Q&A: Lori Hoberman, Attorney, Chadbourne & Parke
Lori Hoberman is a partner and chair of the firm's emerging companies / venture capital practice. She focuses on venture capital, private equity, and general corporate counseling for emerging as well as later stage and publicly traded companies.
Could you describe your career path?
I started at Pillsbury Winthrop, spending the first ten years as a tax attorney. In the latter part of that period, Silicon Alley began to boom in New York. I had always focused on joint ventures, which was a good segue into my work with venture funds.
Video: Lori Hoberman on her practice.
Originally I worked on the fund side, but today about 85 percent of my practice is company focused. I represent emerging companies in various industries that are the flavor of month of the investment community in New York at any given time, with heavy emphasis on Internet advertising, mobile advertising, gaming, retail and life sciences. This means that I get to work with entrepreneurs - the most eclectic, creative, unusual and fearless group of clients a lawyer could have.
I joined Chadbourne & Parke to help build out the new emerging company/venture capital practice. What was appealing about coming here was that the firm has a great reputation in energy and alternative energy, but this work involves later stage, large transactions. So one of the opportunities for me here is to build an early stage pipeline for this practice, and to continue to grow my own emerging company business. It has been great so far, with many new companies coming on board. The firm has a strong intellectual property practice, and it's exciting to see the synergies at work.
What's a typical day like for you?
Usually there are many interactions with clients. For example, a conversation I had this week with a client involved strategies around fund raising. It's an early stage consumer-based company and we're discussing how to find funding to help grow the company. Later, I had a lunch meeting with a fund contact.
The venture capital business requires a solid network of investors, public relations firms and investment bankers. So, I spend a lot of time developing this network. In the afternoon I had a call with a client to discuss option grants and various employee issues. It's a call that we have once a week to discuss what's going on with the company. I do this regularly with clients to stay on top of things. My last call of the day was on a due diligence project for a client looking at a potential acquisition in the technology sector. So, the day began working with a retail company and ended with a technology client, which is indicative of the opportunity I have to learn about different industries.
What advice do you have for an up and coming VC attorney?
Develop a solid network of contacts and sources. You can do this by attending and speaking at events. My business is people driven. I always need people to whom I could refer deals and from whom I can get referrals. I've created a quarterly networking lunch for New York City venture capitalists, and have been doing it for eight years. It's a great way to bring the venture capital community together and discuss topics of interest and build a network. This was important for my practice. There is a venture capital community in New York, but it lacks the cohesiveness you see in Silicon Valley. I wanted to create a community for venture capital here, and it has provided a great network as well as a brand for me.
What are the most important skills for a career in venture capital?
The ability to give savvy, logical, cost-effective advice. I attend most of my clients' board meetings and find that they have taught me a great deal about business. In becoming an attorney, you don't receive training in business, so getting this education has been most valuable to me in my practice.
What should people wanting to work in venture capital be doing to prepare, i.e. groups to join, networking, reading?
Attend local venture capital events. There's a community and you need to be a part of it. Read some of the venture capital blogs, such as TechCrunch, or Fred Wilson's blog. There's a lot of valuable information you can read that can help you to develop a sense of what's going on in the business. In the end, its all about knowing who the players are and networking.