Your firm opened July 1. Why now?
There is a lot that goes into a long-term decision like this and, I will say, the landscape in Buffalo has evolved. It’s now no longer possible to service what I call the “old Buffalo industry,” So I think the time was right to do what we are doing.
As the new kid on the block — in terms of the firm, not its lawyers — what sets you apart from other Western New York firms?
There are two parts of a successful business: There is the business side that is pretty comparable when it comes to business regulation and helping companies in terms of corporate issues, and every firm out there is trying to do that. What we are doing that is different than that is this: We have discovered that Buffalo doesn’t have a lot of Fortune 500 companies owning the businesses in this region; we have a lot of entrepreneurs. So we are gearing our representation to the individual entrepreneur, and we think because of our diversity we can service them in ways that other firms can’t.
The economy is still shaky. How much was that on your mind as you prepared to launch Colligan Law?
On the contrary, it’s actually the reason for launching the firm. We are going to focus on what we call the new Buffalo economy, which is entrepreneurial, startups and businesses that are on the cutting edge. For example, they are building the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus out — we expect to see a lot of spin-outs from that and we are positioning ourselves to represent those people. At the same time, we will also have the traditional businesses that we represent like the closely held, middle-market, successful businesses.
When you decided to open your own firm, did you give any thought to moving from downtown to the suburbs?
The way I look at that issue is this: All the action in Western New York is focused downtown right now. The drivers in Buffalo right now are waterfront development, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and what I would call the central business district buildout. The major investments are occurring downtown so we never gave any thought to going out to the suburbs and, in fact, I would suggest that the exact opposite is happening. The suburban law firms have been moving closer to the central business core in recent years, just to be closer to where the action is. And I think you will see that trend continue.
You chair Buffalo Angels, a group focused on investing in startups. What is its role in the continued growth of Western New York?
The Buffalo Angels are here to answer the question: How do you get money for a new business in Buffalo? You get it by pitching to investors who have a willingness to take a risk by supporting a startup through its formative stages. It’s exciting to be part of because you get to see a lot of the companies that emerge as a successful startup months, if not years, before the rest of the public even knows they exist. We look at some 30 companies a year and we invest in probably 10 a year as a group. We don’t expect all of those companies to make it, but the ones that do will form the basis of our new economy. Based on what we are seeing, I think you will see the number of companies in Western New York grow dramatically in the next five years.