This blog posting is for two types of people: business people with a legal issue, and lawyers with a business issue. I’ll touch on each in order.
Businesses with Legal Issues
Good legal planning and good legal advice at an affordable price can be a challenge for many businesses. Issues like business structure, employment contracts, insurance, and intellectual property stand out as some key areas for startups to deal with. There’s a good post discussing some common issues faced by startups in Canada here.
Finding the right lawyer for your needs – which often means finding someone who can address your issues on a tight budget – can be a real challenge. Here is a list of topics to consider when thinking about retaining a lawyer. (Though this gives advice about the US, the suggestions generally apply in BC.)
Increasingly, lawyers are adapting to new technologies and are taking steps to streamline how legal services are provided. I’ll describe this in some more detail in the section below, but there is a growing trend of innovation in providing legal services. While this trend is more pronounced in the US than it is in Canada, there are signs that the Canadian legal market may become more innovative in the coming years.
But for here and now, what can you do if you have a legal problem? A new program being offered in Vancouver may be helpful for anyone with a commercial dispute who is looking for a lawyer.
The recently launched Commercial Trial Assistance Program (CTAP) is a first-in-Canada pilot project that matches associates from large law firms with those needing assistance for trial in the BC Supreme Court. The program includes a number of Vancouver law firms, and is facilitated by Access Pro Bono, which promotes access to justice in BC. All services offered under CTAP are at a significantly reduced, flat rate fee. If you are involved in litigation before the BC Supreme Court and want to find out if you are eligible for CTAP, contact Access Pro Bono at 604-424-9600.
Lawyers with Business Issues
For a variety of reasons – the financial crisis and tech change being just two – lawyers are talking about how to increase innovation in how legal services are provided. Again, there is more work done south of the border than there is in Canada, as you would expect based on population alone. But for lawyers interested in being entrepreneurial in how they provide legal services, this is an exciting time.
As proof, here are some links to a recent event in Silicon Valley, and a current innovation meet-up in Toronto. The Silicon Valley event was spawned by the ReInvent Law Laboratory at the Michigan State University College of Law. In addition, a growing number of BC law firms are experimenting with completely virtual offices, shared offices, other ways to reduce overhead, and with flat-fee and other billing plans to give more predictability or flexibility to their clients.
So, as the links suggest, there are reasons for entrepreneurs to pay attention to legal matters, and reasons for lawyers to pay attention to entrepreneurship matters.
About the Author:
Andrew Pilliar is a PhD student at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law. His research focuses on access to justice and innovation in the market for legal services. Before returning to graduate school, he was a practicing commercial litigation and restructuring lawyer in Vancouver. Follow him on Twitter: @andrewpilliar