Every now and again I come across something novel in the legal services industry; something that makes me do a double-take and probe just a little deeper. It happened not too long ago, as I sat at a small table across from a young lawyer at Montreal’s StartupFest in Parc Jean Drapeau in mid July.
Anthony Quevillon is sharp, witty, fluently bilingual and years ahead of his time. He believes that being both a young lawyer and entrepreneur are not mutually exclusive, and has taken it upon himself to provide a completely immersive experience for his clients at his firm Hub6 (www.hub6.com).
Hub6 is a multidisciplinary professional services firm, offering legal, accounting, consulting,HR, and tax solutions, all under one roof. The firm focuses predominantly on Montreal-based young businesses that have a strong proven business model and are ready to scale. The Hub6 team offers a fixed-fee pricing solution and digs deep into the nuances of a company, offering custom tailored solutions by incorporating a multitude of professional services.
Multidisciplinary service firms are characterized as one-stop-shops for client needs. More commonly, accounting and consulting services have joined forces (think any of the big 4 accounting firms). But only recently have legal services been included. While the long-term success of a legal-focused multidisciplinary practice remains to be seen, it is refreshing knowing there are lawyers willing to push the boundaries, all in the name of increasing client value.
Below is a recent interview I had with Anthony:
How long has the firm been around?
As a legal entrepreneur in Quebec, has the market been receptive or skeptical towards forward thinking law firms and legal services in general?*
We mainly market to the 20 - 40-year-old entrepreneurs, and I feel they are hungry for an innovative model.
What has been the feedback from clients? How many of them use more than one service?
Most of our clients start with legal and accounting services. Even the smallest companies need these services. The entrepreneurs especially appreciate the simplicity of a one stop shop. Once companies scale, most of our mid-sized clients start using our human resources and tax services.
I think one of our strengths is that our services scale with the business. When the entrepreneur begins, he or she can be assisted and guided, helping to minimize service fees at the outset. As the client grows, we can offer more solutions as part of their subscription package. No client should wait until they have 35 employees and a mountain of headaches to begin working on their HR structure.
What led you to develop Hub6? Were there specific moments in your journey where you knew that you had to develop a multidisciplinary service firm?
I used to work at a traditional law firm and had a few “ah ah” moments while experiencing the strengths and drawbacks of the current model. I felt that law firms reacted to the financial and technological changes of the last two decades and ended up in a weird situation that dissatisfies both clients and lawyers alike.
Clients have difficulty assigning value of legal work, in large part because they do not understand what we do as lawyers. Furthermore, most lawyers still follow the billable hour model. Not committing to fees brings uncertainty to clients and adds to the general stress anytime they contact their lawyer. I find that incredibly unfortunate because proactive lawyers can protect their clients from avoidable mishaps, saving their clients time, money and anxiety.
Lawyers aren’t getting a good deal either. The billable hour creates pressure on lawyers to continuously bill. Add to the fact that lawyers are incentivized to work slower and you have the perfect recipe for a lose-lose lawyer-client relationship.
Always being in a reactive state creates a situation where most lawyers service too many clients simultaneously, never having the time to meet with their clients and help them strategize. We end up having a virtual relationship with our clients, which in my mind makes the appeal of legal tech more apt.
As for my place in this mess, I always wanted to do things differently. I used to be a little troublesome in my career, rocking the boat of my employer, trying to create and induce major changes in an existing company. Change is hard, and it’s much harder on bigger structures than smaller ones. I concluded that what we needed to do is start from the ground up. And if we want to build the law firm of the future, then we need to incorporate the relevant service professionals right away so that the synergy within our team is integrated at the outset.
What attracts clients to Hub6? Does one specific service appeal more than others to early stage clients?
While all our services are crucial to a business, accounting and tax services have always had greater appeal to companies than legal or human resources services.
Hub6 is not a service “per say”, but an amalgamation of our unique features. For example, a fixed monthly subscription-based model for accounting and legal services is, to my knowledge, a rare offering. We also have a talented and experienced set of professionals who specialize in different service areas.
We put a lot of emphasis on proximity and taking the time to know our clients. It is not uncommon for us to refer clients between one another or to be called for a referral about anything a business may need. While clients come for the simplicity and innovation of our firm, they stay because they find a team on which they can count.
How did you develop your team of service providers and professionals?
We began as a two-man team, myself and my partner: one accountant and one lawyer. In our first year of operation, we had several freelancers and partnerships to cover the other services, one of which was with a bigger multidisciplinary firm that supported us with a great variety of staff. Once we developed a strong core of clients, we hired our own team.
Growth is happening fast, and we are always looking for top talent. Believe it or not, talented and innovative employees that seek to work differently are hard to find, especially in a traditional profession like ours.
How does technology factor into your service? Are there technologies you are looking to adopt but haven’t yet? Are you satisfied with the current technologies on the market?
Legal technologies are generally underwhelming. I mentioned before that the general public neither understands nor values legal work, and I think that shows in the legal tech sector. There are so many templates and contract generators out there, yet none of them make sense. A novice without legal experience or knowledge should not write their own contracts. Even lawyers can make crucial mistakes in contract drafting. Imagine what a random entrepreneur can do without understanding the risks and consequences of the language they use! The truth is, most people, including legal tech companies, sometimes seem to think that drafting a contract is about putting a name and address in a blank template.
Technology wise, we use a bunch of tools, including in the management of our firm. For our accounting services, we specialize in cloud accounting, which is a much more mature market than legal technology. We also have a web-based client portal that connects our clients to a live detail of our work and their subscription. This portal is in continuous development and we hope to make it a core feature of our business and services.
In the legal world, we have begun using MinuteBox for the storage and management of our corporate minute books. We’re also working on a contract drafting software since I do believe there is a way to have a powerful software for both lawyers and the general entrepreneur that automates the redundant work of contract drafting. However, it demands more than a few integrations, so there is still a long road ahead.
You can expect something solid coming out in early to mid 2020.