Brown-Bag Lunch With Starters OF A High-Tech Company And A Law Firm
by Deborah Raizen
For those who missed the brown-bag lunch Professor Johnson arranged for October 1, here’s the run-down:
Casey Glennon, CWSL ‘89, spoke of her experience starting what is now a multimillion dollar fiber optics company. Joshua Presseisen, CWSL ‘93, talked about starting an intellectual property firm right after he passed the bar.
In her last semester at Cal Western, Ms. Glennon attended a conference in Atlanta with the intention of reviewing several talks for a school journal. She found those talks extremely boring. On her last day she wandered into a talk on fiber optics. It not only interested her, but led her into starting a fiber optics company as soon as she graduated. She had no technological background and no experience running a business. But she did have lots of tenacity, ingenuity (she realized that a great market for her product would be Mexico, in which Salinas privatized the phone company in 1988 and in which copper was rare), and ability to inspire trust (she asked for part of the money of her first contract up front. When the other party said, “but we don’t know you,” she replied, “I don’t know you either.” She got the money).
By 1991, Lambda Link was up and running, and by now it has earned ten million dollars in gross profits and has had projects in thirty-eight states, Mexico, and other countries. Lambda Link installs computer, video and telephone networks for the US navy, Sony, hospitals, biotechnology firms, and research institutes. Ms. Glennon says her secret has been an ability to hire hard-working and capable people.
While Ms. Glennon has never taken the bar exam, she says her legal education has been invaluable in running a business. She had expected it to be useful in contractual dealings and in interactions with regulatory agencies, but she was surprised to find how important it was in labor relations as well.
Ms. Glennon says the course she has taken is not for everyone. She has had to endure long periods of stress anda roller coaster ride of triumphs and failures. But it has also been a tremendously satisfying experience, and she says, “at this point, I don’t have a choice: who would hire a woman in her fifties and pay her medical insurance and retirement benefits?” She also likes the statement: “Those who say it can’t be done shouldn’t get in the way of those of us who are doing it.”
If you were to meet Ms. Glennon at the grocery store, you would never guess that she runs a business, let alone a world-wide, high-tech business. The best word for her manner is grand motherly (she actually is a recent grandmother). She is eager to advise students and assist them in their careers, and, like other Cal Western alumni who have faithfully filled out the advisor forms for the Career Services Office, is surprised at how few students have contacted her. You can reach her at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
One week before Mr. Presseisen received his bar exam result, the attorney with whom he was working fired him, along with three other associates (they had always suspected the attorney was not emotionally stable, and their suspicions were then confirmed). So instead of going on a job search, Mr. Presseisen joined with another newly minted lawyer in their own patent, trademark, and copyright law firm. They worked out of their apartments, got some money from family members and from rolling over ten credit cards each, and studied ABA guidebooks on how to run a small practice (he recommends the books by Singer and by Fernberg, as well as the Rutter guide for civil procedure, all of which are available at the Career Services Office). Eventually, they built up the practice to the point where they could move to an office downtown, hire paralegals and a recent CWSL grad, and support their families through the work.
On the other hand, Mr. Presseisen says it was not the end of the world when a judge called him an idiot. Once he realized it was the worst that could happen, he lost his fear of practicing on his own. While it might have been nice to have a mentor to guide him, he found that there is no better way to learn than by making his own mistakes. He also prefers deciding for himself what he needs to do, instead of getting conflicting instructions from different partners and having to reconcile them. And he enjoys building his reputation by beating lawyers from established firms in court.
For students who would like to follow a similar course, Mr. Presseisen recommends taking administrative law and, most importantly, accounting for lawyers. For the initial client search, he suggests calling the businesses listed at the Chamber of Commerce, or even using the phone book. And you need a can-do attitude. When you call up a company, you need to be able to take no for an answer, but you should not consider it a general no, telling you that you are on the wrong course. He quotes Churchill: “Never, never, never, never give in.”
Like Ms. Glennon, Mr. Presseisen has filled out the advisor form at the Career Services Office and is glad to advise students.