Dante Bradley – Volaris Group
At the time, more than a decade before the arrival of COVID-19 forced remote work on businesses, it was a novel idea. The Virtual Law Office, begun in 2010, was an entirely remote business.
As its founder and sole proprietor, Dante Bradley, explains, it was a small firm that offered typical legal services, but it stood out because it conducted affairs through email and video conferencing and rarely face to face.
Recently promoted from legal counsel for AssetWorks, a subsidiary of Volaris Group, to portfolio counsel for Volaris Group, Bradley says he didn’t take the typical path of an attorney, and that turned out to be perfect preparation for something no one predicted: the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new normal
The Volaris Group is a Canadian business that acquires, supports and grows niche software companies with a combination of strategy, best practices, benchmarking and financing. Because of Bradley, lately, it’s been acquiring businesses with virtually no in-person interaction.
Still, “purchasing a company is not a soulless transaction” under the new system, Bradley explains. “When trying to develop professional relationships across a computer screen, both parties need to put in extra effort to connect.”
Prior to the pandemic, acquiring a business involved hours of on-the-ground meetings in which Volaris executives would vet the company they’d like to add. But in a pandemic world, the road shows common in mergers and acquisitions weren’t possible. That’s where Bradley’s experience with virtual law came in.
Instead meeting in person, executives got together virtually, and they negotiated “novel and creative financial models and incentives” to mitigate risk, Bradley says.
“Our legal team was tackling safety protocols, human resource matters, supply chain problems and force majeure every day,” Bradley says. “We had major conferences we needed to reschedule or postpone. Some of our healthcare businesses needed guidance on HIPAA and telemedicine, and business units asked about data privacy for a remote workforce. Each day there was something new.”
He was in good company, though.
The pandemic has made most lawyers virtual practitioners, Bradley says. When he started his virtual office 11 years ago, it was a challenge, but early adopters of his idea recognized that new technologies could lower legal costs. At first, it was internet-based calls and video conferencing, then cloud services.
“At that time, the idea of storing firm and client data in the cloud was unthinkable,” he notes. “Virtual practitioners were at the forefront of the data protection and accessibility movement.”
By now, both attorneys and clients have seen the benefits, Bradley says. Lawyers must adapt to meet business expectations, and the number one driver of the attorney-client relationship is accessibility. If you haven’t developed that open-door relationship with your client, it’ll be that much harder to provide the client with the competent legal advice they need, according to Bradley.
Now, he says, in a context where some lawyers are returning to the office while others are planning on never returning, being successful in both settings is crucial, and he can point to Volaris Group as an indicator.
In Bradley’s portfolio alone, Volaris recently added businesses specialized in health care, education, non-profit and retail. In many of the deals completed during the lockdown, there were no site visits, and the lack of in-person contact made assessing the prospective companies more difficult, Bradley says.
“How can you counsel a client on the risks of purchasing a business when you aren’t able to walk inside the building?” Bradley asks. “You can’t discount the benefits of face-to-face meetings. When it comes to a complex acquisition, it’s more difficult to work through the really tough issues remotely. This is a challenge we have put a lot of time and effort to overcome.”
Research and development
A legal career focused on mergers and acquisitions wasn’t always his plan. Before going to law school, Bradley graduated with a degree in comprehensive science, chemistry, physics and biology from Villanova University. Then, he spent 18 months as a research scientist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
While doing pharmaceutical research, Bradley says he was exposed to things that weren’t on his radar, like patents and intellectual property, joint ventures, regulations and FDA approvals and M&A. It opened his eyes to a side of the business that appealed to him, so he did some soul searching and decided to go to law school.
After graduating from the Widener University School of Law in 2007, Bradley accepted an in-house position as a staff counsel for GEICO before opening the Pennsylvania Virtual Law Office in 2010. He then spent almost two years as staff counsel for Universal Health Services outside Philadelphia and then two years as the legal counsel for AssetWorks LLC starting in April 2019. He was promoted to portfolio counsel for a subset of companies within Volaris Group in January.
“For the rest of this year, we’re focusing on growing our portfolio with the addition of great software companies,” Bradley says. His team is primarily focused on adding businesses in the health care and asset management industries.
In addition, Bradley’s portfolio is hosting an event where business owners and leaders of companies acquired by Volaris Group will share their acquisition experiences. As Bradley explains, “it’s a great way for us to share post-acquisition success stories with companies considering joining the Volaris family.”
And yes, the event will be held virtually.
View this feature in the Vanguard Summer IV 2021 Edition here.
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