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2014 Top St. Louis Business Lawyers

For entrepreneurs, their attorney plays an active and necessary role in many facets of their businesses.  The top attorneys have proven their dedication to the success of small businesses in St. Louis and have been named the top business attorneys.  These top attorneys were featured in SBM's February 2014 issue.

Brian Behrens, Carmody MacDonald

Years of experience: 19    

What are the biggest challenges you face when helping small businesses?

Assisting businesses in obtaining the financing needed to carry out their business plans. There are many sources of capital available, but it helps to be creative. Staying up-to-date on federal, state incentive programs that may be available can be helpful for businesses.

What’s the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to small business owners?
My advice would be to surround yourself with high-quality advisors. A good accountant, insurance broker, banker and attorney can be invaluable in identifying opportunities, minimizing risks and increasing profitability. The advisors should work well as a team to provide consistent advice to the business owner. Running a successful business is difficult enough without receiving conflicting advice.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen small business owners make and what advice would you provide?
Failing to periodically investigate their market, target customers and competition and then take steps to protect the company’s proprietary information. Businesses owners should identify their competitive advantages and seek to protect such advantages through proper agreements with employees, customers and third parties. If appropriate, protection through patents, trademarks and copyright filings should also be considered. 

Paul Fleischut, Senniger Powers

Years of experience: 24

What are the biggest challenges you face when helping business owners?
Sometimes businesses will wait until a product is almost on the market before thinking about patent and trademark protection. Acting too late in the process can make it substantially more difficult to secure patent and trademark protection.

What’s the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to business owners?
Do patent and trademark due diligence early in the development of your new offering.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen business owners make and what advice would you give to solve the problem?
Sometimes they get involved in a collaboration or joint venture that ends up not being a good match. Enter joint ventures and partnerships with extreme caution. Get everything worked out by contract in advance.

Where does your motivation to help businesses grow come from?
It is satisfying to help people succeed with new products and in creating jobs and wealth.

Lionel Lucchesi, Polster, Lieder, Woodruff & Lucchesi, LC

Years of experience: 45

What are the biggest challenges you face when helping business owners?
Finding and keeping good employees and the intrusion of government and government regulations associated with the business.

What’s the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to business owners?
I always thought this quote was very relevant: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Calvin Coolidge

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen business owners make and what advice would you give to solve the problem?

Insufficient capital or not allocating available capital properly. Measure your expenses and don’t spend where you don’t have to, but do so for valid business reasons. Find good help. You can’t do it all by yourself.

Michael Lowenbaum, The Lowenbaum Partnership

Years of experience: 24

What are the biggest challenges you face when helping business owners?
Having the business owner take the time to fully explain to me their business operations, strategies and goals. Our firm is most helpful to business owners when we can truly partner with them to fully align a legal strategy that fits their business strategy.

What’s the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to business owners?
Be proactive to reduce your legal risks. Audit your business practices, train your employees and do not postpone obtaining legal advice at an early stage of an issue to help resolve an issue before it becomes a large (and expensive) legal dispute.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen business owners make and what advice would you give to solve the problem?

Sometimes the best decision is a decision not to do something. Do not let your emotions cloud business decisions; be thoughtful and rational when analyzing and determining how to address an issue and/or an opportunity.


Tara Nealey, Polsinelli

Years of experience: 17

What’s the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to business owners?
Getting a patent, on its own, is not a “golden ticket” to success. A company should have a plan for leveraging the value of any company controlled patents and other IP, i.e., for commercializing the company technology. This would include making sure that nobody else owns blocking IP, particularly patents, which could present a significant barrier to commercializing the company technology.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen business owners make and what advice would you give to solve the problem?
Complex technology often originates with scientific experts in the particular area who start a company with a personal vision of applying the technology. Those technology founders are obviously central to the success of the company, but start-ups often do well by finding an executive officer with entrepreneurial experience including strategizing and managing approaches to, and negotiating with, prospective investors, licensors, partners, etc.

Paul Puricelli, Stone, Leyton & Gershman, P.C.

Years of experience: 28

What are the biggest challenges you face when helping business owners?

Professional fees taken directly from a small business owner’s bottom line. Providing impactful legal advice efficiently and with due regard for the client’s economies is often a challenge, and that has been especially true in the recent difficult economic times.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen business owners make and what advice would you give to solve the problem?

Do not be penny wise and pound foolish. An upfront investment in quality legal advice is likely to avoid multiples of those costs if litigation becomes necessary to “correct” a bad decision.

Where does your motivation to help businesses grow come from?

As a shareholder in Stone, Leyton & Gershman, P.C., I am a small business owner myself. As a general rule, our shareholders left larger law firms to pursue a more entrepreneurial approach to the practice of law. We are thus aware of and sensitive to the needs of small business owners.


Charles Redd, Stinson Morrison Hecker
            
Years of experience: 34

What are the biggest challenges you face when helping business owners?

The biggest challenge I face is motivating my business owner clients, all of whom are perpetually busy achieving success in the present, to set aside time and energy to work with me to plan for the future of their businesses. That future could involve, among other things, bringing one or more of their children into the business or positioning the business for sale to a strategic buyer. Reliable data proves that a family business without a carefully conceived succession plan is unlikely to thrive, or even to survive, in the hands of the next generation.

What’s the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to business owners?

Be willing to consider business advice from outside your inner circle. I have seen several occasions over the years when fresh, innovative ideas from outside experts have jump-started a business that had become so entrenched on what it had always done that new opportunities were unrecognized and passed them by. Consider even including an outside director on your board. Yes, consultants and outside directors cost money, but it is usually money well spent.
        

Eric Riess, Weiss Attorneys at Law

Years of experience: 22

What are the biggest challenges you face when helping business owners?
The new economy. Business owners need to understand that the economy is simply not getting better. This is it.  This is the new economy. For success within it, business owners need to modify the products and services they deliver and the methods of production, sale and delivery of those products and services to fit within the new economy and the desires of the consumers within it.

What’s the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to business owners?

Understand the difference between risk avoidance and risk management. Without managed, properly calculated risk, you cannot grow your business. Your team members should not see risk as a roadblock, but as a circumstance to be assessed, calculated and managed.

Where does your motivation to help businesses grow come from?

Years of experience. When I was younger, I measured my success in terms of material things. I now measure myself by the success of the businesses I represent.

Clyde Smith, Thompson Coburn

Years of experience: 15

What are the biggest challenges you face when helping business owners?
It is often difficult to convey to new business owners when to use legal counsel and how to do so efficiently.

What’s the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to business owners?
Be proactive in obtaining legal advice and services.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen business owners make and what advice would you give to solve the problem?  
Some of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen businesses make involve false assumptions that business dealings with others will not turn south. It’s better to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.  
 
Where does your motivation to help businesses grow come from?
It’s very rewarding to have an impact on the growth and success of businesses.   

 

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