General/Miscellaneous

The London Stock Exchange’s Proposal for Private Company Trading

The Wall Street Journal reported exclusively on plans by the London Stock Exchange to create a special market for the shares of private companies for limited public trading. The plan itself is not yet public, so the Journal was only able to report on limited aspects of what is contemplated. In the same way that U.S. private companies have increasingly been able to access public-like markets with new exemptions like Regulation CF, Rule 506(c) and Regulation A+ and the development of secondary trading markets for large private companies, this is an effort across the pond to provide some of the benefits of public market access to small and fast-growing companies.

One unusual aspect of the proposal, at least as compared to what’s been done in the U.S., is the plan to have only limited trading windows during which these companies’ shares can be available for trading. (In the U.S., public company insiders are subject to trading windows from time to time to protect against insider trading, but what the LSE is apparently proposing relates to all trading in the stock, not just by insiders.) The article suggests that the windows would be from one to five days once every month, quarter or six-month period. As the LSE hasn’t yet formally made any rule proposals, we don’t have the benefit of their thinking on the reasons for such a limitation, but I can think of a few:

  • The shares of smaller companies are usually thinly traded, leading to wide bid-ask spreads, so by artificially limiting time available for trading, there will be a more liquid market when trading does occur.
  • Being a public company means constantly having to think about public disclosure. In the U.S., various important events trigger a requirement to file a Form 8-K within a few business days, as opposed to being able to wait until the next quarterly filing. For the new LSE market, however, the companies will presumably need to focus on public disclosure only in the lead-up to each new trading window, so the small company isn’t forced to have a staff constantly focused on disclosure matters.
  • Limiting the ability to sell will condition investors to think of these shares as a long-term investment, as opposed to something you hold for a week or less to make a quick profit.

It will be interesting to read about the LSE’s thinking if it moves forward with this. The notion of limiting trading windows is an interesting thought, which U.S. regulators may want to consider even with already-public companies that are thinly traded.

Thoughts on Remote Work from a (Relative) Pioneer

I can’t claim to have invented remote work, but I can say that I was doing it well before the majority of the workforce was forced into it in early 2020. My firm’s address, since its formation in 2010, has been at 565 Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan. For the first several years, I took the Long Island Railroad in every day and worked in my office, like any other lawyer. As the firm evolved, I built a network of freelance attorneys that worked for the firm. Especially given that the first two of them resided in Spain and Alabama, respectively, I was never going to need to provide extra space for the attorneys; accordingly, they worked from wherever they wanted.

After a few years of this, it occurred to me that without any opportunity for literal face-time with my co-workers, it was kind of silly for me to endure the commute on days where I had no meetings with clients or others. So, I set up shop in a spare bedroom at home in Port Washington, LI, and went into the city only when there were meetings. Aside from the occasional unwanted noise during conference calls from dogs or teenagers, it’s worked quite well.

The Golden Age of Non-Interruption

The Golden Age of Non-InterruptionI have found over my 23 years of law practice that, assuming I’ve consumed my usual copious amount of coffee, I can be quite productive and efficient when I get into a flow. When that flow is interrupted – by a phone call, someone popping into my office for a quick question, a car alarm going off, etc. – it can be difficult to get back into the groove. The good news is that a number of workplace trends in recent years have resulted in a general decline in interruptions, leading to more efficient work.

At least for me, the key development has been the advent of email. Everyone likes to complain about email – not me! As long as you don’t set your email system to notify you of every incoming email, which for me would be crazy-making, you are in control of when you look at it. Unlike someone making a phone call, the sender of an email is not expecting a literally immediate response. Of course, law is a service business and clients have reasonable expectations of a prompt reply, but the checking of the email can wait until you’ve finished reviewing that convoluted contractual provision.

Payments to Independent Contractors Under Paycheck Protection Program Loans

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has just launched the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), arranging for forgivable loans to small businesses affected by COVID-19. There are, however, widespread implementation issues, with several banks that will administer the loans not yet being ready to process loan applications, as of April 6, 2020. For general guidance on the program, I can provide you with this fact sheet from the Treasury Department and a website guide from the SBA. Additionally, most large law and accounting firms are constantly issuing client alerts summarizing the latest developments, which are available on those firms’ websites.

The “Get Everyone in a Room” Fallacy

Every deal lawyer has had the experience. The deal negotiations have gone on longer than anyone expected. Frustration is setting in. At that point, one of the individuals involved, more likely to be one of the principals instead of an attorney, demands an all-hands, in-person meeting to get the deal done, and “we’re not leaving until we have a deal.” This impulse, while understandable, is often misguided and can lead to additional frustration.

Should Solo Lawyers Seek to Partner Up?

Use of Debt Financing by Law FirmsWriting in Above the Law, Jordan Rothman argues from personal experience that solo lawyers would be better off partnering in a law firm with one or more other attorneys. As someone who has operated partner-less for almost 10 years now, after Big Law partner experience (where one literally doesn’t know many of one’s partners because there are so many of them), I’ve seen different arrangements and have some thoughts on these issues. While there are some clear advantages to having partners, much of Rothman’s argument is based on an unduly restrictive assumption about how solo firms must operate.

The Role of Personal Trust in Lawyer Selection

In some ways, my law firm, Andrew Abramowitz, PLLC, is at the forefront of recent changes in the delivery of legal services. For example, the firm operates virtually, with the staff attorneys toiling away at home (or wherever – they could be doing it while hang-gliding as long as they do the job well and promptly, as far as I’m concerned). The ability to get the work done without housing everyone in an expensive Manhattan leased space gives the firm flexibility to offer more competitive rates than traditional firms.

Division of Labor Between Law Firms and Corporate Services Companies

Attorney Productivity | Andrew AbramowitzWhen I am estimating costs for a project for prospective clients, particularly those new to the formation of business entities and deal-doing, a common source of confusion is why there needs to be a fee paid to my law firm as well as to a corporate service company like CT Corporation or CSC. So, I thought it would be useful to briefly outline the different roles that each of us plays in the creation and maintenance of entities.

Billions and Keeping Control of Your Business

I am very much a member of the target audience of Billions, the Showtime drama about the intersection of law and finance in New York. As a corporate lawyer with the professional background to decipher at least some of the dense jargon, I sometimes have to suspend disbelief at the plot twists, including a U.S. Attorney who doesn’t recuse himself from a criminal investigation of a hedge fund that employs his wife, as well as a coordinated FBI mass arrest of politicians at a funeral service.

Should Aspiring Lawyers Take Career Advice from Older Lawyers?

Should Aspiring Lawyers Take Career Advice from Older Lawyers?On Twitter recently, a journalist asked for suggestions from other journalists on what advice one should give to college students looking to pursue that field. The TV critic Emily Nussbaum replied “I tell them not to take advice from anyone over 50, bc the industry has changed so much that our career paths aren’t replicable and our advice doesn’t match the landscape.” Is the same true for established lawyers advising students considering law as a career? (If true, I have about a year and a half left, as of this writing, in which I am capable of providing relevant and useful guidance to the young.)