OC US 20 in 2020

Written on 14 Oct 2020

OCUS | 20 years’ young

October 2000 seems a very long time ago…honestly, January 2020 seems a lifetime ago, but that’s a different story! Back in the late 90s, the "relics" at Osborne Clarke had been considering how best to support our US client base from afar without disrupting the relationships we had with so many amazing law firms in the Silicon Valley and entering a market whose bubble was expanding by the day and which was churning out start-ups by the hour. The VCs couldn’t write checks fast enough, and the barely launched businesses were heading down the IPO process before they’d spent their seed money.

As we all know now, bubbles burst and October 2000 was when that happened…just as Osborne Clarke threw open its doors to counsel all those fast-growth businesses as they planned to take over the world and extend their markets into Europe and beyond.

While no business can plan for the worst, it definitely helps you think about all outcomes when you are seeking to build on your domestic successes in a new market. And that’s exactly what OC has done!  For those who have known us for 20 years (and beyond), you will be very familiar with the changing face(s) of the firm – in Palo Alto, then into San Francisco and now in New York. But, of course, the markets we visit and support become a much longer list and, whilest I’m desperate to make lots of references (particularly to those early friends with whom we established our presences in the markets), I know I’ll overlook someone key and so suffice to say that we are so grateful to so many. For those who attended our 10 year anniversary, I did mention a few people and we did enjoy a fun evening. WhenI look at our scale – both in the US and internationally 10 years later – I’m very proud to have had some part in our success. Without clients who trust in us, partners with whom we share opportunities, and friends who support us and amplify our name in our markets, we would be nothing.

We even thank our competitors for entering the market to draw attention to the opportunities businesses have outside of the US and for being fair and professional in their dealings.

As you know, culture is what makes Osborne Clarke work and can’t be replicated.  We hope that in our interactions with you, you have experienced that positive can-do attitude: not only from the teams on the ground, but from our lawyers around the world. Our support of fast-growth disruptive businesses allows us to always be thinking outside the box and challenging our own approach. However, our internal culture is why we all work here – and there are SO MANY colleagues who have either been US based or who have provided our clients with our usual premium service from afar which has made it a pleasure to be part of the US business. My personal plan was to spend two years in the US and having just passed by my 13-year anniversary here, I’ve had the privilege to work with so many intelligent, fun, engaging and loyal colleagues…couple that with the same adjectives relating to our clients and friends in the markets and you do really don’t need to ask what gets me up in the morning!

Clearly, while we all are currently not seeing as much of each other as we would like…we will get back to personal connections and socializing and perhaps at that point we can celebrate Osborne Clarke’s 21st coming-of-age anniversary and have a real drink!

With heartfelt thanks from all of us to all of you and please keep yourself and your families safe in these crazy times.

Steve Wilson

OCUS | Letter from Silicon Valley

When I arrived in Silicon Valley in July 2016, having performed my own form of Brexit, it was a steep learning curve to say the least. While I had visited the Bay Area numerous times on business and on vacation, it's one thing to visit and it's certainly another to live and work in the area.

What struck me when I arrived then – and what I continue to be fascinated by and to admire – is the pace of business and positive energy here. It's like jumping into a fast-moving freezing-cold river:  the difference in temperature shocks you at first but the speed of the current carries you along and it's incredibly exhilarating!  You soon acclimatize to the conditions and only by getting out of the water and travelling to other parts of the world, do you realize that Silicon Valley is a special place full of incredibly talented people who are constantly striving to get to the next horizon and believe that anything is achievable. To help our clients as best as I could, I soon realized that I had to learn to run (or swim, to follow my river analogy) alongside them as quickly as possible!

Four years (and countless worn out pairs of sneakers) later, it's interesting to reflect on what has and hasn't changed in that time. There are a few things that come to mind.

Firstly, and this will come as no surprise to those who know my area of specialism, there has been a noticeable increase in awareness of European regulatory issues. I credit this partly to the publicity around the General Data Protection Regulation, which – even though it came into effect more than two years ago – has had a profound influence on how US companies consider and prepare for regulatory change. The idea that there is no consequence for ignoring UK and European rules even if your business is located 5,000 miles away from regulators, seems to be fading. We've responded too, by changing the way that we advise so we can reflect the fact that many of our clients already have a good understanding of the laws that we advise on and want to take a proactive approach to compliance.  As we spend more time advising companies on the US West Coast, we also realize how much value we can add by satisfying the continued demand for quick and proven solutions that leverage our experience, rather than re-inventing the wheel.

Secondly, the size and scale of the companies that we work with on their international expansion and growth plans has broadened significantly. The companies we talk to now are much earlier in their lifecycle as they look at going into new markets, which once used to be something that only larger companies would start to consider. This brings its own challenges for companies managing hyper growth both domestically and internationally. It also makes our role even more important in terms of "looking around corners" (as one of one client recently put it so well) for the busy General Counsels and legal teams at our clients.

Lastly, one thing that hasn't changed is that the value (and the pleasure) of meeting people face to face is still as important now as it was then and shouldn't be underestimated.  In pre-Covid-19 times, my team and I spent a lot of time travelling up and down the 101 and the rest of US West Coast to catch up with clients and contacts.  While we dearly miss the opportunity to see our clients in person during the current pandemic, the highlights of my working days are still the video catch-ups and calls with clients and contacts, without whom this job would be definitely much less fun and I would have hung up my sneakers a long time ago!

Ending on that note, be kind to yourself, look after those around you and we look forward to continuing to support you in whatever way we can.

Emily Jones