New law firm to tap mid-sized firms with 'virtual' general counsel services

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Another Ottawa-based legal firm is hoping it can capitalize on changes in the legal industry by offering advice to medium-sized companies at a lower price.

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By Jacob Serebrin

Andrew Foti, the founder and CEO of Avokka LLP, said he was “working on retainer for a couple companies,” when he saw an opportunity to offer medium-sized companies the same type of personalized advice an in-house lawyer would provide but on a part-time basis.

“You can add a lot more value as a general counsel,” he said. It wasn’t long before he “was very busy and I thought, can I make more of this?”

That’s when he decided to start his new firm, Avokka, to offer what he describes as a “virtual general counsel” service.

The firm, which has offices in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, launched its website in mid-February.

With the recent breakup of major Canadian law firm Heenan Blaikie drawing headlines, Mr. Foti said he thinks the time is right to capitalize on the attention the legal sector is receiving.

Mr. Foti said the firm plans on doing business differently than traditional firms.

He said each of Avokka’s lawyers will work for a small number of companies and plan to spend a lot of time working in their clients’ offices and meeting with executives.

“We strive to know our clients’ business,” he said.

He said this will give the firm’s lawyers a better sense of the specific businesses’ legal needs than a larger, more generalized firm.

“It’s harder for them to help clients make risk calls,” he said.

But Mr. Foti said Avokka isn’t intended to replace other firms. Instead he sees it as offering a “triage service” that can direct clients to other firms when necessary.

According to Mr. Foti, who was a senior vice-president and general counsel at Nordion and a partner at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, all of Avokka’s lawyers will have over 20 years of experience both as in-house corporate lawyers and with large firms.

“They know what quality looks like,” he said.

He said Avokka offers an attractive proposition to experienced lawyers currently working for companies on a contract basis because it will make it easier for them to connect with potential clients.

“They’re out there and they’re finding us,” he said. “We want to consolidate those people and create a new offering.”

His eventual goal is to take the company nationwide.

Mr. Foti said Avokka, which will charge a fixed fee, will be able to offer its services at a lower rate or at least offer a more experienced lawyer for the money.

He said the company keeps cost down by being no frills.

“We don’t have art, we don’t have management,” Mr. Foti said. “We make house calls.”

See also: Local lawyers transform Heenan Blaikie breakup into new law firm.

Organizations: Avokka

Geographic location: Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto

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