somewhere on, you know, maybe 1015 years ago, you know, I was, I was doing a lot more work in, in, in sports law in the sports space. And, you know, part of the reason that I sort of built up a practice in that area is I started to get a lot more a lot of opportunities to do sort of sports media work, sort of on air sports, in business analysis, for some of the major networks in the US, like ESPN and CNN and the like. And it was just sort of, I guess, lucky, you know, quote, unquote, that one day, there was a story that that came up and, and, you know, a friend of a friend asked me if I if I knew anything about the relevant topics, and actually sports, and sports law was something I'd spent a lot of time on in law school, and I would have been hoping to build a practice in that regard. And it just so happened, that the topics that they wanted me to talk about are topics that I had written extensively on, which was specifically baseball, labour issues, right. And so, you know, this was back in 2002, where there was very nearly a professional baseball strike in the US and they needed someone to talk about baseball and labour issues and I had spent all this time doing that. We're working on that in law school and you know it Yeah, so it was lucky. Yeah, that that came up and that ended up leading to a sort of side gig as it were a side hustle I suppose we call it the these days. And you know, is it sort of a side hustle as a you know, as a as an on air you know, sports personality. And but the only reason that that came about is because I had prepared for it not knowing maybe that that would be the opportunity to take but then But then the opportunity arose right and it ended up being a perfect fit. Or even you know, as I was saying before the sort of meeting I took with the UK Government you know, back about a decade ago about building a building a team in London you know, I had been spending years you know, travelling to the to the UK on business and in part because I had originally travelled years and years ago you know, sort of with a with a backpack and a URL pass after uni and really fallen in love with The UK and London in particular, had always sort of angled to work on deals with a, you know, with the EU UK component. And yeah, I mean, it was lucky that I ended up sort of having a meeting to talk about, you know, doing work in the UK, like that with UK tech companies, but it just so happened that I had sort of been ideally prepared for that opportunity. Yeah. So I think if, if there's something that you really want to do with your career, you know, whether it's in the law or otherwise, you know, taking steps to build that expertise. In other words, really preparing for it, you know, is worthwhile, even if you don't know when the opportunity is going to come. Because if it does come, you know, it's that fortuitous intersection of preparation and opportunity, which seems like luck. But a lot of times it's really not, it's not luck. It's, it's not quite as fleeting as luck.


Scott Brown  (15:54) 

It sounds like you're very receptive to, to ideas, and perhaps seeing yes to opportunities as well. And that that might be something that plays into that.


Daniel Glazer  (16:02)  

Yeah, I mean, I guess, you know, you never quite know, where it's going to lead. And, and certainly, you know, progress is not always linear, as they say, and, you know, if you think of, you know, building a career in the law as a, as a bit of a journey, you know, you're certainly looking back on it, I don't I don't look back and say it was always a clear point A to point B to point C, and everything, you know, flowed smoothly, but certainly, if you sort of keep pushing toward maybe not an end goal, but certainly a vague state of being. Yeah, yeah. Maybe a state of a state of fulfilment, happiness, right, then then then you'll you know, you'll always have something to push for.


Scott Brown  (16:51)

Yeah, that move to London, which is as it's not a calm, it's not a common path for people to travel within the legal career. But US UK, it's not an often a well-trodden path. Was that something you had? pushed for? It was, again, was an opportunity that that came before you?


Daniel Glazer  (17:08)

Yeah, I mean, I think when I first travelled here, just after uni, again, with a backpack for a month or so before going to go into law school, thinking I was going to have this great adventure meeting, you know, meeting the locals and just meeting other Americans. Yeah. You know, I, you know, I spent ended up spending about three weeks in London, and really, really fell in love with it, and thought to myself, you know, if I could just find a way to live and work here. Some someday that would be really exciting. And, you know, as I sometimes joke, you know, it only took me 17 years to find the angle. Yeah, eventually, eventually figured it out. But actually, you know, it was always in the back of my mind is, if I could figure out a way to do that, that that would be that that would be really exciting. And I was fortunate that that the opportunity presented itself,


Scott Brown  (18:01)

brilliant. So Daniel, your name has come up a lot within conversations and network seems to be at the heart of everything that you do within London. So can you tell me a bit about some of those networks that you're involved in and most instances near are involved in?


Daniel Glazer  (18:16)  

Sure. You know, as I said, part of our view of practising law is very much in that that Silicon Valley ethos of paying it forward right and the rising tide lifts all boats, in other words, if we can be helpful in in helping the London in the broader UK ecosystem, that will be that will be helpful for everyone for us and the other ecosystem stakeholders. So some of the organisations we work with, you know, London and partners, and its mayor's International Business programme, which helps companies at a London you know, expand overseas is in particular to the US. Silicon Valley comes to the UK, which is a fantastic organisation, which is now underneath the London and partners umbrella, which helps connect UK and Silicon Valley based sort of thought leaders in in tech to help companies scale on both sides of the Atlantic, we do a fair bit of work with the start-up CFO network, which is the organisation as a, as it says, on the tin, right, the European organisation for CFOs of high growth tech companies, you know, we do a fair bit with the disruptive GC network, which is, which is primarily London in UK based, as well as founders Forum, which is sort of a just a fan, fantastic group of some of the top UK, your European leaders in tech. You know, one of the organisations I'm really thrilled and frankly just tremendously honoured to be involved with is the Scottish Government's efforts in technology and growth in particular, the organization's in Scottish Development International Scottish Enterprise, but maybe my First of all the global Scott network so I'm I may not have an accent. And to be to be honest, I can't yet find the ancestry but I'm convinced it is there somewhere or a few a few more stones that I can untorn but I am you know, I've been very, very proud global Scott trade advisor for I guess about eight or nine years now, I think I think it is. So I was very fortunate to just start doing work informally with Scottish government to help Scottish companies scale and internationally about a decade ago, and I guess about eight or nine, nine years ago was asked to join the network, the global Scott network, which is a group of virtually all but me Scots, right, who work with Scottish companies and otherwise to promote Scottish business globally. And hopefully, what I what I lack in Scottish ancestry I make up for in enthusiasm. Yeah.


Scott Brown  (21:02)

Well, it's good. It's good to have joined that it's good to have joined the team. Certainly getting to the UK and I'm sure there's, there's people in the US I've got tenuous links all over the place to ancestry across the UK, so I'm sure it will be found. I'm sure you'll find that somewhere if you keep looking. I think I think we spoke previously you're involved in Celtic Football Club. Is that Is that right?


Daniel Glazer  (21:27)

Well, now we are of course treading on a particularly dangerous ground but alienate some people. But yes, I have been known a time or two to stop by Parkhead to catch a wee bit of the footy. Yeah, okay.


Scott Brown  (21:44)

You join that? 


Daniel Glazer  (21:45)

Yeah, no. Okay. I guess I will admit publicly I am a massive Celtic supporter. And, and actually part of their programme that is analogous to, to the global Scott programme, which is the global self-programme. So yes, I may, I may lose half of our Scottish flying base. Right. Right. Right there. But I guess I'll take that that risk to the chin.


Scott Brown  (22:08)

No, I'm sure. So all in good fun. At least it's competitive the last couple of years with Celtic haven't run away with it for so long. At least there's a bit of competition domestic.


Scott Brown  (22:27)

Back to lessons, share, share lesson three.


Daniel Glazer  (22:30)  

Sure. You know, and I think this last one is one that that sort of come to me, I guess in bits and pieces or over the years, but I think now, it really has become a pretty, pretty clear lesson is probably the one that I find most important and that and that is that it's worth striving to, to find or develop a career that is at the intersection of four goals, right? What you are good at what you enjoy doing. What allows you to earn sufficient compensation, and what creates value for society. Right. And, and, you know, and I think it's, it's pretty easy to, to sort of settle on, you know, maybe one or two or even three of those. But in terms of sort of a, you know, a NorthStar to keep pushing you forward and something to strive for, for me at least finding that overlap in the in the Venn diagram, where all of those come together is ideal, and that it's really one of the things that kind of driven me forward even though I wasn't maybe always thinking of it that way. Finding a different points in a legal career, right thinking about what comes next. And what do I want to do. Finding the intersection of those four goals, what you're good at, what you enjoy doing, what creates value for society, and what can help you earn a living truly, if you can find the intersection, it really doesn't feel like work anymore.


Scott Brown  (24:07)  

Good point to be at the end, did you feel confident to make those judgments in terms of where your felt comfortable and where you what you felt good at and enjoy doing as well?


Daniel Glazer  (24:18)  

You know, I think for me looking back on it, I think when I first started to maybe envision what a what a building a practice in the UK might look like. It is one I one of the things that I got so excited about it. And I guess one of the things that maybe led me to, to do so much travel, frankly, for many years until you know it until sort of moving here full time was that was the thinking that you know that there this might be the bill building what we're building here might be the pathway forward to sort of, you know, building a career that that touches on all four of those goals.


Scott Brown  (25:00)  

Yeah. What's next for Wilson Sonsini? What's, what's the next steps this year?


Daniel Glazer  (25:06)  

Well, you know, I mean, as I keep saying, you know, we are very fortunate as a technology and life sciences law firm to be working in the sectors drive, it seemed to be driving the economy forward right now. I mean, there, there's a lot of work to be done right now in tech and life sciences. So we're, we're very fortunate to work with Finn, fantastic, fantastic companies, fantastic investors. And you know, we will just keep, keep trying to build and, you know, we're, we're really pleased to have launched here in the UK, where the reception has been fantastic. We're honoured to be here and we just keep building


Scott Brown  (25:43)  

nice. And still in still in the Old Street, you're in the Old Street home, in the heart of it. 


Daniel Glazer  (25:49)  

That was always the dream is, is I always wanted to open the Office on old street, you know, ever since the or the original launch of the tech city initiative back in 2010. In London, you know, Old Street was always viewed as the beating heart of the London Tech community. And, you know, for us, a firm that focuses so strongly on tech. You know, we just want to underscore you know, our commitment to that space.


Scott Brown  (26:22)  

Thank you so much, Daniel, for sharing those lessons with us today. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule.


Daniel Glazer  (26:28)  

Thanks for having me. I really enjoyed it.


Scott Brown  (26:29)  

Thank you and for you listening to lessons I learned in law. To find out more about our guests, head over to heriotbrown.com/podcast. I'm Scott Brown. See you soon