The following article was published in the Birmingham Business Journal, Friday, September 28, 2012.
Christian & Small LLP recently established a technology and emerging growth companies practice group to handle clients throughout the Southeast.
William Pringle, partner at the Birmingham-based law firm and co-chair of the new division, said the creation of the practice group is in response to the number of technology and emerging companies that have arisen in the last several years in Birmingham and around the state.
“We have entrepreneurs and business leaders here who are really trying to be innovative and find the next best thing,” he said. “And we as lawyers in our profession really have an obligation to provide those services that are necessary and help foster that development in the business community.”
Pringle, who has 11 years of experience handling litigation disputes, will lead the group with firm partner Kenneth Simon, who has more than 30 years of experience as a judge and litigator.
The two, along with eight Christian & Small attorneys, will help entrepreneurs with corporate formation; intellectual property licensing and protection; reviewing, drafting and renegotiating employment agreements, vendor contracts, commercial leases and technology related agreements; advising on proposed online ventures, including social networking, blogging and related technology; employment and personnel counseling; federal, state and local tax advice and guidance; corporate governance; and estate planning for business owners.
Pringle said it’s important to understand clients at an early stage, know what their businesses are about and what goals they’re trying to meet.
Devon Laney, chief operating officer at Innovation Depot, said technology has been a booming sector in the Birmingham region. The majority of 93 early-stage companies at the Innovation Depot are technology-based.
“The growth in technology is because of the resources we have in the region, like Innovation Depot, TechBirmingham, the Birmingham Venture Club, the BioAlabama, SRI (Southern Research Institute) and the strength of the ecosystem,” he said. “The support system that we have in place here is really unique. Not every city has all of the resources I mentioned.”
Laney said with the growth that technology and other early-stage companies are having in the region, all of the professional service firms that support them should see growth, as well.
David Winwood, CEO of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Research Foundation, said firms need to be mindful that the challenges technology and startup companies face are unique to their particular industry sectors.
“I think that there are opportunities for many of the professional services groups to do quite well from this growth in Birmingham and recognize that it is a very different niche of clientele for them,” he said. “Startups or emerging companies have very different needs in terms of their accounting, their financing, their intellectual property requirements and their personnel.”