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Lawpreneur Jessi Patton Helps Startups Sidestep Legal Licks

by Kiki Roeder

Jessi Patton flips the stereotype of power and money hungry lawyers with good-natured warmth. Her deep knowledge and passion for dishing up legal advice come with quiet laughs, broad smiles, and a hearty handshake. Patton goes against the norm. And her integrity and honesty make her a special person to know in the Atlanta startup community.

For early-stage companies and entrepreneurs, Patton offers a trustworthy voice through her firm, Patton Law.  She understands that pursuing legal advice may be a daunting option for most startup founders – the questions of cost, of do I really need one? (The answer is yes, by the way!) She can spot hiccups before they happen, helping clients gain value through proper intellectual property and growth protection while also reducing their biggest operating liabilities. Why worry about trademark and copyright enforcement, cofounder documents, licensing agreements,  and federal Internet, tax or advertising laws (and so much more)? There is a helpful, reliable, and even affordable legal expert just for Atlanta entrepreneurs – and her name is Jessi Patton, JD.

What’s the pitch for Patton Law, LLC?

Patton Law’s goal is to make great legal counsel accessible, affordable, and, dare I say, enjoyable for Atlanta’s tech and e-commerce startups. 

We are obsessed with serving entrepreneurs so much that all of our services are tailored to fit the needs of an early stage startup. We provide corporate and intellectual property legal counsel through flat-fee, packaged, or membership service models. 

Our clients love us because we shatter the mold of the traditional law practice by providing friendly service tailored to the needs of individual clients. We celebrate risk, think big, and serve as a mentor to make sure our clients understand how and know when to take advantage of funding opportunities.

Why do startups need a lawyer to help them grow?

According to the Small Business Administration, about half of all startups tank within the first five years. The reason behind a lot of these failures is that first-time entrepreneurs do not have the training to know things like the difference between a strategic investor agreement and one that leaves them vulnerable, the preferred entity of a venture capitalist, or the importance of drafting a partnership agreement with a co-founder during the honeymoon phase. These decisions matter and will greatly affect a company’s growth potential. Sadly, a lot of entrepreneurs learn this lesson the hard way when it’s either too late or too expensive to remedy. In today’s digital economy, startups have the potential to scale fast but a proper investment in expertise is necessary to accommodate that growth.

In addition to formation issues, many startups have an idea that is ahead of its time and, often, the law has yet to catch up. A great lawyer can mean the difference between challenging the status quo and breaking the law.

What’s your revenue model (and how are some of its features affordable to entrepreneurs)?

Because we believe legal counsel is not an option for startups, we have taken many steps to mitigate the financial burden of hiring a great attorney. We offer free monthly seminars on a variety of topics including entity formation, due diligence, partnership agreements, and more. We hold coffee one-on-ones so entrepreneurs can test ideas and discuss the potential risk involved. In the fall, we’ll be accepting a limited number of early stage startups into a program that will provide significantly discounted legal services, mentoring, and training so young CEO’s can develop the necessary skills before approaching investors.

Our commitment to keeping costs low comes down to putting people over profit; we exist to promote startups and so our services need to be accessible to our clients. Our passion at Patton Law does not rest on making a lot of money but on making a difference, solving a problem for clients, and creating change. We strive to do everything we can to support young companies—whether that’s creating discounted packages, developing payment plans or working on a deferred basis. By investing in the client’s success up front, we have the opportunity to build a lasting relationship that can be mutually beneficial and pay off in the long run. 

Who are your competitors and how do you stand out?

When I started Patton Law, some people (especially lawyers) thought I was crazy. The tech market is filled with some really big players. In Atlanta, we are competing with firms that are 10 times the size of Patton Law. However, we focus on serving entrepreneurs because there has been a disconnect between startups and law firms for a long time. The traditional legal model was not designed to serve startups and small businesses. Cost is an obvious barrier but I think it goes beyond that. Startup companies thrive on innovative ideas that demand risk with the potential of little return; however, the traditional legal model is often risk-averse. Despite this disconnect, you often find tech startups seeking large firm expertise because the complex issues associated with these ventures are outside the scope of a small business lawyer’s practice. This results in an awkward relationship where the firm is not interested in taking on the elevated risk of a micro company and the startup is unable to work with a compensation structure that rewards inefficiency and high leverage. At Patton Law, we have a solution.

By being one of the only small firms that focus only on tech and e-commerce companies, we are not only an expert in the field but we can tailor our services to meet the needs of each client.60% of our services were created because the startup community asked for them and we listened.

Our small size gives us an unparalleled cost advantage and the ability to cultivate a relationship with our clients that does not exist in the traditional legal model. Most importantly, we make a point to replace “no” with “yes, if” and our clients appreciate that. We figure out ways to make an entrepreneur’s most adventurous ideas come to life.

We know that we are the David in a Goliath type market but we are not easily intimidated; besides, who doesn’t love an underdog?

What’s your personal story?

My story is a unique one in the tech community. I grew up in Olive Hill, a tiny town in eastern Kentucky located on the edge of the Appalachia Mountains. I was an Ag kid, even serving as a state officer in the Kentucky FFA. Growing up in rural Appalachia grounded me, helped me dream big, and instilled the ridiculous work ethic that is necessary to survive in law and business.

After college, I went into law and began my legal career in DC with a focus on international trade and maritime law. For someone with a passion for innovation, it is not hard to believe that it was difficult for me to practice as a traditional attorney. I love trade but I found that all too often, the legal field was too comfortable doing things the way they have always been done. That resistance to change drove me nuts.

Starting my own practice was a way for me to lead from a place of authenticity. You’ll quickly find that Patton Law is not like the traditional law firm and we are really proud of that.   

What is your view on Atlanta?

If you would have told my 18-year-old self that I would be starting my own law firm in Atlanta at the age of 28, I would have laughed but life has a funny way of showing you exactly where you need to be.

When my sister moved here after college, I was intrigued by the city’s unique energy. I eventually followed, leaving DC to pursue a new area of law. Now that I’ve found my way into the tech community, I consider Atlanta to be a gift that keeps on giving. It has provided me with an opportunity to serve some incredible human beings that are making countless sacrifices to create and innovate. I feel lucky to have arrived at such an exciting time and have a chance to watch this city grow. Something special is happening here and I am so fortunate to be a part of it.

You can find me on InstagramTwitter, or LinkedIn

Giveaway Alert: Patton Law has created a free business report and a $1,250 gift for readers who would like to sign up: http://pattonlawllc.com/startupreport. The gift certificate for a complimentary LIFT (Legal, Insurance, Financial, Tax) Audit will give founders and CEOs a one-on-one startup legal, insurance, financial and tax check-up. The goal, says Patton, is to “ensure everything is set up the best way possible to leverage growth.” Sounds like a l-awfully good deal. Startup Report

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