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Balancing Legal Practice, Firm Management, and Teaching With Dimitry Herman

September 6, 2023   |   Written by Gladiator Law Marketing
Dimitry Herman is the Founder and Managing Partner at Herman Law, a corporate transactional law boutique providing comprehensive legal services to budding technology companies. With over two decades of experience, Dimitry focuses on internet advertising, social media, loyalty, and gaming sectors. He also serves as deal counsel for venture capital investments, corporate mergers and acquisitions, licensing, and strategic alliances, among other corporate deals. In addition to his successful law career, Dimitry is esteemed for his academic involvement as an adjunct professor at the New England School of Law, where he teaches Corporate Mergers & Acquisitions. He also leverages his extensive expertise to foster the entrepreneurial community in Boston, acting as a judge, advisor, and mentor in numerous esteemed institutions.
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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Dimitry Herman shares what motivated him to launch his firm
  • How did Dimitry know he wanted to become an attorney?
  • The early days of Herman Law and how they attracted their first clients
  • Dimitry’s experience practicing law and running a business
  • How Dimitry’s legal career provides content for his law students
  • Current marketplace trends legal professionals should know
  • Dimitry’s advice for aspiring lawyers

In this episode…

The legal field is more than just practicing law. It’s a multifaceted field that extends to managing a law firm and educating the next generation of legal experts. Balancing all these aspects is no easy feat, yet it’s a challenge that some professionals have embraced head-on. Among them is Dimitry Herman — a practicing lawyer, law firm founder, and a law educator. Dimitry has successfully navigated these complex roles, carving out a unique position in the legal field. In this episode of 15 Minutes, host Chad Franzen sits down with Dimitry Herman, Founder and Managing Partner at Herman Law, to explore the fascinating intersections of law practice, firm management, and legal education. They delve into Dimitry’s journey in the legal industry, his experience as an adjunct professor, and the current market trends. Tune in to enhance your understanding of the diverse opportunities within the legal profession.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, where we deliver tailor-made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential. To have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI, your firm needs to have a better website and better content. At Gladiator Law Marketing, we use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and decades of experience to outperform the competition. To learn more, go to gladiatorlawmarketing.com or schedule a free marketing consultation. You can also send an email to adam@gladiatorlawmarketing.com.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:01   You’re listening to 15 Minutes, where we feature community leaders sharing what the rest of us should know, but likely don’t. Chad Franzen  0:12   Chad Franzen here, one of the hosts of Share Your Voice where we talk with top notch law firms and lawyers about what it takes to grow a successful law practice. This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing delivering tailor made services they’ll do accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential. To have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI, your firm needs to have a better website and better content. Gladiator Law Marketing uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and decades of experience to outperform the competition. To learn more, go to gladiatorlawmarketing.com. Dimitry Herman is the Founder and Managing Partner of Herman Law. With over 20 years of experience serving as outside general counsel to growing technology companies, Dimitry’s primary industry focus is on internet advertising, social media, loyalty and gaming sectors. He serves as a deal counsel for venture capital investments, corporate m&a, licensing and strategic alliances and other corporate deals. He’s also an adjunct professor with the New England School of Law, teacher and corporate mergers and acquisitions. Dimitry, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you? Dimitry Herman  1:20   Thank you for having me. Chad Franzen  1:21   Hey, tell me a little bit more about Herman Law and what you guys do. Dimitry Herman  1:26   Our firm started in 2009. And we basically started the firm at a time when the market was probably at its bottom, it was, as you may remember, the debt crisis was going on. And large firms like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers were going out of business. And I had just finished reading outliers at the time, and I was very tuned into that notion of having the having my 10,000 hours and what the right timing was in the spirit of that book to me was, once you have your 10,000 hours, you need to look for the right timing to start a firm or start a business is it’s really all about connecting those specifics. And for me, 2009, I had been practicing for about just a little bit over 10 years, while the IRS as as, and I saw an opportunity in the marketplace where there was a just a tremendous amount of downward pressure, a lot of costs and people, you know, trying to survive in a large marketplace. And big firms, like I mentioned going out, and also an opportunity for my clients who are trying to make ends meet and work through what they needed, which was complex legal work, but at an affordable price. So I saw that as the real unique opportunity to launch a new practice where I started, basically representing clients that were raising venture capital, and needed complex documentation to be prepared. A lot of companies that were just getting launched around the same time that didn’t have capital, because capital is scarce, and they needed somebody to take a bet on them. And also a lot of transactions that were going on both upside transactions were essentially businesses were being acquired and doing very well. And downside transactions with businesses were not doing well. And there was a distressed situation, and they need to counsel. And so that’s how we got started. And we’ve been in business now for almost 15 years. It’s really exciting. We’ve worked on hundreds of transactions since that time and have hundreds of happy clients and have just been, you know, haven’t been looking back. Chad Franzen  3:33   Awesome. Awesome. How did you How and when did you know you wanted to become an attorney? Dimitry Herman  3:38   Oh, actually, on many occasions. So I’ve studied philosophy and existentialism in college and economics. And I went to, I wasn’t really sure, but I kind of combined all the things that I was really good at one was an arcade, I was really good at math. And then I realized when I got to college and started doing complex math, I wasn’t really good at math. But I was really good at logic. And I was really good at figuring things out in and that’s when I realized that probably law was a good path for me. And I was sort of naturally argumentative. And that was another positive. And so I went to law school. And you know, I went to Columbia for law school. So I did really well in law school, I did well to get into law school. And, you know, started out my career as litigator, which was I thought, initially I wanted to be an IP litigator, and I did a lot of complex patent litigation, copyright litigation and those kinds of things. And what I realized was that I just didn’t have the passion for fighting for the rest of my life. Some people that’s what they live on, and I was much more interested in getting settlements done and litigation and all the litigators saying you’re missing out on all the fun, you know, you just want to settle I said, Well, I think the fun is actually in the deals. And that’s when I switch to the corporate side. So I’ve been practicing as a corporate lawyer now since about 1999, which obviously is the vast majority of my career. And I had a moment, right actually, at the time when we started our firm, where a number of clients wanted me to sort of leave the law and become a kind of a business person, business development person. And I realized after doing it for a short period of time that I actually was doing all the legal work and all the non legal work, and I wanted to stay being a lawyer. So it was an interesting realization, because I was absolutely convinced that I didn’t want to practice law anymore, and that this was a pathway to being a business guy. And within about six months, I realized that I actually am very happy being a lawyer. And since then that’s, that’s been the kind of the path I’ve been on. Chad Franzen  5:41   Was, was litigation or, you know, arguing in front of a judge, kind of the initial draw toward becoming attorney? I mean, that’s kind of the more that’s what you see on TV. That’s kind of a more glamorous side. Dimitry Herman  5:53   Yeah, law school naturally in by the way, as a professor, I can speak to this as well, lawsuit naturally takes you down to litigation path, because that’s what they teach. That’s what’s easier to teach, you have such a volume of information that’s publicly available, you have all the decisions, all the statutes, all of the stuff, all the all the court filings, they’re all public record. So there’s just an unlimited amount of information, data that can be used for teaching. Corporate is much more difficult, because first of all, not everything is public. And even if it is, it’s very complex, and it’s really above most people’s heads, they go to law school don’t necessarily have a business background. And so law school doesn’t do such a great job and explaining all that. I just naturally took that path. I’m not sure if it was because it was TV, or because of what I saw or what law school taught me. But you know, it also is an incredible rush. The one thing I will tell you, there is no better feeling. And I got did some some litigation work that took me into the courtroom, I was with a large firms and large firms don’t send out to junior people to do court work, but they give them experience, like in pro bono. So I did some criminal work, I did some different things that got me into the courtroom. One thing I will tell you, there’s no better rush. You know, as a lawyer anyway, that then going into a courtroom and cross examining somebody or being in front of a judge, it’s the adrenaline, you just don’t get that when you’re writing a contract. But you get a very different kind of experience that I think is much more lasting, which is you get to do a lot of transactions, you go you some lawyers may litigate for 20 years and see 111 trial, whereas you know, our rushes our deal aren’t closing. And we see that on a regular basis every time we have something happen. So it’s much more fulfilling, you’re creating as opposed to destroy you. Chad Franzen  7:41   Yeah, sure. Sure. You kind of took us through your path toward opening your own firm. Once you did, what were the early days there, like, Did you did you have clients right away? What did you have to do to kind of get those clients? Dimitry Herman  7:53   Yeah, I had one client that was essentially kind of my, you know, was going to be my, you know, not only first client, but what I guess kind of anchor tenant so to speak, if that makes sense. Who’s going to, they said, look, we’ve got you, we want you to do this, we want you to be successful, we will, we will give you a retainer and get going. And you know, the firm that I was with, I was running a venture capital and an entrepreneur group. So when I reached out to them to say, look, I’m having a making decision, I want to go and this is something I’ve always wanted to be I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and I want to have my own practice. They were very supportive and said, Look, your clients really look to you. So we will continue supporting them if they don’t want to work with you what we have every belief that they probably will follow you. And that’s exactly what happened. So every client that I had, basically said, Well, what are you doing, and I said, Well, I’m going to be on my own, and my rates are going down, and my service is gonna stay the same. And this is where I’m headed, and it didn’t take long for them to convert. But I will say 50% of our clients today are actually those original clients. The people involved and the other 50 obviously have grown. Our firm, we really don’t, this is kind of a unique situation, because it’s, we don’t do any outbound marketing, as because we really grow through word of mouth, relationships, and word of mouth. I guess, word of mouth advertising, so to speak. But the clients that we have today are an outgrowth of, of those relationships. So mostly, it’s it’s founders who grow a business, sell a business, we sell that business, they stick around for a couple of years, they realize that they’re really entrepreneurs at heart. And they say thanks, and they go and they start a new company. And then that company becomes another client. And then those people have other relationships. And then they make introductions. Some of those founders do very well. They start venture capital funds, they start investing, they start bringing us into those funds. That’s how our fund practice grows through our clients who then started to create their own family offices and VC funds. And now we represent those funds. So it was a very natural kind of outgrowth. And if you looked at a tree, I can tell you that if I’m working with client number 72, that client number 72, was brought into me by, you know, their father, and then their grandfather, great grandfather and so forth, eventually, at least back to like four people, which is pretty amazing. Chad Franzen  10:22   Actually, you’re sure did you find that maybe your maybe your business instincts are different than other attorneys that I’ve talked to a lot of attorneys that I talked to say No, I, you know, I knew everything about the law was very well seasoned in law when I opened my own practice. But then I was kind of gobsmacked by some of the responsibilities associated with, you know, running my own firm. Was that the case for you? Or was it pretty smooth. Dimitry Herman  10:46   For the most part, it was pretty smooth, it’s a it’s a little bit, there’s two different aspects to it. So when I started the firm, I had already been a, you know, senior partner. And I, I obviously have learned a lot since then. But corporate law is a little bit different than a lot of other practices. There’s a fairly steep learning curve, but by the time you are six or seven years out, you’re pretty well seasoned. But then, there’s usually a moment where you realize that you don’t know something because you’re talking to a specialist, and you just haven’t seen some issue come up, and you’re up for the next three nights, freaking out, because, oh, my God, how did I not know this? That fear of not knowing or being aware that you don’t know everything, because you know, but for that point, you thought you were pretty comfortable, never goes away. That’s when you know, you’ve done it. Because if you realize you don’t know everything, you know, that you’re you’ve made it and now you just go on with that with that setting. Starting my own firm was a little bit different for me, because the firm I was with, I ran my own group and I had some support, but because a lot of the clients were smaller clients, big institutional firms, you know, have a lot of big teams, but I didn’t mean big, you know, if I’m starting a company or starting a fund, you need two people, three people. So that’s why it really was easy for me to kind of spin it out, because I didn’t need to go out and get an army of lawyers and I didn’t get a lot of I didn’t need a lot of technology and other things that was support. So I certainly learned a lot in some of the operational aspects. But in the good news is the technology changes and continuing changes, such as all the AI stuff that’s going on. Now, obviously, there’s a lot of focus now on AI towards law, practice, all that is making it better and easier for folks like me, to an nr firm to exist and compete with the really large firms that are out there. Because a lot of this can be simplified technologies and are more affordable, their barriers to entry, these things just don’t exist anymore. Chad Franzen  12:57   I mentioned that you are a adjunct professor with the New England School of Law teaching corporate mergers and acquisitions. How long have you been doing that? And kind of what what led you to that? Dimitry Herman  13:08   So actually, the buyer you must be reading from must be a few years old, but taught is totally fine. I am an adjunct professor at New England, but I’ve actually taught three different classes there now. For about a decade, I taught corporate m&a. And then I think that just was an opportunity to teach some new stuff. So last four years, I’ve been teaching a class in what is basically contract drafting with a focus on intellectual property. And then this year, I’m actually teaching a new class, which is on entrepreneurship and venture capital, which is a deep dive into what legal skills you need to have to represent somebody who’s starting a new business, how they document that how they fund that and kind of the pathway, which is, you know, a good chunk of what we regularly do. So it’s very exciting for me, because I get to kind of pass that knowledge on. Chad Franzen  14:04   How much work is there, outside of, you know, legal expertise that goes into teaching these classes, you know, like, preparation, things like. Dimitry Herman  14:11   It’s a thankless task, it’s a thankless task could be adjunct professors don’t get paid. So it’s, you know, after you’ve been doing it for a while, it’s a little bit more on autopilot. But this year, I will probably say, hundreds of hours into preparing a curriculum, you know, so between the summertime and then you know, the time to prepare for every lecture. It’s a full semester class. So, you know, it’s quite a bit of work. Most of the stuff that I teach is going to be things that I do routinely. So that should be a little easier. But there’s a lot of business information that lawyers don’t normally think about. And so part of what I’m going to be teaching is understanding the business and the legal when you are representing a client because that’s what really makes a successful transactional attorney. You have to know the business side. You can’t just be a lawyer. Chad Franzen  14:56   Has there been occasions where you are in the midst of your day to day work with Herman Law, where I don’t know if something new comes up, and you’re like, Oh, this is, this is like new stuff for my class. Dimitry Herman  15:08   All the time. And actually the reason I started teaching, like kind of like my my, you know, point about the outliers, I, one of the firms I used to work for one of the senior partners, was a professor. And I really worked really closely with him. And I was amazed that how much more he knew about certain kind of nuanced things. And when we would come up, he would always have like, a reference to a case or something. And it was because I said, you know, gosh, I work with all these people. And they’re all senior partners, but you’re the only guy who brings this up, he said, Well, look, I teach this. So I have to stay on top of the trends that stay on top of the law. So, you know, we subscribe to basically, you know, for Massachusetts, and for Delaware, which are the two markets we operate in. For the most part, we I routinely get every case that comes out of the court system that relates to my subject area, and I read it, sometimes I will put a blog post or something like that on there or write an article about it. And I’ve done a lot of publication locally, here and online. And same thing with Delaware if there’s something interesting, because those are the two primary markets. And that kind of is a forcing function. For me. It’s incredible how well, something that I have taught, for example, one subject area that I’ve taught a lot is the letters of intent and non binding agreements, which happens all the time business, people want to do something, they sign a simple piece of paper, and then it doesn’t work out. And nobody really knows was that really a contract, not a contract? That’s something that I’ve been teaching for years. So I’ve had to take a really deep dive into like, what’s real? And what’s not. And that’s an incredibly helpful when you’re actually in negotiation. Because you know, more than the other guy. Chad Franzen  16:49   Sure sure. So, you know, why don’t you give us a some insight into maybe what your class might learn from you or other people might learn from you. What kind of insights do you have on marketplace trends that you could share with us? Dimitry Herman  17:03   That’s, that’s, there’s a lot going on right now. I think, from a kind of on the positive side, there’s a truce, just a tremendous amount of there’s there’s been a lot of layoffs in the industries that I focus on, you know, a lot of folks, obviously, generally on Tech, I do a lot of consumer products do a lot of media, all those industries have had some downsizing. Because of that downsizing, there’s a lot of people who have left, and now we’re looking for new opportunities, there’s also an enormous amount of money that’s sitting on the sidelines waiting for the next big thing. So there’s a tremendous amount of interest in you know, AI being one of the obviously hot topics, there’s a lot going on with that and AI can, you know, translating into healthcare, AI translating into software, business processing legal. So we’re seeing a tremendous amount of really new interest in those areas, which are really hot. On the flip side, valuations are way down. Because, you know, basically, everybody’s kind of looking into the into the long term view and saying, I’m going to invest today, I want to make sure that my dollar today is worth let’s call it $10. Tomorrow. And I don’t know if that’s what the case is right now, my dollar today might be. So there are different points of view, companies that are much closer to that exit, and that $10 number are going to have a little bit of a harder time getting that same number or companies that are selling today, I think we’re going to face a lot of downward pressure. Whereas companies that might have a longer sales cycle longer, ultimately, exit are probably in a good place. Now, as long as the types of investors are more long term oriented. So we’re just incredibly busy seeing a lot of new companies being formed right now. We’re really busy with companies that are basically well funded, and need more money because those investors are continuing to put money in. So we’re seeing a lot of investments going into companies to keep them on the growth trend that they are, we are also seeing companies that are are not well funded. Because their investors have kind of put in the capital that they need, and are not really sure about where things are. Take a step back and say go out and raise more money. We’d like to see somebody else take the risk right along with us in those companies are struggling. So we’re seeing a lot of restructurings, seeing a lot of down rounds, we’re seeing a lot of people that thought they had an asset that was worth X, that’s now worth a lot X. It’s great, great legal work. It’s really interesting work. It’s a lot of different aspects of you have to in order to do this stuff, you have to understand everything from the transaction to the litigation side, how would somebody who invested six months ago at a higher price reacted today and saying geez, I should have known that. So you have to sort of think through the panoply of all those things. And then obviously m&a, I think there was a huge flurry of m&a for a little bit it seems to have slowed down. You know, it’s cyclical. I think it’s following the you know, I think there’s a lot more going private type stuff that’s to come and continue. We’re seeing more of that. But that’s, that’s kind of what I’m exposed to. But I’m just, you know, I’m just one lawyer. I’m sure you guys have a lot of different points of view, depending on who you talk to. Chad Franzen  20:13   Sure, sure. Well, thank you. Thank you for that. Hey, I have one more question for you. But before I before I ask, why don’t you just tell me how people can find out more about Herman Law or anything else that you have going on? Dimitry Herman  20:24   Well, you can, the best thing, obviously, is just to contact me by email. And I don’t know if it’s appropriate for me to sort of say what my email address is, or you have a way to do it. So my email is the best way to reach me because that’s what comes. That’s my central inbox so to speak. It’s dimitry.herman@hermanlawllc. They can also find me on my LinkedIn profile. And there’s a way to contact me through LinkedIn, which a lot of people if it’s inbound, or they can just go to our website, Herman Law LLC as their information, there’s information there. And that’s, that’s probably the easiest way for somebody to track me down. Chad Franzen  21:09   Okay, sounds good. Hey, you work with a lot of fledgling attorneys, you know, in, in law school and things like that. What is a maybe a tip that you might give a new lawyer that you wish that you had known prior to starting out? Dimitry Herman  21:25   A new lawyer starting their own practice or a new lawyer just being just new lawyer? Chad Franzen  21:30   Yeah, just kind of what eyes wide open going into the legal industry? Dimitry Herman  21:35   Ah, well, long term. I think any lawyer should ultimately understand to be successful, I think you need to, in the long run to be really successful, find what you like to do. Because that’s the most important thing, find an area of the law, if you want to stay as a lawyer, just from a you know, in stay in the profession, find something you really like doing. And in the field of law, because there’s a lot of variety. litigations, attorneys do very different things a corporate attorneys, if you like, or what a lot of people burnout, a tremendous number of people burn out to find the thing that makes you happy that you can show up every day for 812 1518 hours, and do it because there are going to be long days ahead of you. That’s the most important thing. That’s just how to survive. Now, if you like doing what you do, and you found it out to be successful. I mean, I think for young lawyers, the most important thing by far is attention to detail. People pay a lot of money, and they expect everything to be perfect. And the more attention to detail you are the ultimately that will serve you very well, as you progress, you’ll have more people to support you. You may not be as detailed focused, but you can never leave that behind. And then, you know, don’t leave common sense behind right? clients. Clients want to hear that their lawyer is practical that their lawyer understands the big picture and is strategic and oriented. That’s honestly where we differentiate ourselves. They, as much as people like to say that not everybody has that. And you’re either have it or you don’t I don’t think you can totally learn that skill. I think and that’s something that you have to understand, in order to be successful. Are you the kind of person that’s really strategic? And then there’s that role for you? Are you not, but you’re very good at what you do, and they need a strategic person to partner with to be successful. And that’s an important tip. Chad Franzen  23:25   Okay, that’s very interesting and great advice. Thank you so much for that. Hey, Dimitry. It’s been great to talk to you today. Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time and all your insights. Dimitry Herman  23:32   Thank you for the opportunity. I really appreciate you guys reaching out and thank you again. Chad Franzen  23:37   Sure. Yeah, my pleasure. So long, everybody. Outro  23:42   Thanks for listening to 15 Minutes, be sure to subscribe and we’ll see you next time.

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