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Featured on Feb 15, 2012

Alex Binkley

"Only a boring person is bored by himself."


I am an Amero-Canadian from Vancouver/Boston. I bike race and grow coffee plants for fun and I like to do things that are really hard (and usually painful): I once tried to hike the Appalachian Trail in a summer just to see if I could do 26.1 miles a day for 100 days straight (I ended up hitchhiking out of NC - think Deliverance).  Another time I sat down to row 99,999 meters on a rowing machine, since that was as far as the machine could go.  I have spent my entire life building things: boats, small businesses, buildings, etc, so when I went to law school it was only natural that I would graduate and want to focus on startups.  I do a huge range of legal work, but whenever possible I spend my time working with startups, both formally as clients and informally as another member of the community who can try to provide useful advice.

  • Title: Senior Associate at WilmerHale
  • Age: 29
  • Location: Midtown
  • Contact: @bnkly

Why do you choose to spend your available time working with startups?  Looking back - if you had the ability to do it over again, would you still go to law school?

Working with startups is different from practicing other kinds of law. Some of your time is spent as a lawyer, some of it is as a business
consultant and some of it is a therapist.  I never wanted a degree in therapy, but for me it was a toss-up between law school and business
school, so this works out great!

In addition to loving the fact that the startup community is a young vibrant group that is just fun to work with, I get to see businesses go
from a small idea to a real company.  Other lawyers in my firm will spend all day every day on one large client, while I frequently speak with ten clients a day on anything from their incorporation to their IPO.

This is something I have thought a lot about.  I learned a lot in law school and practicing as a lawyer that I could not have learned anywhere else.  At one point after college I considered not going to law school and instead coaching rowing and running a small business in Vancouver.  A former coach of mine told me "Coaching will always be there if you want it to.  You won't ever regret going to law school, but you may regret not going."  I think there is a lot of truth to that.

Based upon your bio, you obviously like to challenge yourself.  What do you consider the biggest challenge you´ve come across yet (either personal or professional)?

I think my biggest challenge is the same as a lot of peoples´ here - time in the day.  Not surprisingly, being at a big law firm I work a huge amount, but I also bike race, am always working on side projects, and like spend time with my fiancée.  Being relatively young and surrounded by a lot of energetic and exciting people makes doing all this easier, but every once in a while I need to wander out of the city to hibernate!

What have you found to be the most recurring issues or problems that you´ve come across while working with startups?  Any general advice based upon these experiences?

The biggest issue I see over and over again is founders promising equity to all sorts of different people as they go, without incorporating a company or formalizing any arrangements.  We have a lot of founders come in to incorporate who already have an immensely complicated capitalization structure or have 3 former "co-founders" spread across the country who may or may not have a claim to equity.  When I am talking to founders pre-incorporation I generally suggest they incorporate sooner rather than later or that they keep their discussions regarding equity more vague, to be firmed up at the time the company is formed.