(Photo by Aidan Un)
When Eamon Gallagher started at Drexel Law in 2010, it was clear that Steve Goodman was the lawyer to emulate if you wanted to work with startups. Goodman had pioneered the archetype over the last 40 years of his career, taking chances on first-time CEOs and ambitious undergraduate founders and advising them all along the way. It’s how he earned the title of “the godfather of Philadelphia startups.”
But he’s also the godfather of Philadelphia startup lawyers.
“In many ways, I built my law school experience and my law practice using Steve as a model for where I wanted to be and the role that I wanted to play,” Gallagher wrote to us in an email.
Philadelphia’s startup lawyers and their law firms are a core part of the tech scene. They’re organizing tech meetups, offering their expertise during panel discussions and investing in startups. They’re honing their abilities to identify talented entrepreneurs because, as attorney Jeff Bodle put it, “To be a startup lawyer means to be willing to jump in with both feet and believe in an entrepreneur and a venture where the risk of failure is high.” To be a startup lawyer is to think like an investor, which Bodle says Goodman undoubtedly did, and take a chance on a founder who you believe has what it takes to succeed — and in turn, become a lifelong client.
The most prominent ones know they have to do more than just be a good lawyer to stand out, a core tenet of the Goodman mold.
“Goodman wasn’t just a lawyer,” said Howard Ross, the accountant turned private equity firm partner who was Goodman’s service provider counterpart in the ’80s and ’90s. “He was a business man and that’s why people liked him.”
Here’s a list of 14 startup lawyers in the mold of the godfather of Philadelphia startups himself. Let us know who we missed.
(And don’t miss our profile of Goodman.)
A Goodman protégé, McDemus’s Twitter handle is @VCDealLawyer and keeps a blog of the same name (we once named his blog one of the best Philadelphia entrepreneurship blogs, in this seriously throwback 2011 post). His firm, Baer Crossey McDemus, sponsors Philly Startup Leaders’ annual Entrepreneur Expo. He and Jeff Bodle — next on our list — are frequent PSL listserv participants. He’s also Technically Media’s lawyer, full disclosure.
Bodle, Goodman’s heir apparent at Morgan Lewis, works closely with Goodman. He’s active on the Philly Startup Leaders listserv, judges local startup events and has been at every single Philly Tech Week since we started the event series in 2009. (Thanks, Jeff.)
— Chris McDemus (@vcdeallawyer) April 9, 2014
Sigety is a partner at Fox Rothschild, where she co-heads the firm’s emerging growth practice. But you might know her better from her role as managing director of Delaware Crossing Investor Group. The angel investor gave us tips on how to grab her attention during a panel at the 2016 Angel Capital Association conference in Philadelphia.
— Fox Rothschild LLP (@FoxRothschild) May 17, 2016
Taney, better known as @scarylawyer, used to host open office hours for entrepreneurs (though he’s been quieter on the scene in recent years). His past clients include P’unk Ave and Sumo Heavy. And he wrote this nifty primer for us on intellectual property for startups.
Shay, a partner at Duane Morris, is on a slew of local tech boards, including that of the University Science Center, Life Sciences PA and the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs. She’s also a former director of PACT.
Seltzer helped launch a startup incubator at his firm, Ballard Spahr, because he understood that startups need more than free legal advice. His clients include Guru, Ticketleap and BuLogics. He’s also the one who led Guru CEO Rick Nucci to his first angel investment outside of tech. Also in the Goodman mold of having side hustles (Goodman is a jazz pianist), Seltzer founded the Philly Music and Arts Festival.
Holtzheimer of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads is an occasional columnist for Technical.ly Philly, where he writes pieces on issues like a proposed Pennsylvania “tech tax” and the impact of big local exits, the latter of which was one of the most-read stories of 2016 on our site. He also organize events for Young Involved Philadelphia, where he puts local entrepreneurs in speaking roles.
Spranger, a partner at Saul Ewing who chairs the firm’s business and finance department, helped spearhead Saul’s program to offer resources to startups. It’s one of several programs developed by local law firms that codifies the type of entrepreneurial support made famous by Goodman. She’s also the co-chair of Pennsylvania Bio’s program committee.
Mr. @PHLStartupLaw himself, the ever-helpful and ever-present Gallagher doesn’t just practice law — he organizes the ever-popular Philly New Tech Meetup and manages the ic@3401 incubator space. He was a due diligence fellow with angel group Keiretsu Forum, which is when we first crossed paths with him. He’s also a local tech cheerleader much like Goodman is.
— Eamon Gallagher (@PHLStartupLaw) May 21, 2017
Another Goodman protegé on the list, Heller worked with Goodman at Wolf Block. These days, he’s less involved with representing startups but sets the tone from the top, as he’s the president and CEO of Cozen O’ Connor. (Heller also mentored McDemus, whom we previously mentioned on this list.) Sidecar is among Cozen’s clients, thanks to their relationship with Heller. If you’ll remember, Cozen O’Connor hosted Dreamit Health’s demo day in 2015. Heller was previously on the board of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA and has been an advocate for the state-backed investment firm. He’s also on the board of PACT.
Gitlin used to co-head Greenberg Traurig’s emerging technology practice, while Cohen is the director of the firm’s global emerging growth services arm. (Gitlin recently joined Royer Cooper Cohen Braunfeld.) They’ve been involved especially when the Nutter administration hosted a dozen Israeli startups in Philly in 2014, after his trade mission to Tel Aviv and with the Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, like at this mobile tech conference in 2012 that Greenberg Traurig co-hosted. They also hosted a workshop on term sheets during the Angel Capital Association conference in 2016.
Esser just left Philly for a gig with Lockheed Martin in Syracuse but we’re still mentioning her here because she was so in the community: she, like Gallagher, was an organizer of Philly New Tech Meetup and also worked for angel group Robin Hood Ventures.
Ellen Canan Grady
Before joining Cozen O’Connor, Grady was in-house counsel for Safeguard Scientifics. She’s on Cozen O’Connor’s legal team focused on business — COpilot — and has established herself as a thought leader on equity crowdfunding.