UK firms trail US in high-tech investments

UK firms continue to lag behind US lawyers in embracing the investment opportunities of high-tech start-ups.

Russell Hogg, an in-house lawyer from 3i,told the IBA conference that while US firms have surged ahead to specialise in servicing high-tech clients in acting as consultants as well as lawyers, there is a marked difference in the way UK lawyers handle opportunities.

Speaking from Amsterdam, Hogg says: “Law is only part of what [US] firms are doing. Some firms are way ahead, but one group – the Venture Law Group – is changing that. It won’t take on a client if it doesn’t think it will get a valuable return on its investment.

“[The UK] hasn’t got over the regulatory problems. Maybe this is because of the size of the market, but I think it will open up.”

However, Stephan Coonrod, a partner at Seattle-based Preston Gates & Ellis, says there are effective ways to prevent conflict problems.

He says the firm only ever takes a small stake in the start-up, does not engage in any management issues and sets up a limited liability company to house the stake.