Clinic provided foundation for legal practice, clients

By Lori Atherton
U-M Law
When Lyman Thai took the Entrepreneurship Clinic during his final semester at law school, it was on the heels of a summer internship at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Palo Alto, Calif., a prestigious Silicon Valley firm known for representing high-tech companies, venture capital firms and startups.

Thai thought the clinic — part of a flourishing startup ecosystem within the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Detroit — would be an opportunity to hone the legal skills he acquired on the job, and he wasn’t wrong.

“The clinic gave me a foundation in legal concepts that I draw on every day in my practice, such as the protection of intellectual property and the difference between employees and contractors, and introduced me to startup ecosystem players like accelerators and venture capital firms,” Thai said. 

Most importantly, Thai said, he was “able to work with real clients in the clinic to help solve their legal issues, all while learning and practicing client counseling skills.’

“This practical experience gave me confidence to work directly with clients almost from day one when I started as a full-time associate at WSGR,” he said.

Thai, who joined Wilson Sonsini in 2013, represents clients on a wide range of legal matters, including startup counseling, venture capital transactions, private and public securities offerings, mergers and acquisitions, public company disclosure and corporate governance. 

He returned to the law school in October to teach Entrepreneurship Clinic students about the fundamentals of venture financing.

Before entering Michigan Law, Thai worked at an innovative alternative energy company. 

His interest in technology fostered a desire to “work with clean tech companies as a business lawyer since the law and regulations really help shape those markets.” 

The summer internship at WSGR, however, exposed Thai to the “vibrancy of the startup practice,” and his interest expanded to working with emerging growth companies of all kinds.

Representing startups is appealing to Thai, because it allows him to play a role in the success of cutting-edge businesses. 

“I’m hearing about and seeing new products before they’re launched and even witnessing entirely new markets being created, and in the big picture, my job is to help bring these cool new ideas to fruition,” Thai said. “This keeps my daily practice interesting, and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I see one of my clients making an impact on the world.”