The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Stephanie Sharron, Partner—Technology Transactions
Stephanie Sharron is partner in Morrison & Foerster’s Technology Transactions Group. Clients turn to Ms. Sharron for advice on the issues that apply to their business models in light of the rapid changes in business, technology, and law. She counsels companies in connection with technology and intellectual property transactions and related privacy, data security, and Internet safety issues. Ms. Sharron has represented companies across industries and technologies, including online businesses, cloud services, big data, e-commerce, mobile, life sciences, financial and health IT, digital media, retail, automotive, cleantech, and semiconductors, among others. Ms. Sharron also advises on the commercial technology and intellectual property aspects of mergers, acquisitions, asset spin-off transactions, and private equity investments. Ms. Sharron received her J.D. from Cornell Law School and her B.S. from UCLA.
Please provide an overview of what, substantively, your practice area entails.
Morrison & Foerster is recognized as one of the world’s leading law firms handling the full range of technology transactions, from the fundamental agreements emerging companies require to start their businesses to the most complex transactions. We assist established and emerging companies in creating and leveraging new technology platforms and harnessing evolving business models. We also advise on agreements and projects to implement technology. From collaboration agreements, to licenses and joint development agreements, asset purchases, marketing and distribution, joint ventures, and more, our practice encompasses a broad range of commercial and technology transactions.
What types of clients do you represent?
I represent established and emerging companies across industries and technologies, from the earliest stage seed-funded companies to companies that are in the Fortune 100. I counsel clients on the broad array of contractual approaches to partnering across sectors and have a particular focus on working with clients that are leveraging data through technology, including the Internet of Things (IoT) or that are developing connected products and platforms. I also help lead our Firm’s IoT, FinTech, and HealthTech initiatives. I have worked with many clients focused in life sciences, mobile and cloud technologies and services, and CleanTech. I have practiced in the Silicon Valley my entire career. A number of my clients are companies located outside of the Silicon Valley that are also developing or adopting new and innovative technologies.
What types of deals and/or cases do you work on?
I advise private and public companies and entities in connection with technology, commercial, and intellectual property transactions and related privacy, data security, and online issues. I also advise on the commercial technology and intellectual property aspects of mergers, acquisitions, asset spin-off transactions, and private equity investments.
How did you decide to practice in your area?
I always had a deep interest in science and technology so pursuing a branch of law that focused on technology was a natural fit for me. I studied and performed research in the biological sciences at UCLA. I became interested in negotiation after participating in arms control simulations through the Political Science Department. I attended law school with the goal of integrating negotiation with my passion for science and technology, and was lucky enough to graduate at a time when the technology transactions practice area was in its infancy but quickly developing.
What is a typical day or week like in your practice area?
My days are as different as my clients. One day I might be in all-day negotiations on a strategic collaboration agreement between two industry giants, and another I may be meeting with several emerging company clients to discuss their options for licensing their products. I often juggle many matters in a single day and work with a number of other partners and associates within the firm, since my matters tend to touch on a range of legal issues.
What is the best thing about your practice area?
I enjoy helping my clients structure and negotiate high-level, complex commercial arrangements of all kinds in a focused manner, with an eye toward the client’s strategic objectives and business goals. I also love the fact that my job keeps changing with the pace of change in technology. I meet interesting people and my clients often are excited about the promise the projects they bring to me hold for the future.
What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?
Because my practice involves juggling many matters simultaneously, balancing the competing demands is sometimes a challenge. However, the variety is also what makes it so interesting!
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone hoping to enter your practice area?
From a substantive, legal perspective, I’d recommend obtaining experience reading and drafting contracts, honing your negotiation skills, and obtaining a solid grounding in both contract and intellectual property law principles. It is also helpful if you can speak to the industry your clients live in. I would recommend learning as much as possible about those industries.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area? What do you wish you had known before joining your practice area?
I think a misconception about my practice area is that it can be done by corporate lawyers and patent prosecutors just as well as technology transactions lawyers. Clients benefit from lawyers who are dedicated to this area of law. Specialized skills are needed to negotiate a transaction involving the development, purchase, sale, and/or licensing of technology. Expertise in both intellectual property and commercial law is required, as well as business acumen and knowledge of industry best practices.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm?
Morrison & Foerster is unique in that we have a destination practice for technology transactions. We also have the benefit of having one of the strongest data privacy teams in the world, strong regulatory and product liability capabilities across industries, global offices, and tremendous patent and intellectual property litigation capabilities. This allows us to bring together a team that can efficiently and pragmatically solve complex problems much more easily than most other firms. Also, for many other firms, technology transactions is a sideline practice that resides within either their corporate, M&A, or IP practices. At MoFo, we focus on attorneys who are wholly dedicated to this area of law. Since I joined the firm, we have remained committed to attracting the best talent to our Technology Transactions Group, and have particularly grown in depth of industry knowledge among our associates.
What activities do you enjoy when you are not in the office, and how do you make time for them?
When I am not in the office, I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I have a daughter who is in high school and a son who just started college. Together, we make our family a priority in our otherwise busy lives. I enjoy exploring new restaurants, visiting the National Parks, and attending a variety of cultural events, including the ballet and symphony.