Hamburger
Trent Dykes

Cisco Palao-Ricketts

Partner, Silicon Valley

cisco.palao-ricketts@dlapiper.com |T +1 650 833 2190F +1 650 687 1190

I was born in Cuzco, Peru in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and lived there until I was about six-and-a-half years old as an American born abroad. In 1983, Peru was not safe because the government was fighting Maoist guerilla fighters, so my mother, brother and I moved to a farm in Crete, Illinois where my grandparents lived. Although my grandfather was a doctor in family medicine, he loved the farm life, so I grew up with cattle, horses, geese, ducks, chicken and many dogs. The farm life, though, was not easy; my grandfather was a tough guy who lived through both the Great Depression and World War II, and he sincerely believed that farm chores started at 6 am on Saturday and Sunday.

Today, I'm a compensation lawyer. My elevator pitch is that I am a one-stop shop on the many laws impacting how employers pay employees and consultants in the technology and life sciences sectors. For startups, this often means I focus on the rules for compensating founders, executives and new hires, especially with restricted stock and stock options. I have a sincere passion for what I do − I've focused on compensation as my field of law since my third year of law school and I sought out a specialized law degree from Georgetown to learn all aspects of it. I've been working in the area of compensation law for over 12 years now.

I may not have completely appreciated it at the time when I was working on my grandfather's farm, but I really believe that the mental resolve I learned while building and mending fences, moving cattle and taking care of animals, and hauling feed (often in poor weather conditions) when I was a kid serves me well today, especially when I need to mentally push through difficult IRS, Department of Labor or SEC rules to come to a practical solution for a client on a compensation issue.

Why startups? The energy and vibe of startup entrepreneurs is infectious to my law practice; it’s a big reason why I like what I do so much.

Recommended reads: Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance.

Garage to global: Startups need a firm like DLA Piper because businesses are searching across borders for human talent. I see this every day with the compensation arrangements that I work on. In order to get the best talent and to obtain creative people from different talent pools, startups cannot avoid the global marketplace of employees and consultants. Encountering the issues that come with crossing national borders, however, requires an understanding of the potential pitfalls and a clear evaluation of where to go, how to do it and what the common traps are. At DLA Piper, we work to strike the right balance: we have the domestic legal experience for handling matters at home, but we also have the full ability to handle the international matters too, which means that the issues will be spotted and that a business can be proactive in making informed business decisions quickly before the wrong path is taken.

Passions: Mountain climbing, running, trail hiking, doing the New York Times crossword with a good cup of coffee, and hanging out with my kids. I’ve also spent the last few years reading everything I can about the Great Sioux Nation of the Great Plains.

Related Articles