A Day in the Life: McCarter & English’s David Sorin
David Sorin is co-founder of New York startup law firm, SorinRand, which was recently acquired by McCarter & English. At McCarter & English, David is a partner and now heads the firm’s venture capital, early stage, and emerging growth company practice. Sorin received his undergraduate degree in Accounting and Economics from NYU Stern ‘79 and is both a lawyer and a CPA.
After graduating from NYU Stern and Fordham Law School, and spending several years on Wall Street, Sorin led a law office in New Jersey to build a high tech practice representing companies in various technology sectors: life science, telecommunications, software, information technology, and ecommerce. In Sorin’s own words, “what I learned along the way without knowing it, was one of the reasons I had an affinity for working with those kinds of people, even though I wasn’t building a technology business, was that I’m really an entrepreneur at my core.” In a desire to give back, Sorin became a law professor at Drexel University and Seton Hall Law School, always emphasizing entrepreneurship in his teachings. Sorin then founded his own practice, Sorin Rand in 2009, where he was a vanguard of innovation in the legal world. Sorin Rand merged with McCarter & English in 2014, with the goal of bringing his innovativeness to a wider selection of clients.
This is David’s day-in-the-life:
5:00-7:00am: I wake up, pick my phone off my bedside table, and immediately check the email that has piled up overnight. I think this is not peculiar to lawyers by any means - any entrepreneur that is trying to develop, sustain, and grow their business needs to always be readily accessible. The first several minutes of the day are dedicated to seeing what’s happened over night, and things that I may or may not have expected that I have to deal with that day. I have a guiding principle that anyone who contacts me or I need to speak with never waits more than a half a day for a response. I then try to get some exercise, but if you really want to know a day in the life, I am often less successful at that than I’d like to be because I want to get into the office.
7:00-10:00am: I arrive at the office, look at my calendar for the day to see what is pre-planned, and factor into that the daily surprises I received via email when I woke up. Then, I talk to my team about what we are working on, and just generally catch up with each other. Being close with your team not only becomes a good client services tool, but it becomes a good educational tool. Once the meetings and the phone calls begin, the day just rushes by.
10:00am-2:00pm: Any business person, entrepreneur, or service provider who thinks the ping of the email or the ring of the phone is an intrusion does not understand what it means to build and grow a business and serve your clients or customers. I welcome the pings and the phone calls because they are the lifeblood of what we do every day. I do spend time catching up each day on developments whether they’re legal or business related. Technology certainly helps because where you used to have to look at multiple sources and access them separately, you can almost always get everything you need.
Right now, I’m working with some really interesting companies. One is an artificial intelligence company. The technology comes out of multiple universities -- including NYU. This company is using a new type of capital raising mechanism called a SAFE: simple agreement for future equity. It’s been advocated for on the west coast, especially by Y-Combinator which originated this new instrument, and we really haven’t seen it in the east. This company that I’m working with, which has its roots at NYU, is actually doing the first SAFE transaction on the east coast.
3:00-5:00pm: If I’m going to be the draftsman on something, that’s usually happening when the phone and the emails are slowing down, so that tends to be early evening type stuff. I always try to meet someone new because networking and reaching out to people who are part of the ecosystem or want to be part of the ecosystem is vitally important. We can learn so much from them and what we do learn is valuable in our client services.
5:00pm-9:00pm: My kids are grown but I do try, now that my technology allows it, to get home everyday at a time when I can have dinner with my wife. Then I normally will return to work for a couple hours.
Bedtime: The last thing I do before I go to sleep is check my email and voicemail, so that by the end of that day there’s no call or email that remains unresponded to, this way I am able to get a good night sleep and start fresh all over again in the morning.
--------------------------David Sorin speaking to startups about entrepreneurial law @ NYU Entrepreneurs Festival 2015
What are some sources that you use to keep track of all these changes?
I tend to be a pretty voracious reader of Inc. Magazine, lawyer specific publications, tech magazines, local outlets like NJ Biz, information coming out of accelerators, talking to venture capitalists, and then reading the more general news. I try to read the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times everyday, electronically rather than holding a newspaper in my hand. I also try to read the weekly magazines, like Newsweek, Time, and the Financial Times and that’s more for general trends. I also read LinkedIn as well, because I find that people in my network share information very willingly and freely. If they see an article that’s of interest to them, that often means that I should be reading it as well. I don’t tweet often, but I do follow a number of thought leaders in the private equity and venture capital worlds. Part of the challenge is realizing that not everything you read is true or important, and having not only a technology filter but also your own internal filter.
How do you unwind?
My primary way is by traveling. I love to go to places I’ve never been before. I particularly like going to places with very rich histories or that are completely different from my everyday urban life. We went on safari a couple years ago to South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia, and it was the trip of my life. It was one of the most interesting experiences I ever had. Particularly places that have historical significance in one way or another, and I don’t mean necessarily museums, battlefields, and sites as much as places where cultures are extremely old. I happen to believe, this is going to sound like I’m waxing philosophically here, it’s really important to understand our past not because I believe we are ultimately destined repeat it, but because I think what has happened in the past can educate and inform what we can and should be doing going forward.
I’m probably embarrassed to say this but I love television. Late at night, when I’m done responding to emails and phone calls, I usually take about a half an hour to just watch something inane. I love the Big Bang Theory, NCIS and Law and Order, having nothing to do with the law there by the way, but it shows how the characters have to solve problems.
The most important thing is my family. For anyone that has to balance multiple things in their lives, we often don’t do enough relative to our families, but I’ve been really blessed to have been married for over 30 years now. We have two amazing grown children who each have partners in their lives, who we love, and love to spend time and travel together. Family is the number one most important thing to me, and most of my non-professional time is spent with my family. I also have the privilege of working with my son, a young lawyer, just having got out of school a few years ago. It is so much fun for me to be working with him. Frankly, it’s one of the highlights of my career to see the passion that he’s developing for what he does.
What is some advice you would give to entrepreneurs?
“Not every great idea is a great business, and not every great technology will prove to be a cost effective business solution”. You may be able to form a terrific business but not every business is a financeable one. Some entrepreneurs will need to do it by bootstrapping and then ultimately gain cash flow from operations. Some ideas won’t attract third party investors, but it doesn’t mean it is a bad idea, it just means it’s not the type of business a third party wants to invest in because they don’t see the ability for the right return on their investment.
There are lots of people who wonder about lack of experience but if you have an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to come up with ideas that can become a great product or solution, you shouldn’t hesitate to jump in. Just like any part of your life, you should recognize what are your own strengths and weaknesses, and surround yourself with people who complement you and fill in the holes.
“If you’re the smartest guy in the room, you’re in the wrong room”. You always want to be surrounded by the best people because they will make you better and the whole endeavor better. It takes a lot of confidence to embrace that.
Any closing remarks to impart on the community?
I was first generation of my family to be college bound, and there’s no way I could have afforded NYU without the philanthropy of somebody that endowed a scholarship that I benefited from and that person would never know me or the outcome from his/her generosity. I’ve remembered that my entire life, and when I was in a position to give back financially my wife and I made a decision to do something very similar. We endowed a scholarship at a liberal arts college, and every four years we get to pick, along with the school, a student that’s first generation college bound and put them through school. When you enjoy the benefits of a great education or a successful career you have a duty to give back. Part of that is building the ecosystem, and part of that is doing whatever you can do for people that don’t have the same privileges that you do. You see that a lot in the tech community. What people do to nurture others is something we all have to take lessons from.