Devry Smith Frank LLP

November 25, 2013 10:00 ET

Toronto Lawyer Calls Out Bay Street for Leaving Small Businesses in Legal Limbo

SME's Represent 98.1% of Canadian Businesses* Yet Struggle to Find and Keep Counsel

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Nov. 25, 2013) - It's a common story for Toronto's entrepreneurial community … they seek out a big, Bay Street legal firm, a retainer is agreed upon and the client initially gets middling to attentive service … as long as the billable hours keep coming. But what happens when legal needs change and the hours start to decline?

According to Albert Luk, a Toronto lawyer with Devry Smith Frank LLP, one of few Toronto firms that cater to small and medium sized businesses, when billable hours decrease, smaller clients could see an increase in rates, a sharp decline in service levels; or in some cases, the small business client is actually told that they are 'being fired.'

"Big Bay Street firms simply aren't setup to handle anything other than a Fortune 500 business, it's very difficult for a lawyer working on a $100 million dollar file to understand the needs, mindset and realistic budget for businesses not making seven figures in profits each year," said Luk.

This was a concern that Joanna Duong, Founder and CEO of Henkaa, a Toronto-based fashion and accessories brand, experienced early on in her legal relationship with a downtown firm. She was referred by her accountant at the time, but immediately regretted not undergoing a longer selection process.

"They didn't make us feel like we were wasting their time, but we also didn't seem to have their full attention," said Duong of her legal firm at the time. "When we needed to discuss lowering our bill, we got the sense that they were insulted."

Andrew Jenkins, Principal of Volterra Consulting, a Toronto-based company helping SME's with their social media needs, avoided Bay Street altogether in favour of a boutique legal firm catering to small businesses.

"From the beginning, we were looking for a lawyer who would be more of a partner and advisor for our legal needs," said Jenkins. "A big law firm would have seen our $10-20k in billings as small potatoes, but I think that's short-sighted. Don't forget that Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in his dorm room. Just because we aren't there yet, doesn't mean that we won't grow."

And in the entrepreneurial hotbed of Toronto, firms like Luk's are betting on startups and small businesses to grow their business and billable hours.

*Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) 'SMEs at a glance report', August 2013

About Devry Smith Frank LLP:

Devry Smith Frank LLP. is Toronto's largest law firm outside of the downtown core. Since 1964, Devry Smith Frank LLP (DSF) has been a trusted advisor and advocate for corporations, individuals and small businesses.

At a current roster of 54 lawyers, DSF is a mid-sized, full-service law firm. DSF's clients are a broad range of corporations, institutions and individuals who come from all industries and walks of life including: insurance companies, banks, amusement park designers, printers, doctors, dentists, plumbers, lawyers, assembly line workers, photographers, and many, many more.

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