Louis Lehot is a partner and business lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP, based in the firm’s Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Los Angeles offices, where he is a member of the Private Equity & Venture Capital, M&A and Transactions Practices and the Technology, Health Care, and Energy Industry Teams. Louis Lehot focuses his practice on advising entrepreneurs and their management teams, investors and financial advisors at all stages of growth, from garage to global. Louis especially enjoys being able to help his clients achieve hyper-growth, go public and to successfully obtain optimal liquidity events.
To assist his clients in realizing their objectives, Louis Lehot brings to bear a broad array of legal and business instruments, processes and strategies, from formation to liquidity. Prior to joining Foley, Louis was the founder of a Silicon Valley boutique law firm called L2 Counsel.
Ask Louis Lehot
Louis Lehot: The recovery is benefiting all sectors of the economy. We are seeing airlines, cruise lines, major hotel chains, and other travel and entertainment sectors benefiting specifically from pent-up demand. We also see a surge in activity in the renewable energy space, as renewed efforts by the United States to meet Paris Climate Change Accord targets are back at the forefront of industrial policy.
Louis Lehot: The economy and M&A, in particular, are enabled and empowered by the flow of cheap capital in the debt markets. If the significant government stimulus efforts and easy monetary policies lead to inflation, the cost of capital will ratchet up quickly, which could put the brakes on growth. We also expect to see the training wheels come off the large number of SPACs that came to market in 2020 as lock-up agreements expire and these companies trade freely. If there are significant stock drops in companies that went public via the SPAC merger, we could see a dampening in the equity markets.
Louis Lehot: In the global Silicon Valley, we see an unprecedented pipeline of IPO and de-SPAC companies go public at lofty valuations, which are translating into a gold rush of venture capital deals in the private markets at derivative multiples. The result has been a euphoric rise in the creation of new startups and hyperactive fundraising by growth stage and late-stage private companies not seen in a generation.
Louis Lehot: In my career, I have seen a boom, bust, boom, bust, boom again, and each time, what is hot and what is not changes. Lawyers wishing to become great business advisors should be well-rounded and work for various growth companies in good times and in bad. Great lawyers that survive the volatility are those that can adapt to changing circumstances. Being well-rounded in your coverage of clients, expertise and experience make all the difference.
Louis Lehot and colleagues associated with his former boutique law firm, L2 Counsel, joined Foley & Lardner LLP in February 2021 to serve clients from an AmLaw Global 50 firm that serves clients entrepreneurially. Now, the firm’s clients will have access to Lehot and his colleagues’ experience, as well as to a plethora of other like-minded lawyers supported by a world-class professional staff and high-end technology. It also offers the opportunity to help Foley & Lardner increase its presence on the West Coast. Louis Lehot is at his best when he is collaborating with others to help realize a vision. He and his colleagues are excited about what comes next, as Joining Foley is a logical outgrowth of the path embarked on when he launched L2 Counsel.
The idea for launching a new, innovative law practice, and now housing it within a global firm, originated from Lehot’s passion for enabling disruptive entrepreneurs and investors at all stages of the growth curve to reach new heights. This ranges from entrepreneurs coming out of the venture capital and private equity investors of Stanford University labs, to CEOs of large publicly traded “bigtech” and life science businesses. In his daily life as a Silicon Valley lawyer, Louis Lehot helps entrepreneurs move from ideation to formation, from formation to Minimum Viable Product (MVP), from MVP to commercial shipment, from financing to scaling, from scaling to global, and then from global to exit.
Lehot believes that we are at our best when we form relationships on a foundation of mutual trust and confidence that is earned many times over, and every day. He and his colleagues are known for fostering relationships with and among some of the very best industry professionals, entrepreneurs and investors, buyers and sellers. These connections inside and outside their areas of legal expertise empower their clients with a framework for successful innovation and monetization.
Life is about relationships. Knowing who people are is very different from being able to make qualified introductions. Foley & Lardner’s ability to connect and collaborate with leaders across industries creates real innovation. And the associated value they offer their growth and established company clients is what they do best.
Inevitably, Lehot’s idea comes from the belief that a deep focus on the innovation economy will lead the world to a better place.
Louis Lehot is always trying new ‘hacks’ to improve his effectiveness and productivity, and firmly believes that it’s about adopting and maintaining good habits.
When Louis is truly present, he is listening, empathizing, strategizing, and dispensing guidance and advice. If he can do one thing for a client, it is to make them feel covered. People never forget how they are made to feel. Whatever track record of success and productivity Louis has experienced is predicated on the fact that he remains present on one task, one relationship, and one goal at a time. This allows the force of impact of his advice to give cover to his clients to proceed safely in everything that they do. Despite the myriad of distractions and commitments, when meeting with or on the phone with a client, that conversation is Louis’s sole focus. By remaining true to his heart and mind, he mitigates the risk of overlooking a detail or missing an opportunity to provide value. This discipline enhances productivity over time.
Productivity is based on being present, being fully in the here and now, and Louis Lehot recognizes his inherent need for help to stay focused and disciplined. With time, he has learned that this requires good habits. People are what they eat, and how much they sleep. People’s ideas and thoughts are their reality, and Louis believes that it is always a great time to find new ‘hacks’ to establish better habits to enable presence and productivity.
Louis always tries to get to bed at a regular time and consistently affords himself a full night’s sleep. It is not always easy, but consciously striving for the very same is a key part of the balancing act.
Louis Lehot tries to start his day with guided meditation, gratitude, and forgiveness practices, and accesses them through apps like Omvana from Mindvalley on his phone. Embracing technology-based solutions and finding new techniques enables growth. Morning practice takes 15 minutes, and includes amplifying positive thoughts, expressing thanks, counting blessings, and removing negative charges through forgiveness, all helping Louis stay grounded. Incorporating physical exercise into his daily routine is a challenge, but such exercises are necessary for mental as well as physical fitness. Early morning is perfect for 15-30 minutes of Peloton time.
On weekends, Louis makes superfood green veggie smoothies for the week with his daughter to ensure healthy nutrition to start each day. His favorite ingredients are spinach, leafy green and rainbow chard, avocado, celery, and a pinch of ginger. He prioritizes fresh foods with plenty of vegetables, and minimizes consumption of sugar, processed foods, and alcohol, whch is a challenge for wine lovers. While he consumes copious amounts of espresso throughout the morning, he balances the caffeine with at least a liter of water to stay hydrated.
Then it’s full speed ahead to get his children Adam and Ella to school, and get himself to the office. While remote work will likely continue into the near future, Louis Lehot values face-to-face communication with teammates and clients, setting meetings between 9am to 11am and 2pm to 5pm, where possible. He makes a priority of leaving his office several times a week to attend events, host meals, and visit with those people in his network he admires, all while observing safety protocols. Louis finds it important to see clients directly, as they appreciate the emphasis on communication and commitment ensuring that they stay abreast of the issues that matter to them.
When confronted with negative thoughts and anxieties, Louis takes the time to thank the universe for the many opportunities afforded, and blessings received. This commitment to gratitude helps him overcome the inevitable challenges he encounters. Because life is short. Success is leased and rent is due every day. Staying present and grateful is the key to being productive.
To bring an idea to life, it has to be boiled down to its most integral parts, and built from there, collaboratively, taking care to solve a problem that needs solving, and creating something for the greater good. People persevere when inevitable roadblocks occur, and can do so because they keep their vision in clear sight. As Peter Block wrote, in his wonderful book of the same title, “The answer to how is yes.”
As we begin to emerge from the depths of the pandemic, Louis Lehot is more convinced than ever that private industry, academia, and the government will unite to drive a new revolution in regenerative medicine.
Concurrently with a renewed focus on public/private partnerships, Louis believes that digital transformation will rapidly accelerate the adaptation of business models and operations to a remote workforce. While Zoom and Webex have been ubiquitous names in remote video and document collaboration for some time, established blue-chip companies are also evolving. Last April, Verizon spent $500 million to acquire BlueJean Networks, a competing venture-backed video and document collaboration tool with unique features. The combination of BlueJean with Verizon’s massive installed customer base will further strengthen its opportunity set as a formidable competitor. The world is more likely than ever to witness a technological arms race between these three competitors to develop new and better features for remote video and document collaboration.
Additionally, demand for artificial intelligence, machine learning, workflow automation, dev-ops, blockchain, cyber-security, and healthcare solutions will enable digital transformation, augmented analytics, and smarter cities for remote living. These developments may further catalyze investors to deploy massive amounts of capital to these sectors.
For example, according to communications and research firm Mercom Capital Group, venture capital funding for telemedicine companies surged in the first quarter of 2020 to $788 million. That funding level was more than triple the amount telemedicine companies raised in the first quarter of 2019.
As the technology and health solutions required to meet the needs of the times accelerate, they will intersect with issues of personal privacy. Lawyers will be asked to come up with tools to balance the needs of society with individual civil liberties. Louis Lehot is working with multiple entrepreneurs designing business models that synergize both missions.
Louis Lehot’s grandfather was an immigrant to the United States from Sweden right before the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The experience taught him, and eventually Louis, that the key to success lies in practicing positive thinking, and always contributing value to relationships, whether solicited or not. Despite surviving the great earthquake and the ensuing fire at a very young age, then navigating two world wars and the Great Depression, Louis’s grandfather never let bad news be the story of his life. As Bob Proctor wrote, “[t]houghts become things.” So being positive in one’s mind translates into positive outcomes. To manifest a positive outcome, a person must have positive thoughts. As Proctor says, “[i]f you see it in your mind, you will hold it in your hand.”
In the midst of the global pandemic this year, Louis Lehot has helped many clients apply for assistance from the SBA to make payroll and other time-sensitive payables. He has consoled clients through their troubles, and helped formulate new avenues for moving forward with those clients whose transactions were canceled or delayed by their counterparties. In other instances, he has helped professionals navigate an exit from their firms. He spends countless hours a week making thoughtful and targeted introductions between entrepreneurs, investors, and professionals seeking potential new opportunities. Rather than asking clients to pay him for these mission-critical tasks, often undertaken in their hour of greatest need and when they have the least available resources, Louis does not seek financial compensation. As Churchill said, there are times when “[w]e make a living not by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
In addition to finding ways to contribute value to entrepreneurs, Louis Lehot spends time every day following their companies, industries, competitors, and how current events may impact their businesses. Always going the extra mile for his clients is how he has built loyalty and trust. Louis grows opportunities for his clients and his practice by planting seeds and watering them regularly. While there is never a transactional quid pro quo to these contributions, he is infinitely more productive for entrepreneurs when concentrating on giving and not getting.
Growing up in Oakland, California, Louis Lehot wondered and worried whether he would ever be able to impact the world in a meaningful way. Telling himself that if he worked harder, and with a singular focus on the next step, that he would succeed, he was fortunate to have support from a strong group of inspirational people, including teachers, counselors, coaches, clergy members, his parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Their encouragement and belief in him instilled a confident resolve in his desire to become his very best, so that he could help other people. Louis adopted very simple rules, the most important of which was to always do well by people, and to invest in himself and all those around him. With the heritage of this rich set of immigrant values and a positive outlook, Louis stuck to the principles taught by his parents and grandparents.
Louis insisted that he be true to himself, to follow his heart, so that all he wanted to accomplish would come to fruition. His advice to his younger self would be not to worry about the future so long as he remained true to his core values. He would have patted himself on the back more, and engaged in more exercises of self-love, positive self-talk, and affirmations. This would have helped the younger Louis Lehot to be more confident, and start his journey to help people help the world sooner. To be self-aware, and know what is needed at a specific time, is truly a skill one must hone from a place six inches between the temples.
In his professional and personal life, Louis Lehot has sought to operate as if there are no borders. That is why, prior to the pandemic, he traveled to 13 countries on 4 continents over the span of 24 months, all to serve his clients.
If one looks at the cultural diversity in America and many developed market economies, borders are more rooted in tradition than practicality.
When Henry Ford invented the assembly line, our industrial organization accelerated according to the geographic concentration of supply chains and integrated distribution channels inside the United States. As a result of globalization, success is now dependent on sourcing the very best products wherever they may be found. Client delivery is specialized at the places most economical and closest to the customer, and delivery is ‘just in time’. Indeed, the integrated assembly line and supply chain were replaced by disassembly and open-sourced supply chains, where countries are arranged according to their comparative and competitive advantages. While traditional boundaries still exist, the Internet and global trade transcend those physical barriers. Despite talk of tariffs, trade wars, and global pandemics, this trend continues to accelerate in 2021.
Q12. As an entrepreneurial lawyer, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Louis Lehot belives that the number one job of an entrepreneur is to inspire the complete disruption of an industry by evangelizing potential users, customers, engineers, product creators, employees, and investors. The Art of Enchantment, a famous book written by Guy Kawasaki, former CMO of Apple, starts with a smile, continues with laughter, and is infused with positive energy. Louis tries to give smiles and positive energy to all people he runs across.
A few years ago, Louis agreed to take a meeting with a young upstart entrepreneur who sought his counsel on a mission-critical business task integral to executing transactions. Louis listened to his pitch, and he still remembers this meeting. He was bullish, positive, and reassuring. While the young entrepreneur’s upstart firm did not have the track record of its competitors, Louis wanted to encourage him, and reward his initiative with Louis’s account. He did this without any expectation of something in return. Later, when Louis struck out on his own to develop his own law practice, this entrepreneur insisted on being Louis’s first client. From this reciprocal, positive energy and mutual trust lasting from a random meeting, Louis Lehot created a lifelong friend and a key client, connector, and referral source.
Optimism, positive energy, and creativity have a ripple effect. When a person beams it out from their heart, it comes back in amounts exponentially greater. To Louis Lehot, this is karma.
In his practice as a corporate, venture capital, securities and M&A lawyer, Louis Lehot’s business success depends not only on his personal expertise and experience, but also on having a great team supported by the confidence of the business community in the global Silicon Valley. This creates a need to meet a lot of people, build relationships on trust, and still somehow remain ‘top of mind’ with them when opportunities arise for them to engage with outside counsel. At the same time, Louis is a father, husband, and human being, and there are only 24 hours in the day.
Everyone in history has had these same 24 hours. As Abraham Lincoln said, the beauty of the future is that it comes one day at a time. In order to be effective, Louis is exceedingly efficient with those 24 hours. Most importantly, he loves his wife, children, and family. As such, he consistently makes time for them. He is likewise intentional about spending time meeting with clients, referral sources, and important pillars of the community. Louis makes time for networking and speaking to new friends. He recognizes the fundamental importance of enriching existing friendships. This means cutting some areas where others can lose time, such as watching television, shopping, or surfing the Internet. This time regained allows him to be more productive.
Several years ago, Louis found himself suffering from exhaustion and burnout. He hired a consultant to help him understand which of his many activities was driving the most legal business to his law practice, in order to have better focus. After a careful analysis of each client, each transaction, each relationship, including where it came from, how much he enjoyed it, and how much revenue it generated, there was no definitive answer as to what was working and what was a waste of time. Louis and the consultant came to the conclusion that it was the art of practicing regular acts of kindness, and being present in as many venues in the business community as possible that created a volume effect. More activity meant more business. Conversely, less activity led to less business.
Following that realization, in addition to getting out of the office and meeting with people, Louis also tried to make time for meaningful follow-up with friends. He believes each face-to-face meeting or catch-up call (or Zoom, these days) should generate three follow-up items for each side. Making sure to follow up with friends encourages them to reciprocate and follow up in turn.
Early in his career, Louis was single-mindedly focused on serving two clients and one senior partner. When the Great Recession came in late 2008 and continued into 2009, his prospects suffered greatly. Those two clients and one senior partner did not generate enough ongoing work to ensure the viability of his practice. As a result, he lost his chance to become a partner at that law firm.
Following John Wooden’s lesson that “failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be,” Louis set about finding a platform where he could serve his own clients with the full suite of services that they would need. He also sought the flexibility to offer his time at a price point that would work in that economic environment. Louis needed to do this on a greater scale than he had ever done before, to adapt to the prevailing market conditions. He took months to meet with as many firms and potential clients as possible, and honed his pitch, learning from each piece of feedback received. The response to these efforts was nothing short of astonishing, even in the midst of the greatest economic recession that the new century had seen to date. New clients signed up in droves, and Louis’s practice took off.
As Brandon Mull wrote, “[s]mart people learn from their own mistakes, and wise ones learn from the mistakes of others.” Louis also tried to learn why others around him were failing. He concluded that it was a failure to adapt to the market. One must listen to clients and provide a novel solution to the pain points they share.
As seen during the nadir of Covid-19, the key to Louis’s business is meeting and staying ‘top of mind’ with his clients, so that when their need to engage with outside counsel arises, they remember to call him. Louis loves to travel and visit with family, friends, and clients.
His idea would be to invent some mode of teleportation to recreate more of the visual, sensual, and auditory experience of an in-person meeting. Imagine if online avatars could be transported to a room where users could order their avatars to shake a hands and feel the sensory pressure of the other person’s hand shaking theirs in return.
The demand for remote experiences will only increase in the months and years to come. Through artificial intelligence, people will move closer to the aforementioned posibility becoming a reality, more so than anyone ever thought possible in their lifetimes.
Louis Lehot is a big believer in personal growth through coaching, whether for general enrichment or to solve a specific problem that he is experiencing. Louis hires coaches and experts in all walks of life when he perceives a gap in his perception, understanding, or health. He also engages the very best instructors when he needs guidance on mastering a given topic or task.
Recently, Louis ran across a challenge in communicating his value proposition to a client with a specific need. He quickly connected to a world-renowned sales coach, John Livesay, who specializes in selling through better storytelling. John helped Louis craft his response to the client through a very intentional, authentic, and relevant story that was personal to Louis and relational to the client. The advice John gave was right on point, and the best value for money in a long time. While John did not require compensation for his time out of appreciation for the mutual friend who introduced him to Louis, he insisted that payment be made in gratitude.
Louis Lehot is constantly assessing opportunities for personal growth and improvement, and is very intentional and purposeful about building on strengths and filling gaps to be both a better person and a better lawyer.
As a lawyer for technology, life science, real estate, clean energy, and innovation clients, Louis Lehot must be constantly thinking of how to integrate and leverage new and better technology to do more for less, faster and smarter. In the period that follows the current COVID19-induced recession, he believes that the lawyers and law firms that survive and excel will be the ones that integrate technology to change the paradigm of how services have historically been delivered.
Louis is constantly updating his suite of vendors to offer the widest array of technology-enabled legal services so that his fees continue to reflect real value. When clients save money by using technology-enabled vendors, they see Louis as a value-added business partner rather than a tax.
He also constantly updates his digital presence to communicate on a wide variety of issues and developments. Louis is a huge fan of videoblogs in addition to podcasts for communicating on legal, business and leadership topics. While friends comment that he sometimes resembles millennials in his avid use of technology, he believes that he must be doing something right, because many of his most disruptive clients are millennials.
Like many friends and family members, Louis Lehot leveraged Zoom heavily to communicate during the shelter-in-place period of the pandemic, and he suspects that its use will persist post-COVID. As a lawyer and a friend, Louis’s clients need him to be available and receive delicate information from them. Zoom has allowed him to do so, and that is invaluable to his business.
Louis also integrated Grammarly into his written work to be more productive. This software helps to avoid obvious errors that might otherwise be overlooked when the demands for his time are elevated.
While Louis is an avid reader, and devours works of fiction and non-fiction work as part of his daily routine, there is one touchstone that he always returns to: The Pilgrimage, by Paolo Coelho, the legendary Brazilian writer. By stepping inside the author’s mind as he travels by foot from France to Santiago de Compostela on a quest to find his “sword,” Louis is reminded that everyone must find their own path. In the end, readers discover that the extraordinary is always found in the ordinary, simple ways of everyday people. Part adventure, part guide to self-discovery, the book straddles enchantment and insight. One of Louis’s favorite passages:
“The busiest people I have known in my life always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do. They complain constantly that the day is too short. The truth is, they are afraid to fight the good fight.”
The best leaders are leaders of themselves first. While Louis understood a long time ago that he is the only one in control of his destiny, by investing in himself, he is able to help more people, and catalyze change for the better.
Warren Buffet reminds us that no one can take away what you invest in yourself.
In another of favorite quote from The Pilgrimage, Coelho writes: “We must never stop dreaming. Dreams provide nourishment for the soul, just as a meal does for the body.”
Many times in life, people will see their dreams shattered and their desires frustrated, but they have to continue dreaming.
- Louis Lehot, a partner at Foley & Lardner, represents high-growth, innovative companies, helping them at all stages of development, from garage to global.
- A deliberate focus on an economy driven by technology innovation, cleaner energy, smarter cities, and regenerative medicine, will set the tone for the future and make the world a better place to live in.
- Flexibility and the ability to adapt to change are key. From learning how to be more social-media-friendly to having effective, virtual work calls.
- Loyalty and trust are the backbone to building relationships, whether it be personal or professional. One must make an intentional effort to maintain relationships and investing time building and connecting new relationships.
- Invest in appreciation. Even if someone does not ask for monetary compensation, ensure that you deliver the message that their help was valued.