Beer Man

Transactional business lawyer Adam Marshall knows business and brews

Published in 2010 Oklahoma Rising Stars — November 2010

Adam Marshall is a good guy to have on your side. He knows the law and, thanks to his family’s brewery, he knows beer. The intersection of the two can sometimes prove comical.

“In the early days of the startup, my brother, my dad and I were spending a lot of time after business hours promoting the beer at any bar or restaurant that would have us,” Marshall says. “I often did not have time to change from my ‘law uniform,’ suit and tie, into my ‘beer uniform,’ a shirt with the beer logo. … People usually do not expect the beer guy to show up in a suit and tie.”

Marshall, who serves as vice president of and has an ownership interest in Marshall Brewing Co., was there from the original business plan to its success today.

“It’s a family business,” Marshall says. “My brother, Eric, is the brewmaster and CEO. It’s more of a part-time, when-I-have-time type of job [for me].” 

Marshall Brewing Co. shipped its first brews in 2008, just a year after the brothers Marshall started floating business-plan ideas between the East Coast—where Eric was brewing at a Philadelphia-area brewery—and Tulsa.

“Initially, I was involved with setting up the overall structure of the business, which included a few business entities, setting up a private offering to raise some startup capital. … It was quite a bit of work,” he says. “We went through both state and federal licensing.”

You can now find Marshall-brewed products in almost 20 Applebee’s restaurants in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City area, local independent eateries, and liquor stores statewide. Marshall’s current workload with the brewery consists of writing reports each month, and IP and trademark patrolling.

“Just offering front-line advice from the back office. That’s what I do officially,” he says. “Unofficially, I’m out in Oklahoma, like any other business owner, trying to sell what we feel is a good product.”

Then there’s his day job. After earning what he describes as a “broad-based liberal arts, learn-how-to-learn” degree from the University of Tulsa, Marshall began collecting letters after his name: first a J.D., then an M.B.A., both from the University of Oklahoma.

“I describe myself as a transactional business lawyer, which means that I’m mostly involved in business transactions: anything from selling stock to buying assets or mergers and acquisition, general contract drafting, even a little bit of general counsel-type work,” he says.

No day is typical at Tulsa’s Barrow & Grimm. “I could be doing anything from employment issues to an Oklahoma alcohol-related issue to an issue involved with federal procurement,” he says. “Last week I was reviewing some contracts for one of my clients who does federal procurement. The company needed security services in order to perform a U.S. government contract in Kabul, Afghanistan. … It’s just strange what pops up.”

Inspired by the brewery and his mother, who owns a children’s clothing store, Marshall has always had a soft spot for business owners. “I really believe in the cause of entrepreneurs,” he says. “Most of my clients are business owners. I firmly believe that being a business owner myself enhances my ability to understand and serve the needs of my clients. I have found that actually being involved in a business from inception and startup to operation and profitability lends a certain credibility when counseling entrepreneurs.”

That sensibility spans a variety of types of enterprises. Beginning in 2008, Marshall spent time in the social networking world with client Ping.fm, a one-shot Web-based service that allows users to simultaneously send updates and pictures across the gamut of more than 30 social networking platforms that include Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and LinkedIn.

“I was able to follow this company, which started in a business incubator in Tulsa,” he says. “I helped with the initial offering and the capital infusion from some big-name investors, including [the founder of] LinkedIn.”

Marshall also worked on Ping.fm’s acquisition by Seesmic, a San Francisco-based company that moved the Ping.fm headquarters to the West Coast.

“This all happened at a very accelerated pace,” Marshall says. “But it was so interesting to help foster the start-to-finish life cycle of a tech company.”

And he’s still having lots of fun with his own company. He and his brother enjoy slinging beer name ideas back and forth. One of his favorites is Big Jamoke, a name that the company used for a limited release porter.

“Big Jamoke is the name of a B-25 airplane that our grandfather flew in World War II,” he says. “Some like that are easy to come up with. Others are excruciating, when you’re so mental-blocked.”

It’s at that point the brothers retire to the tasting room for a little R & R. “If you can find a Marshall Oktoberfest, that’s a real treat,” Marshall says. “But I find myself year round reaching for the Atlas IPA.” 

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