Law firm Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP – better known as Gowlings – is offering technology startups a primer on legal issues they may face along the way. Executives at three young technology companies say the idea is a good one,
provided Gowlings delivers the goods.
Gowlings has announced plans to hold its Technology Boot Camp in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Waterloo, Ont., in late May. The firm will hold the half-day sessions at its offices in those cities.
Gowlings also has offices in Hamilton, Calgary and Vancouver, and Brad Limpert, a partner and co-chair of the Technology Industry Group at Gowlings in Toronto, said the firm might consider holding similar sessions at those offices, or in cities where it does not have offices, in future.
Limpert said Gowlings has previously run breakfast sessions on specific legal topics, but has never done anything quite like the Technology Boot Camp before. “It came through what we saw as very recurring themes or issues that our clients in the technology area were having,” he said. “We sort of got together and said, ‘Well, wouldn’t it be helpful to them if we put together a little half-day program?’”
The program will start at 8:30 a.m. and run until 2:00 p.m., with lunch included. Limpert said it will be a series of roughly half-hour sessions, with plenty of time for questions and interaction. The registration fee is $150 per person.
“It’s going to be short and snappy, very practically oriented,” Limpert said. “If you’re coming expecting detailed elaboration on case law, this isn’t the place to come.”
The sessions will cover intellectual property law, employment issues, financing, the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax credit program, company organization, privacy law, and alliances, co-operation agreements and joint ventures.
John Woronczuk, vice-president of marketing and sales at Kanata, Ont.-based Netistix Technologies Corp., a three-year-old maker of fleet management technology, said the list covers “a lot of hot topics for companies that are in the early stage or startup mode.” He said intellectual property is a particularly vital area for technology entrepreneurs to understand.
Woronczuk added that the legal issues of doing business outside of Canada – a topic not on Gowlings’ agenda – are also important for emerging technology companies.
Tim Griffin, president of five-year-old Userful, a division of e-complex Inc. in Calgary whose software allows a single personal computer to support multiple thin clients, said the sessions could be useful if they give real value at low cost. “Startup companies need to be careful how they spend their cash,” he said. Griffin said it would be especially helpful if attendees received boilerplate agreements or templates they could use in their businesses.
Limpert said there will be materials for participants in the boot camps to take away. He could not say whether boilerplate agreements might be included.
Michael McHale, president and chief executive of Telbotics Inc., a Toronto-based maker of telepresence technology, said the boot camps would be most useful for people just beginning their new ventures. “If you’re already incorporated and in business, it’s probably a little late,” he said.
Limpert said, however, that Gowlings is aiming the sessions both at brand-new companies and at those that are already in business with “a half dozen or a dozen employees” and need advice to help them grow.
McHale said he is sometimes amazed at how many technology companies lack formal legal agreements. “All these things should be thought about,” he said. He added that the boot camps are a good marketing move for the law firm.
The boot camps are scheduled for May 25 in Montreal, May 26 in Ottawa, May 30 in Toronto, and May 31 in Waterloo. Information and an online registration form are available at www.gowlings.com/courses/bootcamp2005.