Since returning to private practice, almost four years ago now, my team and I have been trying to improve our efficiency each time we document the organization of a startup.
By and large, this means sticking to a standard set of forms that we improve in an iterative fashion.
I get closer to thinking we might promise and deliver a standard suite of founders documents for no charge, other than the valuable investment of time the founders make in us. Startups, at least in the IT and web space, will typically need early support in negotiating development agreements, licenses, even NDAs (which bigger companies sometimes populate with hidden trade secret licenses); if there is cash for legal, it makes more sense, to founders and lawyers alike, to spend it on productive commercial relationships rather than protective internal governance.
Besides, the founding documents should not stray far from what investors and purchasers will expect to find when doing due diligence. So customizing industry-accepted boilerplate is not only costly, but fraught with hazard.
At the same time, it's rarely the case that founding documents won't require some original effort.
I'm not talking about discussions to make sure founders are adequately informed and have a path to understanding what the company is asking them to sign. That's a single conversation, a series of meetings, or something in between, depending on the experience of the entrepreneurs.
No, I'm talking about one-off circumstances that make almost every founding unique.
Take that agreement with a prior employer that purports to require the entrepreneur to give a right of first refusal to non-assignable IP. Enforceable? Not likely; but are there things we should be doing now to mitigate ambiguity later? Or take well-intended but premature actions of a founder that might make it tougher to have confidence that an 83(b) election will work. The list goes on, but I'm reluctant to bring up those that are top of mind at the moment.
It's never quite as simple as you think it should be, as you always hope (in spite of knowing better!) that it will be.