Leila Banijamali, first speaker in BYU Law’s winter semester of the Future of Law series, addressed law students and prospective law students on treating their law school experience like a startup, Wednesday, February 1. She was joined by Dean Gordon Smith in a conversation of their experiences in entrepreneurship and then answering student questions. Interestingly, Banijamali said she went to law school to please her father, had a difficult time staying interested in school, graduated, and immediately went to work putting together companies. She didn’t take a bar exam until five years after graduation.
Banijamali is an entrepreneur and technology lawyer based in San Francisco. In 2009, she founded Bedrock, a San Francisco-based technology law firm serving as outside general legal counsel to hundreds of startups, entrepreneurs, and creative professionals. She then launched Startup Documents in 2014 to automate the incorporation and legal document process for accelerated growth startup. She is also a mentor at Silicon Valley’s Founder Institute, a participant at Stanford Law School’s CodeX, and continues to organize legal tech events at various law schools in the US and Canada.
“Everyone is an entrepreneur,” she stated. “It has to do with creating things, solving problems, re-imagining the world and people’s lives.” Dean Smith added, “Being an entrepreneur is about trying to do what you do in a better way. This is certainly not limited to professional life but all aspects of life.”
Banijamali challenged the audience to keep a notebook dedicated to entrepreneurship and told them to write down everything from their daily routine that needs improvement with ideas of how to improve it. She and Dean Smith recommended a book by Richard Susskind, Tomorrow’s Lawyers, that imagines future non-traditional careers in law. “According to ABA figures, there are 40,000 law school graduates every year. There are not that many traditional law firm and government jobs for new graduates, and technology is changing how legal services are delivered,” she stated. “Your future is at stake.”
“Know what your strengths are,” said Dean Smith. Banijamali said when thinking of applying for a job to write this sentence, “The reason this company would hire me is _______________.” This sentence shows the writer has evaluated their strengths and how they would be valued by the company.
Banijamali recommended The Lean Start-up by Eric Reis that details how it is always better to launch and improve than plan forever for the perfect product.
Both Banijamali and Dean Smith attested to the power of the network effect. “You will never create something amazing or important on your own—you need other people,” said Banijamali. “Assemble a close group of 8-10 ‘allies’ you can consult with regularly or go to for advice. These will be people you can share ideas and opportunities with.” She encouraged the audience to start meet-up groups, to evaluate friend and professional circles regularly. “Always be the first to offer help,” she advised.
Video is found below: