RENO, Nev. — “Oftentimes, a lot of attorneys are looked at as deal-breakers,” Fennemore Craig attorney David Lewandowski says with a laugh.
Pausing, he adds: “I try not to be grouped into that pool.”
An entrepreneur at heart, Lewandowksi — the Northern Nevada Business Weekly’s 2017 Readers’ Choice Best in Business “Nevada Innovators: Problem Solvers” award winner — simply has a passion for assisting startups and creators on business law issues that inevitably spring up during the formation of a budding business.
“So,” he explains, “instead of them always being faced with the response of ‘no, no, no — you can’t do this, because of that’… I try to think creatively, outside of the box, to get to a ‘yes.’
“Being able to relate with entrepreneurs, and having the same ideas and passion — and perhaps pursuit — for starting and creating things, helps me relate to the entrepreneur.”
After all, Lewandowski wasted no time dipping his toes in the entrepreneur pool. The Reno native started a business not long after stepping off the University of San Diego campus with a business economics degree in hand.
While attending Gonzaga University School of Law in Spokane, Washington, Lewandowski started and ran an online marketing company that he created for a tour company.
“It was a great way to kind of think differently,” said Lewandowksi, who earned an M.B.A from Gonzaga University, as well. “And it was a wonderful experience to see how you can do things passively and have passive income come in that doesn’t require an exchange of time for money.
“So I’ve always tried to think things entrepreneurially.”
So much so that three years ago, back in 2015, the Gonzaga Law School graduate was recruited by Fennemore Craig to help start its Venture Accelerator program in the firm’s Reno office.
Roughly a year earlier, Lewandowski, ever the entrepreneur, had started his own law practice — with a catchy name, to boot: “David Lew Law” — in Reno.
“It was an opportunity that I didn’t really see that I could pass up on,” he said of leading Fennemore Craig’s Venture Accelerator program. “It was very unique, very innovative in this space in Northern Nevada.”
The program seeks promising startups to offer deferred legal fees for up to $20,000, as attorneys like Lewandowski help entrepreneurs navigate the often-intimidating waters of patents, trademarks, copyrights and more. Notably, the law firm also offers the venture program in Las Vegas, Arizona and Colorado.
In exchange for the deferred legal costs, Fennemore Craig has a separate fund to make small investments in the company; essentially, partnering with the startup, Lewandowski said.
And as the business community continues to grow in Northern Nevada, Lewandowski will keep busy using his own experiences and business law savvy to help get his creative clients from a “no” to a “yes.”
“Having the moment where the client says, ‘Thank you so much, that was invaluable advice. You gave me the facts necessary for me to steer my company in the right direction,’” Lewandowski said. “Those are the moments where you really go, ‘wow, I feel like I am in the right profession, doing the right thing, and helping people.’”