Who are you?
Avaneesh: My name is Avaneesh Marwaha and I am a proud alumnus of Valparaiso Law School Class of 2005.
Can you tell me about your firm and what you do?
Avaneesh: After receiving my law degree, I joined a small boutique firm in Chicago but soon realized that what I really wanted was to go out on my own. Shortly thereafter, I started my own practice that focused on the needs of medium-sized companies. My goal was to find a way to become more of a true counsel who could add real value rather than be the attorney they’d call when they needed help.
I started using a small monthly retainer model for clients that gave them unlimited access via phone calls and conversations so I could be more actively involved in the board room. I wanted to prove that I could be a true partner in their growth and not just another vendor.
Soon, I came into contact with a company called Code Red. It was a young organization that had been in business about three or four years and focused on the healthcare market with a product set that included CPR, first-aid training and defibrillators. I was providing real guidance and realized that we had some pretty good ideas together for growing the business. So good in fact, that I became an investor.
A few months later, Code Red received VC financing, and in 2009 I became the company’s Chief Operating Officer. Over the next two and a half years, we became one of the nation’s largest providers of CPR and first-aid training. We were well known to the American Heart Association and became one of the top ED distributors in the country. In 2011 we sold Cold Red, and for the last year – from June 2011 until the end of July 2012 – I was helping another company go public while revamping their business model and fundraising plan.
In the course of doing that, Keno Kozie – an organization that specialized in IT design, service and support for law firms, came across my doorstep. It was almost a perfect fit for what I was looking to do long-term and where they wanted to go long-term. This company had been in operation since 1988, in August, I became the Chief Operating Officer.
You’ve stepped outside of the traditional law firm position; Why?
Avaneesh: My undergraduate degree is in pre-med bio but my focus changed after graduation. I really wanted to be involved as a member of an organization’s executive team in order to help transform and grow companies. I felt the law degree would make me more competitive than an MBA at that time, so I used it to learn how organizations make decisions, leveraged it to take on some risks, and then gained my MBA on the street.
How do you feel that Valparaiso Law specifically has helped you to get to where you are now?
Avaneesh: I’ve been talking to Dean Conison, and it looks like I’ll be joining the National Council. Part of the reason I’m doing this is because of the efforts being made to help re-shape the law school.
One major goal is to have more graduates coming out who are business savvy and ready to enter the workforce. In a sense, I was lucky because I knew a lot of folks outside of Valparaiso and my education helped. There were definitely some core classes at Valparaiso that I relied on heavily my first year as an attorney and still do to this day.
Is there anything else that you want to say to alumni or anything else about the law school that you feel is important?
Avaneesh: When we move on from any organization we’ve been a part of, even if we don’t think at that time that there was any sort of positive gain or valuable experience, it will still have affected us in some way and helped to shape who we are.
At some point in everybody’s career or life, you have to examine those opportunities and try to find a way to give back. When I came out of law school, I felt that I really hadn’t gained much besides a degree. But looking back now over the last seven or eight years, I see how I could help the school move forward.
A selfish result is that it makes my degree more valuable because Valparaiso will have better students coming out. There’s always an opportunity to make changes in things you were involved in. Sometimes people complain that they didn’t do anything or that the school didn’t help out. But my question to them is what have you done to go back and help change it?