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In an earlier era, it would have been the law firm of Deneen Hauser Apa & Bullion, but this is the Internet age. The legal jargon still flies during an interview — poolside — with the four Villanova University School of Law classmates, now colleagues on the corporate management team of Rosemont, Pa.-based Web site publisher sn.com. “Objection!” cried litigator-turned-vice president for business development Andrew Bullion, 34, in responding to one question. “I instruct the witness not to answer,” former employment associate Diane Apa, 29, cautioned in her role as sn.com’s general counsel. But John Deneen, 32 — who founded sn.com in 1994 and serves as its CEO — has answers for companies who want to evolve in the dot-com world. “The Web is going to impact in a dramatic way how people do business, and in order to survive inside of that new world, [companies] are going to need a team of very dynamic, talented Web developers behind [their] Web sites,” he said. Sn.com — known as the Survival Network until it was mistaken for a Y2K-readiness site, a disaster recovery company and, once, a suicide hotline — is designed to help companies adapt to the Internet world order. The company helps businesses develop and evolve their web sites. Deneen describes the company’s diverse staff of artistic, technical and business-oriented people as business consultants, not just Web site producers. Sn.com consults with companies to develop Internet business plans and to implement those plans with dynamic Web sites and various forms of Internet advertising. “Big companies have a hard time navigating the turn in the road — which is what the Web represents for businesses. Our company tries to help them navigate that turn,” Deneen said. The company also represents a turn in the career paths of the four law school grads. A BUDDING IDEA “I went to law school for the education, but during law school, I spent most of my time dreaming about different business ventures,” Deneen said. “When I finished law school, I had a list of about 17 different business ideas.” Somewhere on that list — Deneen can’t remember if the venture was number one — was sn.com. “I think I would have enjoyed law — but I didn’t want my life to be about conflict. I wanted it to be about building something,” Deneen said. He credits a Villanova law professor for sparking his interest in the then-fledgling Internet. “I saw that the Web was going to be big,” Deneen recalled. “I was running around telling everyone how big it was going to be.” Originally, Deneen’s law school classmates weren’t convinced by his enthusiasm. Apa joined Pepper Hamilton and, later, Klett Rooney Leiber & Schorling. Bill Hauser, 31, sn.com’s vice president for marketing and strategic alliances, spent three years in the corporate law department of Chester County’s Harvey Gallagher Featherman & Sebastian. Bullion practiced at Beasley Casey & Erbstein for three and a half years before joining sn.com three months ago. “Even just four years ago, I thought, ‘What is this crazy guy doing?’ ” Bullion said. A NEW CREATION Sn.com began in 1994 in Deneen’s home with five employees, including another could-have-been lawyer. Today the company has 30 employees and offices in Rosemont Plaza. The rapid expansion has forced Sn.com to annex three office suites on the first floor of the building. Walking from the corporate office to the art department to the “engine room,” the company’s technology hub, means strolling past the building’s cafeteria, the Birthing Center and a hair salon. Boxes litter the offices as the company looks for more space — plans include adding 50 employees — but there is always room for the foosball table. True to dot-com stereotype, the offices are laid-back, though this isn’t a nose-ring crowd. Employees enjoy health-club membership, child-care opportunities, flex time and Friday-morning yoga classes. Meetings are held under an umbrella beside the pool. “You can let your hair down here, as long as you are plugging away and getting things done,” Deneen said. “Things” include catering to clients such as Pitcairn Trust Co., Unisys Corp., KYW Newsradio, NCM Americas Inc., BioValidity, Tassa, netgrocer.com and greatskincare.com. “But before I could put together a production team — creative and technical — I needed to put together a management team I can count on that have the right heart, and these guys have that,” Deneen said of his attorney-laden management team. “It is just a bonus that they also happen to have law degrees. It does resolve a lot of legal issues quickly.” THE NITTY GRITTY The young company faces corporate issues such as finances and investors, many intellectual property issues, and immigration and other employment issues, Apa said. In addition to a general counsel — and the combined knowledge of the three other J.D.s — the company relies on outside counsel Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young. “I recognize the role that attorneys play in business,” Deneen said of the lessons he learned in law school. “I think a lot of young entrepreneurs see the attorney as the enemy. I didn’t see the attorney as the enemy. I use attorneys for everything.” Everything, including as co-workers and, he hopes, as clients. “We are proud to say we have never made a law firm’s Web site because I have not yet seen a law firm Web site that I would be proud to say we did. They are all buying these cookie-cutter Web sites,” Deneen said. It is, however, a market the company would like to tap. Although law firms have traditionally focused a limited amount of energy on marketing, the increasingly competitive Philadelphia market will place an added importance on Internet presence, the company hopes. “We really understand law firms,” Deneen said. A REFRESHING CHANGE The former lawyers understand the hours their law firms demanded of them — and willingly traded large salaries for stock options. “You don’t notice the hours as much here. It is a very relaxed atmosphere. Work is play; play is work. I don’t find myself looking at the clock as much,” Hauser said. Sn.com was an opportunity to pursue the technical interests he discovered as an undergraduate at Drexel University and apply his MBA. For Apa, the September 1999 move from law firm to in-house, where the emphasis is on getting the work done and not on billable hours, was a much needed break. “This is a job where I could keep my hand in the law but sort of get away from some of the things that had been burning me out. Get away from the litigation aspect, from the billable-hours aspect and try to build something, actually be a part of something,” she said. Bullion faced similar pressures. “I decided that the reason I went to law school was not to do precisely what I was doing at that time. I wanted to do something more creative, more constructive than litigation. Litigating is deconstructing. “And this is an opportunity which would not be here five years from now,” he said. “Maybe one day I will go back to practicing law — maybe I won’t — but if I had waited another five years, this opportunity wouldn’t be here.”

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