Otto Hanson embraces the philosophy of "giving first." As the CEO of legal technology startup TermScout, Hanson has seen how generosity to others and the community not only feels good but results in unexpected rewards in the long run. He spent his time at Colorado Law preparing to enter the startup world and landed a promising career in which he develops his vision and gives first.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a “typical” work day look like?
TermScout is a small legal tech startup with a team of five people (three of whom – me, Katherine Snow [’17], and Bill Mooz [’85]– are Colorado Law alumni), so the job varies greatly from day to day. As the CEO, my main responsibilities are raising money and making sure we meet payroll, attracting and retaining top talent, and developing and communicating the vision. Since we’re small though, a typical day usually involves much more: working with our contract analysts on developing our legal product, working with our tech team on developing our technology and intellectual property assets, finance projects, investor pitches, or trying to figure out what payroll processing provider to go with. Just last month I left my practice at Davis Graham & Stubbs, which focused mostly on startups and tech companies, so I did a lot of tech transactions, early stage finance, and related work.
How did you find your job?
I landed a 2L summer position with DGS through On-Campus Interviews (OCI), and they extended an offer at the end of the summer. TermScout was born out of my work in commercial contracting – clients would ask me to review click-through agreements for companies like AWS or Salesforce and it dawned on me that these one-to-many contract could be reviewed once, really well, by a neutral third-party, and those reviews could be licensed back to those vendor’s customers at a fraction of what they would pay to have a law firm review them.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
The OCI process was extremely helpful (even though the odds of getting one of those jobs, even if you do get an interview, are slim). I learned a ton from the micro-interview/speed dating process that OCI employs. I also did the Tech Lawyer Accelerator with Bill Mooz and his team my 1L summer, which was an amazing kickstart to my career. We didn’t know it then, but Bill Mooz would later be a fundamental part of the TermScout team, as an investor, board member, and now our chief product officer.
What skills do you utilize on a daily basis and how did your experiences or courses at Colorado Law help you develop these skills?
I knew I wanted to get into startups from law school, so I focused heavily on experiences that I thought would help. The most valuable courses and experiences from my tenure at Colorado Law were the Tech Lawyer Accelerator, the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic, Amy Bauer’s drafting class, Brad Bernthal and Jason Mendelson’s Venture Capital class, the Deming Center Venture Fund, and multiple transactional negotiating competitions.
Please talk a little about "people skills" and relationship building. How have your professional acquaintances (and friends) made a difference in your career?
I knew I wanted to settle in Colorado, so I took the time to invest in developing relationships with classmates, professors, and others that work in the startup, corporate, and technology spaces. The network I built at Colorado Law has been a huge part of my successes since law school, helping me attract clients to DGS, get into Techstars, raise money for TermScout, and recruit a world-class team.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
Brad Bernthal, Jason Mendelson, and various others in the startup community teach this philosophy of giving first. I took that advice seriously and incorporated it into my core ethos, agreeing to give back to the community and help generously wherever I could. That felt really good, but it’s also been good for building relationships with people, which is good for business. I don’t care what you call it, but there is a karmic justice out there that makes sure that folks who invest in their communities will be paid pack in powerful and unexpected ways down the road. So give generously, and trust that the world will see your generosity and pay it back in spades.
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
Colorado Law holds such a unique space in the world of legal education. You can get a world-class legal education, in a highly sought-after community known for quality of life, outdoor recreation, and a thriving economy, at relatively affordable tuition rates, and with a great job market. If you want to work in the mountain states, Colorado Law is a fantastic place to go to law school.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
I showed up to the open house for admitted students and left knowing that I’d found my community. Colorado Law (and Colorado generally), attracts a certain type of person—if you’re that person, you’ll know immediately when you visit. It was a gut feeling for me, and I’m so glad I trusted my gut—it set me up for success with an amazing set of legal and business tools and a world-class and ultra-supportive professional network.