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New LeClairRyan Program Empowers Startups in Richmond, Va.


--National law firm’s acceLR initiative brings quick, high-quality legal services to Richmond-area entrepreneurs seeking to form single-owner entities in Virginia/Delaware; pricing comparable to online legal services.

LeClairRyan today announced the launch of acceLR—a low-cost, high-value way for Richmond-area entrepreneurs to quickly form new corporations and LLCs.

Much like accelerators in the venture capital space, acceLR (әk’ sel•LR) aims to empower startups by giving them a solid foundation for growth, said David M. Lay, a shareholder in the national law firm’s Richmond office. The fee starts at $199 (plus state filing costs), which is comparable to that of DIY legal services found online, he noted.

“The differentiator is the high level of service we’re offering through acceLR,” Lay said. “We’re giving entrepreneurs in Richmond ready access to a team of LeClairRyan attorneys—professionals who know how to create suites of properly aligned legal documents with market-standard terms. Unlike what sometimes emerges from DIY attempts at entity formation and organization, these foundational documents are fit for the rigorous due-diligence processes of prospective investors or buyers.”

The program hinges on an unusually streamlined process for creating complete suites of documents for single-owner entity formation and organization. It is open to Richmond-area entrepreneurs forming corporations/LLCs in Virginia or Delaware. The LeClairRyan attorneys who are part of acceLR hail from an array of practice teams, including Securities, Commercial Contracts, Emerging Companies, General Corporate Services, Mergers & Acquisitions, Technology & Innovations, and General Counsel and Secondments.

Low-cost, high-value access to such experience represents a significant opportunity for local entrepreneurs given the complex considerations involved in entity formation and organization, said Cathy Zhang, a Richmond-based associate in LeClairRyan’s business law department. For emerging businesses, she explained, getting off the ground and growing often yields a large stack of detailed legal documents, all of which must be properly aligned and due-diligence-ready. “Realistically, it is difficult to do this online on a self-help basis,” Zhang said. “Is the company selling products or services? Has it nailed down its IP ownership, buy-sell, and non-competes? What kind of equity incentive program does it have? Entrepreneurs need to work with a legal team that understands how the answers to such questions will shape proper documentation.”

Misaligned documents can force emerging companies to engage in expensive legal cleanup at inopportune moments in their development, Zhang noted. Poor documentation can also scare away investors or prompt prospective buyers to discount, or even walk away from, deals. “You might find that you don’t own your IP, or that your employees are free to leave and compete against you, or that your tax situation is highly unfavorable,” Zhang said. “A lot can go wrong as a result of poor documentation.”

And yet too many new entities in Richmond’s fast-growing market are inadequately documented, Lay said. “Trying to tackle a 40- or 50-page operating agreement—with buy-sell provisions and complex tax allocations—without experienced counsel can be a bit like trying to diagnose an illness yourself online. It is not optimal, to put it mildly.”

By contrast, Lay said, a legally solid foundation inspires confidence among prospective buyers and investors and promises to bolster the long-term value of the enterprise.

LeClairRyan made significant investments in process-improvements and systemization to make acceLR possible, Lay said. In addition to the basic offering—standard single-owner Delaware and Virginia corporation/LLC formation documents for a fee of $199 (plus state filing costs)—the firm also offers its acceLR Premium service, pursuant to which it provides additional aligned, market-standard documents with a la carte pricing based on the nature and complexity of the documents required by clients.

Next year, as LeClairRyan celebrates its 30th anniversary, the firm will waive the $199 fee for the first 100 entity formations by new Richmond-area clients, Lay noted. “That is our gift to the Richmond entrepreneurial community, which has been so good to us over the past 30 years.”