After 50-plus years in the business, Cooley’s venture capital team just keeps trucking.
This past year Cooley represented Venrock, Upfront Ventures and Menlo Ventures in fund closings—all drawing $400 million to $450 million apiece. Craig Dauchy, the head of Cooley’s venture capital practice group and a member of the management committee, recently shared a bit about the firm’s approach to the market with The Recorder—notably that brevity is a virtue in the VC world.
What do each of these engagements the firm is being recognized for demonstrate about Cooley’s VC capacities? Cooley understands the marketplace for institutionally-backed top-performing firms like these. We bring this knowledge to all our engagements. One of our strengths is the diversity of the venture capital firms we represent—across sectors, industries and stages. The VCs themselves range from well-established players who turn to us for multiple funds over many years to market newcomers, forming everything from microcaps to funds that raise more than a billion dollars.
What would you say are the traits of deal lawyers and the department overall that keep venture capital clients coming back to Cooley? Our firm is purpose-built around venture capital and the companies in which VCs invest. We’re known for being light, fast and flexible. Our lawyers are business-minded and user-friendly, as evidenced by our fund agreements, which average 50% shorter than our competitors. Our efficiency allows us to focus on what matters most—providing unparalleled client service.
A prospective VC client with an urgent matter calls and asks why your team should be retained to handle it. What’s your answer? We have been active in the VC industry for more than 50 years. We helped to build its very architecture, having formed the first VC limited partnership in the western U.S. Today we are the leading firm in the world representing VC clients.
Given this deep history and prevalence of our practice in the space, our understanding of the market is unmatched. We know the limited partners, the terms they want, the terms GPs should obtain given their leverage—and we know how to bridge that gap. We also specialize in related areas to support investors and the companies they invest in, including VC financings, IPOs and capital markets, M&A, intellectual property, taxation, employment and litigation.
What is the firm doing to train up the next generation of VC lawyers in its ranks? Training starts even before law school grads join the firm permanently. We host a “boot camp” for our summer associate class focused on venture capital. Training continues through the ranks. Associates enjoy professional development programs, including Cooley College and our mid-level associate academy. In addition, the VC group hosts monthly meetings to keep updated on the state of the market and current trends. The group also holds monthly associate-focused training sessions developing skills and knowledge in the various aspects of representing VC clients. Professional growth is also intertwined with Cooley’s place in the VC community. We are constantly participating in events, conferences, panel discussions and more, all offering further opportunities to learn, network and sharpen skills.
How do you balance the need to cross every “T” and dot every “I” in a particular deal with demands to be efficient with client resources? In our opinion, efficiency and accuracy are not mutually exclusive. For us, both are a necessity. We have to be efficient because that’s what our clients expect, and we have to be accurate because that is our standard. We consistently offer top-notch, efficient work—we would not have developed our reputation in this industry otherwise.
How are your VC lawyers using technology to work more efficiently? In addition to providing powerful public resources such as Cooley GO, we use technology to maximize collaboration and securely share information both internally and with our clients. We use document generators to create initial drafts of common forms to increase efficiency and provide greater value for our clients. Also on Cooley GO, we track agreement terms, allowing a deep analysis of market trends. We are constantly looking for better ways to leverage technology—as the market evolves, so do we.