Managing Partner, Corporate and Securities Services
owners and investors hire Stephen Furnari because his success story
parallels their own – creating something from nothing. Beyond
a keen understanding of startup legal issues, through his many business
dealings he has experienced the bumpy road of business ownership; the
sleepless nights of uncertain cash flow; partner relations strained
by diverging viewpoints; and vendors, consultants or rainmakers who
attempt to prey on cash-poor startups. Far more valuable than any document
a lawyer can produce, his role as advisor, mentor and sounding-board
is the reason why his clients have helped him shape a thriving referral-based
practice that caters to entrepreneurs and visionaries.
In October 2002, Steve Furnari took one of the biggest risks of his
life. Armed with the cash from his 401K, a modest personal savings and
five credit cards, he left the security of a weekly paycheck and entered
the uncertain world of self-employment…for good.
my early teens I’ve started a number of businesses,” recounts
Steve. “Some were very successful - others crashed-and-burned.
However, before October 2002, I had never made a full commitment to
being completely self-employed.”
the previous three years, he had been laying the foundation from which
he could launch his dream practice: a law firm where entrepreneurs,
high-growth companies and the investors who fund them can find sophisticated
legal representation performed by lawyers who are also entrepreneurs.
“I formed a professional corporation, started building a book
of portable business and began systematically expanding my professional
network,” says Steve. “My plan was to ‘officially’
take the leap into self-employment once I had enough clients to support
my current standard of living. However, ‘life is what happens
when you’re busy making other plans,’ as John Lennon once
The Best Laid Plans…
Indeed, the six months prior to July 2002 had not gone according to
plan. In the post 9-11 fallout, Steve found himself in back-to-back
lay-offs from two lucrative corporate attorney positions, both at prestigious
New York City law firms. With little opportunity for temp work and no
shot of finding a full-time attorney position at a respectable firm,
he decided to seize the opportunity and fulfill his dream.
“At the time,” he says, remembering the conflicting emotions,
“I felt overwhelming relief that I had finally made this decision
and, at the same time, I was completely scared to death.”
He had reason for concern. Timing was not ideal to start such a practice.
By the end of 2001, the longest period of economic expansion in U.S.
history had just ended. The dot-com bubble burst, corporate deals dried
up, and all law firms, regardless of size, were now competing for small
projects they wouldn’t have even looked at during the previous
five years. To make matters worse, his small stable of clients had all
either gone out of business or were unable (or unwilling) to pay their
determined to make his practice a success, Steve vowed to never again
depend on an employer for his livelihood or professional development.
“The first few years were hard,” says Steve matter-of-factly.
“I got lucky during the first few months of my practice and landed
a complicated merger transaction involving a public company and foreign
the deal closed, he was completely elated to learn that he had just
earned more money in six weeks than he had in the whole year at his
first job as a lawyer. “Unfortunately, I generated little business
after that deal. I lived off those proceeds for nearly 10 months. So
much for getting rich quick!”
When it came time to pay bills at the end of every month, he played
what client Ellen Varner calls “The Worse Case Scenario Game”.
Ellen is the owner of a Web-based business who, incidentally, was his
only “new media” client who survived the dot-com bust.
explains, “The game is played like this: Worst Case Scenario,
if too much time goes by without generating any business and all your
cash and credit runs out, what would you do? In my version of the game
I planned to first sell my car to survive for another month. Second,
I planned to live out the security deposit in my apartment to survive
for a second month. Third, and the ultimate Worse Case Scenario, I planned
to give up my apartment and move in with Mom in my childhood home on
Thanks to a combination of aggressive marketing and a drastic cut in
his personal expenses, he didn’t have to find out if Mom still
enjoyed his company, and survived that first year in business. In fact,
his methods paid off quite well, doubling the firms revenues in the
first year. And then the next. And the next.
“By then I was earning more money as an entrepreneur than I would
have made had I remained an employee of a big, New York City law firm,”
he says, with a satisfied smile. “By my fourth year in business,
I had a roster of over 50 new corporate clients and the revenues from
my business supported four employees and me. Despite the entrepreneurial
ups and downs, I would never work for someone else again.”
Your Typical Lawyer
“I realize this is not a typical lawyer ‘bio’,”
says Steve. “Sure, like most every other lawyer in this country,
I graduated from college and law school, I passed the bar in two states
and I am admitted to practice law in a number of jurisdictions.”
“What I want people to know is that when my clients hire me, they
have selected a person who understands their needs. Clients hire me
because I am like them. My professional life is like theirs. Many of
my clients’ success stories parallel mine. We all made something
happen out of nothing. When I counsel clients on legal matters, I understand
not only the legal issues that affect them, but the business parameters
within which they operate.
“I know all about the sleepless nights of the entrepreneur. When
rent and payroll is due, when debt is spiraling out of control, and
when you’re not sure where you next piece of business is coming
from. I’ve been there.
“I know what it feels like when the relationship with your business
partner breaks down and you can no longer stand to be in the same room
with each other. I’ve been there.
“I know what it’s like when your back is against the wall
and you have to think “outside the box” to create business
out of thin air. I’ve been there.
know what it feels like to make bad decisions about a vendor, a consultant
or a money finder who preys on the fears and insecurities of an entrepreneur
who is in desperate need of funds. I’ve been there.
also know about the joy and elation when times are good, when you meet
your goals, when you land that big client, close that big deal, and
the satisfaction that you get when you put your pride, ego and cash
on the line, and you make things happen. I’ve been there.
am an entrepreneur and an investor in high growth businesses. I am also
a lawyer. I help other entrepreneurs, senior management of high growth
companies and investors structure corporate and securities transactions.
More importantly, I am a legal advisor, mentor and friend to my clients
and I strive to be instrumental in helping them accomplish their goals.”
you would like learn more about how working together with Steve can
advance your goals, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- New York Law
New York, New York, J.D., 1998
- State University
of New York at Geneseo,
Jones School of Business,
Geneseo, New York, B.S., 1993
- New York 1999
- U.S. District
Court for the Southern District of New York
- U.S. District
Court for the Eastern District of New York
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