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As an entrepreneur, M.J. “Tony” Paikeday started doing his company’s legal work to avoid explaining to investors monthly law firm bills topping $15,000. Now that Paikeday has sold his company and is back to practicing law, he’s hoping he wasn’t the only in-house lawyer toiling in the night. Or, as Paikeday puts it: “We want to do for corporate legal services what Charles Schwab did for the retail brokerage industry.” The message Paikeday’s new law firm, Silicon Counsel, is selling is the same — serve it up cheap. The firm, which opened for business Feb. 1, prominently touts its $200 to $250 per-hour partner rates, even including the information on the firm’s Web site. Partner rates at larger Valley firms, which Paikeday considers his competition, generally run two or three times that amount. Paikeday is hoping that cost-conscious in-house lawyers at startups and large, publicly traded companies will be drawn to his below-market rates for corporate, litigation, employment and intellectual property work. “Rarely is it going to make economic sense to hire a big firm for a little piece of litigation,” Paikeday said. The catch is the firm’s lawyers stand to earn less money than their big firm counterparts. But Paikeday said he and the firm’s three partners will take out of the firm what they put in, no more or less. The four partners work from home and pay their own expenses, but chip in for a modest San Francisco office for meetings and mail. By doing away with billable hour requirements and keeping costs to a bare minimum, Paikeday said, “we’ve opened up a lot of room in the business model.” He added: “It will appeal to lawyers who want to work less.” His converts are Cael Davis and Kimon Cambouroglou, both of whom have experience as entrepreneurs, and Rola Yamini Innis, who was a senior corporate counsel at Charles Schwab & Co. Inc. Whether the firm expands will depend on the flow of clients. The firm may take on associates but with the plan to make them partner very soon rather than contribute to the firm’s leverage, he said. In typical entrepreneur fashion, Paikeday said the sky is the limit in terms of growth. “We know we want to be a great firm,” Paikeday said, “but we don’t know whether we’re going to do that as a small firm or one of the largest.”

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