PHX Business Journal Features Michael Hool

The Phoenix Business Journal recently featured Michael Hool in a “People to know in law” piece.

Click here to go to the Phoenix Business Journal article.

Here’s an excerpt of the piece:

People To Know In Law: Michael Hool

Why did you want to become an attorney? I always idolized entrepreneurs growing up, but I knew I would get bored working with one product or in one industry for very long. I have also always been a competitive person. Being a lawyer seemed like the most valuable way to use my passion to help entrepreneurs overcome obstacles to help them compete in the marketplace.

What is the most difficult part about being a lawyer? Keeping up with developments in the law that impact so many areas of the businesses of our clients. For example, the rules by which companies raise money and licensing requirements around forming funds that invest high-growth companies have undergone substantial changes in recent years. Another difficulty is the way time has compressed with all the technology changes. Clients often have needs that require completion within hours, not days.

What is the most exciting thing happening in your industry? The new generation of entrepreneurs is incredibly energized. I work a lot with investors and big brand accelerators and other players in Silicon Valley and other markets that are now finally taking notice of what is happening in our ecosystem, and many have plans to be involved in our market. We are positioned well during the next 10 years to serve this growing market.

What is the profession’s greatest challenge today? In my particular market segment, entrepreneurs are creating new technologies and new ways of doing things that have never been seen before. While this is exciting, the law always is a little behind what entrepreneurs are doing, and we often are helping clients make decisions without complete certainty or guidance from the law. Regulators often are unsure of how their own laws will be interpreted, so practitioners generally try to reach a consensus approach.

How has technology changed the way you do business? What used to be called “supercomputing” has impacted every area of business and finally has made its way into the practice of law. Machine learning is addressing basic entry-level structures and documentation, game theory and quantitative analysis are being used for strategy and negotiation, and large volumes of data allow benchmarking of market terms for transactions. In many ways technology has leveled the playing field and now provides significant competitive advantages for smaller, leaner firms to have the same data and resources as the larger, more expensive brick and mortar full-service law firms.

How do you think your industry will change in the next 10 years? A startup in Silicon Valley gives out stickers that say, “My other lawyer is a robot.” That about sums it up. A robot will be one of my most valued partners before I am finished practicing law. We already use basic machine learning algorithms in areas of our practice. I believe large artificial intelligence engines such as IBM’s Watson will fundamentally transform how lawyers research and leverage data to provide service to clients. The premium will be on experience and intuition, since robots can do many of the commoditized front-end work like creating documents or finding regulatory answers.

What trends to you see in the Valley law sector of the next five years? I do not stay up on trends in the practice of litigation. On the business side, we will see a continued polarization between very large, international full-service firms and smaller, more nimble, industry specific firms. The large firms will continue to consolidate. I doubt it will be five years, but the practice of law will look a lot like the accounting profession where five to 10 major firms dominate the international scene and boutique experts will be the preferred route for most mid-sized companies and entrepreneurs needing legal services. The slow death of “big law” that dominates the online conversation about law practice will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

What is the most common misconception about your industry? That the stories of crony capitalism and corrupt politicians with lawyers by their side are representative of lawyers generally. Lawyers have a tremendous responsibility to exercise their power of knowledge in a fair and conscientious manner. I know many lawyers who provide a tremendous service to their clients, make a profit, and treat opponents fairly. I don’t think that image of lawyers is well known in the public.

What is one change you think would make metro Phoenix’ economy more vibrant? At the state level, having the legislature be more proactive about passing laws that encourage entrepreneurs and investors to take risks in our marketplace instead of going elsewhere. We need to be sure our regulatory environment is never viewed as a negative factor for choosing to operate in our state. For example, the recently discontinued angel tax credit should be reinstituted and expanded, and the laws exempting venture capital firms from burdensome investment advisor licensing should be expanded and clarified to be on par with other major markets. For our metro market, we should be cautious about the call to centralize entrepreneurial activity so very few are controlling access to money and support services for entrepreneurs. Ours has always been a market not dominated by a “good old boys” network so we need to encourage communication and competitive collaboration among the sub-ecosystems rather than trying to consolidate power in relative few organizations and people. The market will weed out sub-par performers as our technology community matures.