Local Law Firms Court Startups with Discounted Services

From the Ottawa Business Journal – By David Sali; Published on April 08, 2014

After nearly two decades of helping entrepreneurs get on their feet, Kanata lawyer Debbie Weinstein has learned the brutal truth: when it comes to legal services, most new businesses would rather be spending their hard-earned capital on something – anything – else.

“A lot of these startups just have no money to pay legal fees,” says the co-founding partner of LaBarge Weinstein, which caters to just such enterprises. “And any money they do have really has to go into more important things, quite frankly.”

That’s just fine by Ms. Weinstein. If a new firm doesn’t have the cash to cover its fees, her firm will defer payments until it does. If a startup goes under before it can pay, it’s no big deal: LaBarge Weinstein writes it off. It’s as simple as that.

“It’s not lucrative to serve startups,” she says. “But what it is, it’s creating an inventory of clients, some of which are going to pop out and succeed.”

Her firm, which has a high-profile client list that includes Shopify and Halogen, writes off tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees every year, she adds.

“But that’s OK, because those guys may actually go to start another (company). We don’t see anything wrong with failure. When you have a client that you’ve helped for up to a year or more with no fees, and they turn out to be successful, they’re a client for life. That’s what we’ve built.”

LaBarge Weinstein is just one of many Ottawa law firms vying for a piece of the startup pie. With venture capital financing showing signs of a rebound after more than a few lean years, other firms are stepping up efforts to lend a hand to budding entrepreneurs.

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