Multinational law firm Dentons is launching a startup program in Canada, helping tech startups incorporate and advising them on all things legal in their line of business.
While Dentons Canada has already been working with a number of startups in Toronto, Ottawa, and Kitchener-Waterloo, it is now going to formalize a program specifically to meet startups’ needs, it announced Tuesday.
The law firm typically provides legal consultation for startups at the early stage level. Some of these companies have gone on to join accelerators like Y Combinator in the U.S., says Andre Garber, the director of the program.
“We’ve worked with high-quality startups that have graduated from that service to full-blown companies, and we’ve done that over the years. So this is more just formalizing our approach,” he says, adding although incubators and accelerators often provide tips for startups looking to incorporate, their advice is often a little broad.
“When you look at the protection of intellectual property, I think there are services available at some of these accelerators that are fine on a rudimentary level … but I think it’s great to get them plugged into, let’s say, the jurisdiction they really want to make sure they’re protected in the most.”
As part of the program, Dentons Canada gives startups their own online portal, where they can find legal documents and get help in customizing them for their own needs. Garber and his team are also on hand to help draft co-founders and advisors’ agreements, or walkthroughs on complying with regulations or on protecting intellectual property.
Startups also get access to networks of lawyers and advisors around the world, he says. Dentons has offices in tech hotbeds like Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and New York City. It also has connections to lawyers in Europe, which can be key for startups looking to do business in jurisdictions outside Canada.
The program’s legal fees are heavily discounted, Garber adds. While he wouldn’t provide a specific fee estimate, he says they’re less than what companies would typically pay for legal advice since Dentons Canada wants to support the startup space.
And although his team will agree on a set number of billable hours ahead of time, Garber’s often available to speak to startups whenever they need help or legal advice. Sometimes, that means getting calls at unpredictable hours, he says.
“From the get-go, they’re protected, and they can lean on us and know that we’re accessible for that call at one in the morning on a Sunday, or two in the morning on a Wednesday, or whenever they go and are about to meet their favourite advisor they want to bring on the team, that they can give us a call, and they’re not going to feel like the clock is running,” he says.
“We’re in this space, and we understand to have to be committed, and part of that commitment is 24/7 access.”
For Garber, working at the same pace as a startup is nothing new. He worked at a law firm for a summer in Ottawa, eventually meeting a number of startups in the city and learning about the challenges these companies faced. And when he was still in high school, he founded his own events services company and recording studio, so he says he feels he understands much of what startups go through.
“I’ve always been interested in the space,” he says. “I learnt about managing expenses, and I learned about trying to make things work on a shoestring budget and trying to grow something.”
Startups interested in joining the Dentons Canada program can apply by getting in touch with Garber.
And to check out IT Business.ca’s incubator and accelerator directory, head on over here.