The most recent addition to the Conejo Valley’s biotech cluster comes in the form of legal counsel.
Newport Beach-based law firm Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, known for its robust life science sector led by Bruce Feuchter, has opened up shop in Westlake Village with Brent Reinke and Ryan Aslein at the helm.
Reinke is a recognized name in the Valley already, serving as founder of the Bioscience Alliance and Gold Coast Executive Forum, with a deep network of biotech clients. He was formerly a partner at Musick Peeler Law Firm, also in Westlake Village, before joining Stradling in March.
Aslein is a Stradling shareholder with expertise in venture capital, emerging companies and startups, as well as mergers and acquisitions.
The firm sees anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of its revenue derived from life science clients, Feuchter said. When he started the firm’s life science branch in the early 1990s, revenue from this sector was 4 to 5 percent.
“When opportunity knocks, you open the door,” Feuchter said. “I honestly believe we have the right foundation person in Brent.”
Naturally, Reinke sees legal expertise as a critical part of the region’s support system for biotech.
“I think it’s a really important piece, I don’t think there is another firm with a presence here that has anywhere near the capabilities that Stradling does when it comes to life science,” explained Reinke. “Now, I’ve got this platform, these resources, and this brand, for lack of a better term – a well-known law firm that I can now introduce to all the contacts that I have, whether that’s educational, city or industry.”

Funding deals
Currently, the Westlake team is working on a range of services for life science companies, including international licensing, distribution, convertible debt transactions and private equity fund representation. In one case, a client was approached by a private equity firm to do an investment in the company.
“The funding cycle is very different – there are little hiccups and challenges to structuring deals for a company, to allow the company to accelerate its growth or keep it open to growth in the future,” said Stephanie Hsieh, executive director at BioCom Los Angeles, when comparing life science to other industries. Hsieh is also an attorney. “From a startup perspective too, there are different (legal) skillsets for different stages of the company, and one thing I know Stradling has always been strong on is that startup sector, emerging companies.”
Added Reinke: “It really comes down to not just the legal representation, it’s the resources we bring to bear because we do so much work in this space. I’ve had a good rolodex of venture capitalists and PE connections, but now with this firm I have something like 25 corporate lawyers, and they are people who are really entrenched with the PC and VC communities and others, so now you have all these connections that you can bring to your clients.”
“A number of us have relationships – the Santa Barbara office has relationships with UC Santa Barbara,” said Feuchter. “There are niche sciences that come out of those big, big research institutions.”
Firms such as Stradling also know the “pain points” for biotech companies, Hsieh added. For example, they have a general understanding of how long it takes a startup to take its product from concept to market, and the firms bill accordingly.
“You can kind of tell when you start talking to people in interviews for attorneys –  you get an idea who really wants you to grow and who wants to be your partner, as opposed to someone that is just in it to have another client,” said Hsieh.
Reinke is working out of 2945 Townsgate Road but plans to move the team to another, larger space that can house seven or more attorneys. Stradling Yocca also has offices in Orange County, Century City, Santa Barbara, San Diego and San Francisco.
Added Hsieh: “Other firms I tend to direct people to (through Biocom LA) are more national firms, global firms. … They aren’t as tied in on such a granular level to the culture. Stradling is definitely a Southern California, L.A./Orange County firm. They get the people, they get the culture.”