On Friday, October 21, at the Chamber’s Small Business Awards during Small Business Week, legal aid pioneer Goodlawyer took home the top prize, the ATB Small Business of the Year Award. In its six years, the company has aided startups with all their legal needs, helping fledgling companies to build their foundation and allowing the national business community to strengthen and diversify.
Doing good for founders and lawyers
Zak Biggs, Director of Public Affairs with Goodlawyer, believes the company’s success extends from solving two problems: one for founders and one for lawyers.
“On the founder side, it’s basically impossible to get professional legal help on a startup budget,” says Biggs. “It’s really a shame that the status quo in law is that it’s priced beyond the means of the majority of folks."
"Going to a conventional law firm, you’re going to pay upwards of $400 to $800 hourly to get advice on your business. It’s unfortunately the reality that you need to overcome legal hurdles to start a business, whether it’s incorporating, hiring your first employee, drafting a co-founder agreement, reviewing any contracts, all the way up to protecting your intellectual property.”
While a startup may be equipped, even in the early stages, with the skills and manpower to create a viable product or service, the legal side of creating a business is often a considerable cost that can be out of reach for early-stage founders.
“The world of law is very old-school and gated within certain language and certain social circles,” says Biggs. “Unless you have personal connections, it’s really difficult to get any access or a recommendation to a good lawyer. Especially for folks from underrepresented communities—new Canadians, BIPOC folks, female founders—it’s even more difficult to access legal help.”
Goodlawyer has struck a chord with startups across the country because of its affordability and ease of use, with clear costs and timelines to make things easy for founders and early hires, who can then focus on building their companies.
On the legal side, many lawyers are begging for a new solution to increase efficiencies outside of a traditional law firm. “You can think of it as an OS for lawyers to go solo on their own terms,” says Biggs.
The typical lawyer working with Goodlawyer is solo or works for a small firm, with prior experience with a big firm. They often take on the duties of an entrepreneur: managing administration, payments and collections, reporting to the law society, searching for new clients—meaning they only bill for about 33% of their hours worked. “These lawyers are crying out for a solution to take care of those friction points, and that’s what Goodlawyer does.”
Having been founded only six years ago in 2016, Goodlawyer has managed to help over 4000 startups in every province across the country. It’s the individual stories that make the team motivated to continue.
“The little things feel good to us,” says Biggs. “Not necessarily big milestones—they’re more intangible. Hearing about how much this has changed their lives, like a lawyer saying ‘I never thought it would be possible to practice law on my own terms and still have time to be a mother of two young kids.’ And ‘It wasn’t until Goodlawyer that I was able to take steps to amend my mental health, and I now divide my life into pre-Goodlawyer and post-Goodlawyer.’”
As for awards like the ATB Small Business of the Year Award, Biggs notes that wins like this signal to the business community that Goodlawyer is trusted and should keep helping others.
“Law is something particularly sensitive and private, so trust is doubly important, compared to other startup services,” says Biggs. “It’s awesome to get recognized by our peers. The Chamber does a lot for Calgary’s small business scene, and we exist to help small businesses. The Chamber recognizing Goodlawyer goes a long way to helping show to other startups that we’ve built something that can be trusted.”
Building a better Alberta
The team at Goodlawyer is proud to be a part of the ever-growing Calgary tech scene. Biggs believes companies like Goodlawyer are helping to reinvent Alberta in 2022 and onward.
“Being Calgary-based, allowing us to help tell the story of the emergence of Calgary’s tech scene gives us so much satisfaction; it seems like the rest of the country is taking notice of the potential of this scene. Our team is primarily born and bred Calgarians, so it’s extremely satisfying to see the self-belief emerging at home,” he says. “The tech scene and the startup ecosystem across Alberta is the tool to tell that new story.”
Looking to the future, the sky’s the limit for Goodlawyer.
“Over the next year, our focus is to continue our expansion across Canada,” says Biggs. “We really want to continue to grow trust and name recognition in the biggest startup markets across the country.”
When looking at several years into the future, the Goodlawyer team hopes to push into international markets. “We’re a very ambitious group and we’ve got a very talented team. The problems that we exist to address exist around the world,” including the US, Australia, the UK, and more.
“There’s a need for accessible, affordable, digital-first legal service delivery,” he adds. “We’re changing the business of law: how lawyers and their clients interact. Continuing to revolutionize the legal experience for clients and lawyers around the world.”