Law Firms

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Selecting a legal advisor is one of the first decisions you will make and should be done with care. The ideal firm(s) for your purpose will vary depending on a variety of factors, including the type, scale, and complexity of your matter, your size, and your budget. Often companies will hire different firms/counsel for different purposes, e.g., companies may retain different counsel for fundraising, versus litigation, versus patent filings and prosecution, versus intellectual property transactions, and/or for day-to-day legal work (e.g., day-to-day lower level agreements).

In general large law firms may be better equipped to handle larger-scale matters (including fundraising transactions (such as public offerings) and litigation), and will have an internal network of colleagues who can address many of your impending legal and business needs across a range of practice areas, while smaller firms not organized around a leveraged business model may offer more access to senior attorneys, specialized or concentrated expertise within a given practice area, and lower cost, and may therefore be a better choice for some types of matters, including patent work and other types of legal work not susceptible to “off-the-shelf” documentation where the scale of the large firm and their forms banks can be of value, as well as more routine legal work (lower-level, day-to-day contracting).

In either case, companies frequently identify the expertise of the individual lawyers with whom they’ll be working as the single most important factor in selecting outside counsel. It is important for you to interview more than one attorney/firm and ensure you are able to establish a strong working relationship with your outside counsel. Your outside counsel should demonstrate an ability to communicate well with you and should be proactive in taking time to understand your business, your needs and your concerns.

As the leader of an emerging growth company, the more you are educated about the types of legal matters your company may encounter, the more you will be able to serve as an educated consumer of legal services, to get the most from your counsel’s time and control legal costs. There are various resources available to you in this regard. On the corporate side, the National Venture Capital Association publishes fairly comprehensive information as well as a suite of their preferred legal forms Various large law firms publish their corporate forms for start-ups. On the patent side, firms of various sizes frequently give seminars on topics of current interest, and [we] host regular seminar presentations on a range of topics that can help you become a proficient consumer of legal services in the start-up realm.

If you are not ready to take your business idea to the level of hiring counsel at this time, consider seeking free legal advice through a local law school, such as the University of Washington School of Law Entrepreneurial Law Clinic or get advice from others in the life sciences community.

The lists below are composed of law firms with offices in Washington State. The list has been broken into two sections essential for life science startups: Corporate & IP and Intellectual Property.


Top Law Firms

Corporate & IP

The following law firms have a broad range of services and legal disciplines to meet your business needs. In particular, these firms are considered to be the most active in private equity and venture capital deals [1], and will represent your company best by knowing and having access to relevant market terms and valuations. While these firms typically have Intellectual Property capabilities in-house, a listing of firms that specialize in life sciences Intellectual Property is included here.

Firm Name Website
Cooley Godward
Fenwick & West
Perkins Coie
DLA Piper

K&L Gates
Dorsey & Whitney
Davis Wright Tremaine
Foster Pepper
Stoel Rives

Wilson Sonsini
Goodrich & Rosati

Intellectual Property

While many Corporate & IP law firms above will have complete in-house expertise in many aspects related to life science start-ups, your Intellectual Property is one of the more critical assets to your company and should be handled with care by knowledgeable attorneys who understand the scientific foundation of your business. The following law firms specialize in Intellectual Property law and have extensive experience in the life sciences.

Firm Name Website
Townsend & Townsend &

Christensen O'Connor Johnson Kindness
Knobbe Martens
Seed IP
Woodcock Washburn

Boutique Life Sciences Firms

Depending on the experience of the members, smaller firms can deliver excellent service at significant cost savings, particularly for routine legal and patent work. In hiring a smaller boutique firm, it is essential to consider the qualifications of the individual attorneys. In fact, many of these attorneys are large law firm veterans who branched out on their own. Examples of some local smaller life sciences-focused firms include: Thomson Law


  1. Dow Jones Private Equity Analyst
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