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When the Divorce Lawyer Isn’t the Right Kind

He got me through an awful divorce, so Bart [not his real name] is the lawyer I want by my side through this negotiation.” 

Bobby (not his real name) is selling his company to a private equity (PE) group that is rolling up companies in his industry. He told me he had one shot to make this work. “If they didn’t buy my company, they were going to buy my competitor, and that would have put me in a tough spot.”

Bobby did not take his company to market. In fact, selling wasn’t even on his radar for 2023, but when this buyer emerged, he decided to try to get a deal done. While we are still negotiating with the buyer around valuation and payment terms, I have encouraged Bobby to think ahead about his need for M&A counsel. After all, these PE groups come to the document-drafting process with experienced, and sometimes ruthless counsel. I want my clients to have equally experienced legal counsel on their side.

There’s a bit of backstory to Bobby’s desire to have Bart represent him in the sale of his company. It seems Bobby’s former wife came to the divorce-bargaining table ready for war, and she hired an extremely demanding and aggressive attorney. “I would have wilted in 30 minutes against my ex’s lawyer. Had Bart not been at my side through the process, I’d be a broke man today, not that I have all that much left anyway.”

I explained to Bobby that the legal profession is much like the medical profession. There are specialists for everything. Have you ever asked a cardiologist about your sore back? They have no idea. The same phenomenon exists in the legal profession. My bet is Bart does mostly divorce cases. Asking him to take on an M&A process against an experienced M&A attorney on the other side is like taking a butter knife to a gunfight. Somebody might get hurt, and it’s likely not the other guy. 

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Tennessee Valley Group

Jim is an attorney (non-resident status with the Missouri Bar) and though he no longer practices law, he has read and negotiated enough legal documents to fill a cargo tanker. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and knows how Wall Street and private equity operates. Jim is a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 listed general civil mediator with tons of experience helping business owners (large and small) work through sensitive problems to achieve winning results. He is the author of "Home Run, A Pro's Guide to Selling Your Business, Seven Principles to Make Your Company Irresistible."

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