For more than four decades, Fenwick & West LLP has helped some of the world’s most recognized companies become, and remain, market leaders. From emerging enterprises to large public corporations, our clients are leaders in the technology, life sciences and cleantech sectors and are fundamentally changing the world through rapid innovation.  MORE >

Fenwick & West was founded in 1972 in the heart of Silicon Valley—before “Silicon Valley” existed—by four visionary lawyers who left a top-tier New York law firm to pursue their shared belief that technology would revolutionize the business world and to pioneer the legal work for those technological innovations. In order to be most effective, they decided they needed to move to a location close to primary research and technology development. These four attorneys opened their first office in downtown Palo Alto, and Fenwick became one of the first technology law firms in the world.  MORE >

From our founding in 1972, Fenwick has been committed to promoting diversity and inclusion both within our firm and throughout the legal profession. For almost four decades, the firm has actively promoted an open and inclusive work environment and committed significant resources towards improving our diversity efforts at every level.  MORE >

FLEX by Fenwick is the only service created by an AmLaw 100 firm that provides flexible and cost-effective solutions for interim in-house legal needs to high-growth companies.  MORE >

Fenwick & West handles significant cross-border legal and business issues for a wide range of technology and life sciences who operate internationally..  MORE >

At Fenwick, we are proud of our commitment to the community and to our culture of making a difference in the lives of individuals and organizations in the communities where we live and work. We recognize that providing legal services is not only an essential part of our professional responsibility, but also an excellent opportunity for our attorneys to gain valuable practical experience, learn new areas of the law and contribute to the community.  MORE >

Year after year, Fenwick & West is honored for excellence in the legal profession. Many of our attorneys are recognized as leaders in their respective fields, and our Corporate, Tax, Litigation and Intellectual Property Practice Groups consistently receive top national and international rankings, including:

  • Named Technology Group of the Year by Law360
  • Ranked #1 in the Americas for number of technology deals in 2015 by Mergermarket
  • Nearly 20 percent of Fenwick partners are ranked by Chambers
  • Consistently ranked among the top 10 law firms in the U.S. for diversity
  • Recognized as having top mentoring and pro bono programs by Euromoney


We take sustainability very seriously at Fenwick. Like many of our clients, we are adopting policies that reduce consumption and waste, and improve efficiency. By using technologies developed by a number of our cleantech clients, we are at the forefront of implementing sustainable policies and practices that minimize environmental impact. In fact, Fenwick has earned recognition in several areas as one of the top US law firms for implementing sustainable business practices.  MORE >

At Fenwick, we have a passion for excellence and innovation that mirrors our client base. Our firm is making revolutionary changes to the practice of law through substantial investments in proprietary technology tools and processes—allowing us to deliver best-in-class legal services more effectively.   MORE >

Mountain View Office
Silicon Valley Center
801 California Street
Mountain View, CA 94041

San Francisco Office
555 California Street
12th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104

Seattle Office
1191 Second Avenue
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Seattle, WA 98101

New York Office
1211 Avenue of the Americas
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Shanghai Office
Unit 908, 9/F, Kerry Parkside Office
No. 1155 Fang Dian Road
Pudong New Area, Shanghai 201204
P.R. China
+86 21 8017 1200

Q&A with Fenwick FLEX Lawyer Chris Vail

November 30, 2011

Chris Vail, an attorney with the FLEX by Fenwick Program, was recently interviewed for The Recorder article "Q&A: Fenwick FLEX Lawyer Chris Vail." This question and answer style article covered Mr. Vail's role as an on-demand in-house counsel for multiple emerging companies through the FLEX program at Fenwick & West LLP, as well as the development of the program during its first year.

In October 2010, Fenwick & West, through the efforts of the "co-founders" Ralph Pais and Alexandra Smith, launched its FLEX by Fenwick program to provide temporary in-house counsel to emerging companies in need of more active day-to-day legal guidance than law firms can typically provide cost-effectively. Over the past year, the FLEX program has grown to 20 attorneys and has worked with over 30 clients on a wide variety of matters.

Prior to joining the FLEX program, Chris Vail was general counsel of a large public company and several start-ups. His general counsel experience makes him an ideal candidate to handle fast growing companies that need sensible business and legal advice, and FLEX gives clients a way to flexibly meet their legal needs as their businesses grows.

As Mr. Vail noted, the typical FLEX client is not a very early stage start-up. Rather, FLEX clients tend to be "rapidly growing companies that have done at least one round of venture financing, or have received significant angel financing. They're at the point where they're beyond their proof of concept and they’re generating revenue." Pais and Smith decided to focus on this segment of the start-up market because it was "an underserved market" where "big firms were too expensive" and, because of the incredible growth these companies generally experience, "solo practitioners [have] limited bandwidth" to serve the client.

Vail said that he typically represents three to five clients at one time, with the goal of providing "the experience a client would have with an in-house lawyer" by "go[ing] deep into the client's business." He said that most of his work involves the "day-to-day business of helping these companies make money and build relationships, and taking the company from a small, disorganized startup to a more mature business."

When asked why cash-strapped startups should spend money on attorneys, Vail commented, "Every business that's growing needs legal support to do deals and generate revenue" and that, for better or worse, lawyers are necessary in order to "make people keep their promises." But, because they are cash-strapped, for many of these companies, it wouldn't make sense for them to hire a full-time general counsel yet, so the FLEX program helps solve the existing legal need while allowing companies to focus most of the dollars spent in the crucial growth areas of the company. As Vail noted, "Typically these companies are at a stage where they're going to hire the next engineer or salesperson before they hire their first lawyer. And they're typically not at the stage where they have a sufficient volume of work to justify a full-time legal resource."