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Lawyers Join Detroit's Rising Tide of Entrepreneurial Energy

Recently, I've read a few articles about how entrepreneurship is losing its cachet among millenials. Really? I guess the authors of these articles have missed a real "boots on the ground" story in Detroit. I can attest that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and even expanding into the practice of law.

A few weeks ago I was one of a number of speakers at the Institute of Continuing Education's First Annual Entrepreneurial Law Institute at the Book Cadillac Hotel. As one of the planning participants, the seminar was intended to feed into the new business energy downtown and to assist lawyers representing fledgling businesses and prospective entrepreneurs in how to start and grow their business.

For a "first annual" conference attendance was strong. There were close to 100 people who attended the all day seminar. I suspect that if the seminar was held ten years ago, attendance would have been less than half as large. This is a testament to both the spirit of entrepreneurship in the city and (unfortunately) the difficult employment market for young lawyers. Although the program was intended to attract business people and not just lawyers, the lawyer attendees outnumbered business people by as much as 20 to 1. Nevertheless, the seminar had a noticeable upbeat energy and optimism about it.

What was particularly noteworthy was the number of young lawyers trying to take advantage of the wave of entrepreneurship that continues to gain ground in Detroit. There was a great deal of talk about alternative fee structures and performing legal work in exchange for equity interests. Some of the more experienced lawyers at the seminar even spoke about the standard hourly rate fee structure as "so yesterday". Most of these alternative fee structures are built on a subscription model where the client receives an unlimited level of service in exchange for a monthly subscription. These fee structures were interesting and creative and certainly gave me pause to reconsider how we do business for some clients. Without doubt this is a new wave in the law business. So, to all of you startups out there, don't shy away from critical and necessary legal assistance because it costs too much. There are deals to be made! 

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