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Friends launch law firm for entrepreneurial clients

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Two former law school classmates are reuniting, each leaving an established firm to start their own venture, in an effort to serve a smaller, more entrepreneurial client base.

John Kyle and Jeffrey Harris — who met on the first day of class at the University of San Diego School of Law in 1995 — are being joined by Eric Ludwig, a former deputy district attorney, to form the law firm Kyle Ludwig Harris.

Kyle recently left Cooley LLP, where he was a partner; Harris is a former shareholder at Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek.

"I just wanted to be a bit more entrepreneurial," Kyle said. "I (wanted) a bit more flexibility to take cases that I want to take, and in a way that makes economic sense for the client and for us as a law firm."

Kyle spent eight years at Cooley and, before that, was with Procopio Cory Hargreaves & Savitch, where he met Ludwig, for five years.

Kyle's practice encompasses intellectual property and business litigation.

Harris is a general business litigator; Ludwig, who has focused on complex financial crimes while working in the district attorney's office, has experience as an IP litigator.

"We want to be the next generation of trial lawyers in San Diego," Harris said. "I think there's been a little bit of a changing of the guard at the moment.

"We view the practice of law the same way. We have the same entrepreneurial interests and have an enormous amount of respect for each other."

Harris had been with Seltzer Caplan since 2000, and previously worked as general counsel for a small health care company.

Ludwig spent seven-plus years at Procopio, mainly practicing intellectual property litigation before joining the district attorney's office in early 2008.

"We're looking for innovative, entrepreneurial companies, inventors and individual investors and helping them extract the value of innovation by commercializing their technologies."

Their model is to share a lot of the risk with their innovative clients while providing a more reasonable billing rate.

"I was a Marine Corps harrier pilot in a past life, so I've always had a pretty high appetite for risk," Kyle said.

Ludwig felt it was time for a change and liked the idea of being responsible for his own success or failure.

"As daunting as it sounds, it has a pretty strong attraction," he said. "We can make whatever we want to make it."

Harris agreed.

"I think there's certainly a place for smaller, more nimble firms who can do things with more flexibility in billing rates than pure hourly-rate driven firms," he said.

"The (current) business model doesn’t work for smaller startups, independent investors and entrepreneurs, so that's a part of our focus — probably our primary focus."

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