Brett Colvin, Co-Founder and CEO of Goodlawyer
1. As CEO and Co-Founder, what sets Goodlawyer apart from other law firms? What makes it stand out?
a. For starters, Good lawyer is not a law firm. We’re more like Uber if you think of law firms like taxi providers. A good lawyer is an online legal services marketplace that acts as the conduit between the client and the lawyer. We facilitate a fast connection to legal help for clients that have never existed before. Our specialty is our exclusive “micro” legal services: $39 legal advice sessions with qualified lawyers and $25 per page document or contract reviews. These bite-sized portions of legal help are unique to Goodlawyer because law firms simply can’t sell them economically on their own. Our platform provides an incredibly affordable alternative to the traditional method of procuring legal help to the tune of thousands of dollars in savings. We are able to offer this by stripping away most of the administrative and client acquisition burden that takes up a shocking amount of most lawyer’s average week and is consequently felt by clients through high hourly rates.
2. Many small businesses have been greatly impacted by COVID-19. What was the decision behind deciding to provide free legal advice to SMBs across Canada?
a. No business ever sets out with the goal of offering their services for free but we found ourselves in an incredibly unique position when small businesses began shutting down in March. With such an unprecedented situation, many businesses found themselves struggling to navigate employment law, commercial tenancy issues, and government programs like CECRA and CEWS. We knew that our Canada-wide network of lawyers could answer their questions quickly and that we were in a position to help many Canadians through this unimaginably difficult period. With limited resources, it wasn’t an easy decision, but it was, without question, the right one and I’m proud of the investment Goodlawyer has made in helping Canadian entrepreneurs get back on their feet.
3. In your expert opinion, what do you believe are the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs are facing at the moment in terms of legal issues that are impacting their business?
a. Forced shutdowns have led to so many tough legal questions for entrepreneurs, including how to deal with their employees and landlords, as well as how to navigate the seemingly everchanging government support programs.
b. The unprecedented wave of layoffs has created a huge challenge for SMB’s as they emerge from the shutdowns, for many, recalling employees is not feasible yet as simply re-opening for business does not equal revenue. We are approaching the 13-week threshold for temporary layoffs in June (some provinces have extended) and this will create a new host of issues for employers as they are forced to either pay severance or recall employees they don’t have the revenue to pay.
c. Commercial leases have also come under increasing scrutiny, with many business owners struggling to pay rent. Several small businesses have been somewhat comforted by government programs like CECRA as their lifeline, but too few are taking advantage of all of the support available. I can’t stress this enough: know your options and talk to an expert if you’re not 100% sure. The CECRA is far from perfect and has received some justified criticism, but the most important thing for entrepreneurs to worry about is what their options are. We have limited ability to influence the policymakers but entrepreneurs have 100% control of ensuring they obtain all of the support they’re entitled to.
4. What advice can you give them to help them overcome these challenges? What are some of the initiatives they can take to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on their business?
a. First and foremost equip your business with knowledge. The flow of information has been constant and everchanging and it can be hard to stay on top of every update as businesses struggle with all facets of their operations.
b. Talk to a professional if you’re not 100% certain. Every situation is different and the road to recovery is not even. Getting professional advice doesn’t have to be scary or expensive and understanding your options can offer peace of mind and clarity. At a minimum, we encourage entrepreneurs to take advantage of Goodlawyer’s free offer and get the answers they need in a short phone call with a qualified lawyer who you can be assured is keeping up with all of the changes.
5. The federal government of Canada has provided many resources and programs to help small businesses during these challenging times. Do you believe they’ve done a good job in helping Canadian SMEs or is there something that you believe they can do better?
a. Their stated goal with programs like CECRA and CEWS was speed of delivery over accuracy. We feel they have achieved this goal and commend them for their swift action. We feel the next challenge is bringing clarity and confidence to the many entrepreneurs who did not fit nicely within the “square box” of the many government support programs, who undoubtedly fit within their spirit. Programs such as the $250M invested into IRAP to help fill this void is a good start, but far from a complete solution.
6. On a final note, what approach do you believe other law firms should be taking to help SMEs during the COVID-19 outbreak?
a. Listen, be patient, and give back. Be generous with your time. Don’t bill every phone call. Clients everywhere are struggling and this is an opportunity to show, as lawyers, that we empathize with them and we’re here to help.