December 20, 2023

I didn’t need a lawyer when I started my startup. You probably don’t either

The vast majority of a startup's legal work can be completed in-house, even without a legal expert

David von Rosen

4 min read

David von Rosen, founder of Lottoland

It's normal for founders to cover a wide range of roles and functions in the early stages of building a startup. They recruit, pitch to investors, lead product development, plan marketing strategies and calculate finances.

So, why not cover the legal work too?

It might sound like a joke, but in my experience it can be one of the most effective strategies for bootstrapping a business end-to-end. 

Many founders put legal work in the "too hard basket", but while it may seem beyond their area of expertise, the vast majority of a startup's legal work can be completed in-house, even without a legal expert. 


Most of it can be researched online: everything from drafting employee contracts and IP patents, adhering to compliance and regulatory procedures, and much more.

By doing this legal groundwork themselves, founders aren’t going to be milked dry before their startup can get off the ground. It will also put you at an advantage when you step into the room with a lawyer.

It’s all about equipping the startup with a principled understanding of how to avoid legal pitfalls and understand their basic legal obligations.

Statistics show that 90% of startups fail, and legal issues can sometimes be a catalyst for problems.

And while taking on this legal work may soak up time and energy, it means you can commit investment to other vital aspects of the business, such as product development and building a team. 

As you grow, you can share the workload: an HR manager for recruitment, a head of marketing to manage the brand and generate leads, a CTO to ensure a robust technology infrastructure. But hiring legal expertise should be one of the last on the list.

If, and when, you do need to bring onboard legal expertise, founders should look at working with a boutique agency. 

I know from experience that these smaller law firms are far more attentive than the bigger players, which are costly and often treat startups as tier-three customers.

Most boutique firms specialise within a singular sector, providing the startup with a greater quality of service and a closer relationship that makes collaborating with the agency easier.

Statistics show that 90% of startups fail, and legal issues can sometimes be a catalyst for problems. But despite the seemingly daunting idea, shouldering legal responsibilities can get founders out of trouble.

How we did it

When we founded Lottoland, a platform which allows customers in 15 countries to enter lotteries from all over the world, we encountered a significant challenge during its pre-launch in 2012.


We needed to obtain a gambling licence, but we were quoted a six-figure sum for the legal application.

Of course, as a startup, this was far beyond our reach. But we couldn’t launch the business without the licence, so we needed a solution. 

In a last throw of the dice, I flew out to meet the lawyer. We had a nice dinner together, got to know each other and agreed that we’d work as hard and as much as possible to make the process easier and less time-consuming for him and his team.

I spent hours, days and weeks filling out forms, researching international compliance and looking into anything that could come between Lottoland and our license.

The result? We secured a fee one-quarter of the initial quote.

We also cut the expected length of the process from six months to two. We were able to launch — and start bringing in income — four months earlier than anticipated. 

We built up an accord and level of goodwill that has kept the relationship with the firm going for over 10 years.

As a token of our appreciation, we ended up paying the firm 150% of the agreed sum. It was only fair.

I can honestly say that this early experience was make or break for the business. If startups hope to gain an advantage in the current landscape where competition, rules and regulations are much tougher than they were before, they need to take the same approach.

So, to reiterate, here are the three landmark pieces of advice I’d give:

  1. Do the legal groundwork yourself to ensure you’re not managing your startup blind, you’re well-represented when the time to speak with a lawyer comes and you’re keeping costs low to hit profitability sooner.
  2. Always work with a boutique agency over a larger law firm. You’ll save a lot of money, and you’ll develop a much stronger relationship that will stand the test of time.
  3. Leverage your ambition for the business to ask for a startup discount. It always works.

Launching a startup is hard. Undertaking legal work is much harder. But ten years down the line, when you’ve avoided costly legal pitfalls, secured your intellectual property and navigated regulatory landscapes successfully, you'll look back and realise investing the extra time and effort was worth it.

David von Rosen

David von Rosen is founder of international lottery platform Lottoland.