Personal attention and individualized solutions from experienced business attorneys — this is the vision the founders of Avisen Legal, PA brought to life when they opened their doors five years ago. A boutique business law firm whose animating principles are common sense, collaboration and commitment, Avisen Legal attorneys represent individuals, family enterprises and corporations as well as investors, investment funds and nonprofits on legal issues relating to business formation, operation, growth, sale and succession. In kinship with the businesspeople they represent, these lawyers are also entrepreneurs and innovators; professionals who enjoy solving the challenges that come at every stage of business.
Like all brilliant ideas, the concept for Avisen Legal began on a bar napkin. After a long day at an ABA meeting in San Francisco, founders Kimberly Lowe and Todd Taylor met at a hotel bar and expressed their mutual frustrations with the traditional, big law practice model.
“Our experience at big firms was that the practice can be siloed and very competitive,” Taylor says. “We felt more of a desire for a collaborative way of working. We formed the firm with the idea that we wanted to find other lawyers like us, who are well-trained and used to sophisticated deals, but who also communicate well and are entrepreneurs.”
“We want every one of our lawyers to own their practice and destiny as lawyers,” Lowe adds. “In a large firm, lawyers are often told that but are really treated as a cog in the bigger machine. Our vision was to form an organization where nothing would prevent us from taking the clients we want to take on, be it size or fee structure. I do the same work for the same clients; I just do it differently, because I do it for a different reason. Their relationship is with me, not the names on the door.”
Lowe and Taylor are seasoned business practitioners with more than 20 years of experience. Both occupy distinguished leadership roles in the legal community and have earned an array of professional honors.
After a serious debate with her sister at age 5 about the merits of becoming a Christmas tree or a lawyer, Lowe staunchly chose the latter and never deviated from her path. A corporate speech writer before law school, she always enjoyed the business environment and knew that was where her legal destiny lay. Lowe’s comprehensive business practice spans the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. She guides entrepreneurs, executive management teams, boards of directors, multigenerational families, shareholders, and investors through all aspects of the business life cycle from formation to operation to exit. She assists clients with general business matters, corporate governance, debt and equity financing, purchase and sales, SEC and IRS compliance, business strategy joint ventures and complex reorganizations.
“I enjoy entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial spirit,” she says. “As a lawyer, I realize I have something to add. I bring tools to help my clients find their dreams and execute their business plans. I enjoy their creativity and helping them navigate the legal world. I like to take away the boringness and push the envelope on how to do things differently.”
When Taylor began his law career, his father, an executive at 3M, had some good advice for him. “I remember my dad telling me that he dealt with a lot of lawyers. He said not to be somebody who just tells clients, ‘No.’”
Taylor heeded that advice and adopted what he describes as a “Holmesian” approach to the law. “The central defining element of my practice is helping my clients find solutions. Everybody at our firm sees challenges as interesting and unique opportunities. When you put something in front of us, we investigate and learn as much as we can about the facts of what we’re trying to solve for. That drives me as a lawyer.”
Taylor’s practice focuses on renewable energy and sustainability companies and projects. He has worked across the Midwest on ethanol, bio-diesel, solar and RNG energy projects. Taylor also assists developers, technology companies, private equity, venture capital and infrastructure funds with developing and financing sustainable high impact projects, including renewable and conventional energy projects, clean tech, agriculture tech, food tech and other complex infrastructure projects.
Simply stated, Taylor gets hired because he gets results.
Abby Pettit joined Avisen Legal two years ago and typifies the enterprising and collaborative attorneys the firm attracts.
Pettit grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and brings that firsthand perspective to her business practice. She takes a personal interest in her clients and is passionate about solving legal problems. Her experience spans entity law, mergers and acquisitions, real estate, finance, and estates and trusts. She advises financial institutions on lending transactions, risk mitigation, and consumer products and services. Pettit also provides outside general counsel services and advises families with multi-generational wealth about how to achieve their estate planning goals.
“The thing that appealed to me about Avisen is the ability to continue doing the kind of work I love with clients I love, focusing on business clients and serving all their ordinary and extraordinary needs. Avisen has allowed me the space to build the kind of practice I want to build and focus on the clients I want to serve.”
As a business entity, Avisen Legal boasts a flat governance structure that allows attorneys to participate in day-to-day operations, decision making and business development.
“Being involved in the decision-making processes of a firm as a business is something a lot of lawyers aren’t well prepared for,” Taylor says. “The entrepreneurial focus of Avisen has allowed me to grow in that respect.”
In turn, being entrepreneurial as a firm creates more value for clients. “I hope clients see us that way,” Lowe says. “We’re not in an ivory tower giving hoity-toity lawyer advice. We are also business owners, and we consider ourselves partners in our clients’ businesses. We want to offer value and service and help them in a grounded and personal sense.”
Some words you will hear repeated often by Avisen Legal’s attorneys are passion and empathy. “We speak about passion as much or more than most,” Taylor says. “That drive to do well, to be good at what we do, to be able to serve people and help them accomplish their goals versus just checking boxes on a list, really does two things: (1) it makes clients know we care for them, which builds trust; and (2) it drives us to make sure we’re doing everything we need to do to fulfill our clients’ needs.”
“There are lot of good lawyers who can help you with a stock purchase agreement or a contract, but understanding the why behind what you’re doing is, to me, overwhelmingly critical,” Taylor adds. “We come from big firms and have that technical training, but the problem with a lot of professional advisors is that they are dispassionate. Things we really look for in our lawyers are passion for what they do and empathy for who they’re doing it with — both colleagues and clients.”
“I consider empathy central to my practice, in part, because I work with a lot of closely held businesses and family farms,” Pettit says. “In navigating a family business, there are so many emotions and interpersonal dynamics. If you can’t navi-gate those relationships, it doesn’t matter how proficient you are at corporate law. One of the things most important to me is being able to build relationships over time, getting to know a family and understand their business so I can serve them in the most effective way. I really respect our attorneys for having that kind of empathy and practicing with a high degree of emotional intelligence. It’s not a super common trait in the corporate world.”
With a bench of experienced lawyers who are highly regarded both regionally and nationally in their respective practice areas, the firm receives a steady stream of referrals.
“When someone at a big firm conflicts out, we want to be first on the top of that referral list as lawyers who can handle sophisticated work but won’t poach their clients,” Lowe says.
“Lawyers at smaller firms may run into situations where a client’s legal need is not what they do,” says Taylor. “We work with a lot of firms in outstate areas when they have specialized legal issues. That’s how Kim and I met 20-plus years ago, working on opposite sides of a deal in outstate Minnesota. We often get called in those kinds of circumstances.”
At this five-year milestone, it is both a time for looking back and a time for looking ahead. The collegial culture Lowe and Taylor began endures alongside the firm’s reputation for sterling legal representation. Always evolving, Avisen Legal is poised for ongoing, mindful growth.
“We believe that as a lawyer, you can do great legal work while being a great person as well,” Taylor says. “The firm will most definitely look different in year 10 than it does today. We embrace that journey and change. Our polestar is always serving clients as best we can, with the highest degree of excellence.”