Law firms in seduction mode for start-ups

[Photo: 123RF]

The number of start-ups and other start-ups is growing rapidly in Quebec. Major law firms do not want to miss out on these clients, admittedly at an early stage of development and without major financial means, but it will develop in Québec inc. of tomorrow. It even becomes a target where most companies compete, competing with offers tailored to its needs.

Langlois lawyers just joined the dance by launching, on May 22, its Projet L-inc program. This makes available to start-ups and start-ups a range of standard legal services at the time of inception (incorporation, contracts between shareholders, etc.) at “advantageous” rates, according to the firm, and largely fixed. “We operate à la carte and we offer several billing methods tailored to this client,” said Charles Lapointe, partner at Langlois attorneys.

BCF Imagine with BCF Avocats d’affaires, launched in March, Startup & Growth at Borden Ladner Gervais, to be set up in Quebec after a positive pilot operation in Western Canada in recent months, Go Inc. and Lavery, since 2014, ViaFasken to Fasken Martineau, since last fall: the programs have different names, but are identical.

These typically include packages that allow access to certain contracts needed by start-up companies, some hours of advice, flexible terms of payment and above all predictable rates and sometimes lower than the fees typically charged by the firm. For example, Lavery offers “packages to give companies cost predictability, because it’s important to them, and prices that are 50 to 75% lower than our standard prices. Then there’s a gradual shift in company fees, ”explains Étienne Brassard, partner at Lavery and head of the Go Inc. program, which also provides banks with consulting time. Set up in 2014, the program supports it’s 75 companies. ”A team of 10 people, including several partners, is committed to Go Inc.,” Mr. Brassard continued.

Young lawyers, drivers of change

However, companies do not have the same approach to selecting clients in these programs. Some, like Fasken Martineau, choose them, and the selection process is rigorous, because they want to identify the most promising companies, the future nuggets. “Supporting these young shoots with an accessible program is an investment for us. We’re taking risks, so we choose clients who use the same criteria as venture capital funds,” Jean- explains. Nicolas Delage, partner at Fasken Martineau, which primarily targets technology start-ups. Other firms, such as Langlois attorneys, are opening up their program to a wider clientele.

As elsewhere, young lawyers from the Langlois law firm made the proposal for Project L-inc. in their direction. “We clearly see the reality of our customers in the field, that they have limited resources, and we realize that the needs of different companies at this stage of development are often the same”, says Charles Lapointe , 27, at the origin of the project with Simon Chenard. Management will rarely hesitate to follow it, because their future depends on it. Not only do companies get and retain their future clients this way, but if they don’t, this clientele, courted by boutique firms that are more agile and easily accessible than large companies, is in great danger to escape them.

However, this is not an easy task. Clients of start-ups and start-ups are “forcing us to renew our ways of doing things to be better and more accessible,” acknowledges Pascale Dionne, partner, corporate and commercial group, in Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG). The reality of start-ups and start-ups are challenges with spades and minimal financial means to deal with them with appropriate expertise. “Legal costs can be significant for start-ups, with other priorities,” Pascale Dionne acknowledges. “This is a client who needs certainty about costs and needs a good knowledge of the environment,” said Éric Bédard, managing partner at Fasken Martineau.

Adaptation efforts are needed for large skills

Limited financial resources at this stage of their development, small groups of founders stretched towards the growth of their project and not always accustomed to management, major legal challenges to protect intellectual property property that they often only own: these facts ensure that we need to take a different approach to these entrepreneurs. “You have to speak the same language to them, make the law popular and adapt to their pace. These people have atypical work schedules and need quick answers because they grow so fast. We have to be reached at night. and responds at any time, ”explained Charles Lapointe, from Langlois attorneys.

It is not easy for large firms to adapt to this new clientele, when they have high fixed costs, prestigious addresses, posh offices, well -dressed lawyers and billing practices every time. For all these reasons, start-ups have no reflex to contact large law firms, which is why they should look. “We have a lot of education to do to give these entrepreneurs the habit of structuring their business from scratch to avoid problems later and contact a lawyer to avoid,” said Christian Jacques, partner at Fasken Martineau. “I want them to understand that an attorney is not an expense, but a development and growth partner,” Charles Lapointe added.

To bring these new companies to them and introduce themselves, many law firms are involved in the ecosystem of start-ups and business start-up assistance. Funding organizations, free information sessions on incubators and accelerators, many forms. BCF Avocats d’affaires has strategic alliances with La Ruche, Centech and PME MTL; Lavery is a partner of the Montreal Foundation Inc. and notably offer voluntary tutoring to Foundation winners; Fasken Martineau is involved with Fonderfuel and Maison Notman. It often goes further: lawyers working in this market often show personal commitment by sitting on the boards of ecosystem organizations.

This ecosystem is fertile ground for promising young shoots. “All the large companies we have clients with today were formerly small companies,” recalls Mario Charpentier, managing partner of BCF Business Lawyers. To ensure our sustainability, we must fill the pipeline with new start-ups. ”

The case of ViaFasken

Contract models, smart form filling, automatic archiving of many company legal documents, access to information anytime and anywhere. Through ViaFasken, Fasken Martineau continues. The company this fall launched a technological version of its support program for start-ups.

“It eliminates many steps, sending emails, redundant data entries. Documents inherent in collaboration with the client, such as the letter of mandate, are automatically generated by the system”, rejoices Jean-Nicolas Delage. It is the accurate analysis of processes, the division of tasks, the standardization and the automation of some aspects that have enabled such a platform to see the light of day.

The benefit: “It allows us to be more efficient, to reduce our costs, and therefore, to be able to offer the expertise of lawyers from a large law firm to start-ups.

The platform also offers additional value to the customer. Simply storing documents, sorted and presented as required by venture capital funds, helps greatly and eliminates costs. Once the client has obtained financing and investors have asked him for all the official documents, he no longer has to pay an attorney at the hourly rate to research and validate documents. Moreover, the system plans to gather all the information in the life of the company, not just the legal documents ”, continued Mr. Delage.

The selected company will then be able, at a cost of $ 200 per month for one year, to have access to this platform and two hours of consultation per month. This will help him in integrating the company, in the organizational structure and in the registration of a trademark, in addition to giving him access to model documents.

Innovate to stand out

The company prides itself on being “the first” in the start-up market by offering a program adapted to their realities since 2012. “After the crisis in 2008, we felt that the next wave of public investment was to do with entrepreneurship, that it is a farm to grow, ”recalls Christian Jacques. However, “we realize that contractors prefer not to contact us because they know the lawyer starts invoicing as soon as he or she answers the phone. However, it is very important that a company is properly organized from the start. This avoids problems later, simplifies some future steps and gives the company more credibility in front of potential investors, ”Jean-Nicolas Delage explains.

For five years, Fasken Martineau has supported nearly 300 companies, nearly 40% of which have raised venture capital at some point in their development.

“Our strength was to enter this market before the wave came, Mr. Delage observed, but when other companies started offering programs similar to ours, we thought we would find a way to change to continue. to differentiate ourselves. ” This is how the idea of ​​ViaFasken was born.

To develop this, the company relied on a lawyer trained in new technologies, Constantinos Ragas. This lawyer at Fasken Martineau was very interested in programming when he was a student and therefore gained technological skills in addition to his law degree. He created the beta version of the platform. The company only called external services for the finalization of the project. A new trend was born.

Also read:
Competition in the legal industry is still fierce
Strong news
OnRule changes access to justice
Technology is attacking the law

Leave a Comment