(Delivered by Host)
Michael Lee is an attorney and founding partner of R.U.I. attorneys – a Silicon Valley litigation and transactional law firm. Michael founded the firm after service as an attorney with the United States Attorney’s Office, the US Internal Revenue Service, and the US District Court. The primary focus of his transactional practice is structuring international business transactions and wealth management services for high-net worth families to promote tax efficiency via US-foreign treaties or sophisticated multi-modal estate planning. Regarding litigation, his practice focuses on complex insolvency, distressed transactions, and tax controversy.
(Delivered by Michael Lee)
Representatives of the Chinese Consulate General, Hunan Association of San Francisco, and all friends and guests here tonight.
Good Evening. It is my sincere pleasure and privilege to speak before you and to be included among such high caliber presenters as have gathered here tonight.
To be fair, even as an attorney, speaking in front of a large group in this context can be intimidating. Thus I often rely on some advice given to me from a federal judge and dear friend of mine who said this about legal writing.
You only need to remember two rules for legal writing:
One, have a point.
Two, make it.
Naturally I hope this advice is equally applicable to public speaking, and I hope to achieve those simple goals, now.
As an attorney, per my training, I usually view issues through a legal lens; however, I believe the best foundation and “law” for my remarks tonight are drawn not from the law, but from literature and that of British science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke and his three laws of technology.
Clarke’s three laws are these:
- When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, they are almost certainly right. When they state that something is impossible, they are very probably wrong.
- The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
- Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Silicon Valley prides itself in adhering to all of these laws and of course, we can easily see the application of these laws directly in technology but what about the system supporting this technology.
I assert, you can find the same ingenuity.
For the first law, I cite to California’s reinvigoration of the use of the limited partnership as a start-up financing tool. Most of you are probably more familiar with this structure by its colloquial name “venture capital”. Historically, the limited partnership was an awkward vehicle used to finance real estate development - often on the east coast because of local tax rules. Silicon Valley however had a different idea. Silicon Valley saw the same vehicle and saw something else – the ability to combine investment with knowledge to fund projects early with high levels of focus and a firm exit strategy. The VC fund has been a revolution in company capital formation. This conversion of the possible to the achievement of the impossible, fuels Silicon Valley to this day. As an attorney, I could not resist providing you all this somewhat wonky technical example, but I wish to digress for my second point.
For the second law, I wish to cite something more personal but I believe highly applicable to the Silicon Valley story. I am not originally from Silicon Valley. I grew up far away, outside of a rural town, that I often introduce to people as a city that is mentioned late in the novel, Grapes of Wrath but the family kept driving. The Grapes of Wrath is a novel about a family escaping the ‘dust bowl’ of the midwest and seeking a new life in California, but interestingly or perhaps appropriately were not interested in my hometown.
Like many of us in this room, I was an outsider. But like Clarke’s maxim, the only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. Silicon Valley’s great discovery was that the limits of the possible are not geographic. Innovation is powered globally. It is a product of cooperation and interconnectedness. I couldn’t have imagined becoming a Silicon Valley attorney as a child, I believe many likewise look at where they are now and feel the same. The pushing of boundaries be them technological or constructed such as national boarders is a further hallmark of Silicon Valley style innovation.
And lastly the third law, just as with any sufficiently advanced technology, any sufficiently advanced system is indistinguishable from magic. Silicon Valley produces magic. The magic that makes things happen, the magic that solves problems. That isn’t a location, that is an idea. But Silicon Valley is not really a location. It is an idea. It is an idea to combine technological prowess, advanced capital structures, and sophisticated law, to enable great things to happen.
‘The sum of the parts, is greater than the whole.’
However, we must not forget that this whole, is a product of the parts. We are the parts and we need more parts every day. Thus I welcome you all to become a part of the Silicon Valley idea and wish you all much success in the future.
Thank you and it has a been a sincere pleasure.