‘Legal Issues Facing Startups’ is theme of 2021 Legal Innovation Conference

January 29 event invites legal, business communities to participate virtually

Helen Metella - 19 January 2021

Business-minded University of Alberta Faculty of Law students began thinking beyond the global pandemic last summer, as they brainstormed a theme for this month’s conference on legal innovation.

“We started to think about moving forward, about after COVID’s effects have elapsed. What are the lingering issues going to be?” said Akash Purewal, spokesperson for the Law & Business Association student group that organizes the annual Legal Innovation Conference.

“That’s when we identified the disconnect between the legal community and the startup small business community,” he said.

“Legal Issues Facing Startups” became the theme of the 2021 Legal Innovation Conference, so that the event can explore the many post-pandemic challenges of the fledgling business community that the legal community can help mitigate.

For the student group, the conference’s focus is meant to also solve a problem — closing the gap between startups who most certainly need legal guidance and the lawyers who don’t know how to reach them.

“On the one side you have bigger law firms working with billable hours and on the startup side you have people looking for affordable options,” said Purewal, ’22 JD. “The business models don’t really align and we saw this as an opportunity to bring these two communities together and say, there’s an opportunity for them to learn from each other.”

Virtual conference

The one-day, virtual event on January 29 will present three interview-style hours covering such topics as how lawyers can better serve startups and how startups can choose lawyers.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Ryan Bencic, of Vancouver-based Harper Grey LLP, whose practice area is predominantly focused on startups

  • Brett Colvin, CEO of Goodlawyer, a Calgary-based firm which connects entrepreneurs with lawyers

  • Kristen Edmiston, owner of K. Edmiston & Associates, a consultancy advising small businesses

  • Rob McDonald, QC, of Bennett Jones, one of Canada’s leading lawyers in intellectual property law

  • Ted Yoo of Bennett Jones, a registered patent and trademark agent in Canada and the United States who has a BSc in microbiology and chemistry

  • Josh Fortier, a partner with Bishop & McKenzie, who assists and advies startup businesses and investors in Alberta’s tech sector

  • Karissa Kelln, a Vancouver business lawyer with a focus on aboriginal, fisheries, environmental and maritime issues

  • Kim Krushell, a longtime Edmonton city councillor now president of a startup developing software that allows banks and law firms to process business loads digitally

  • Scott Robson, of BLG Calgary, who advises clients on corporate and securities matters

  • Also attending are representatives of the University of Calgary Faculty of Law’s Business Venture clinic, which was formed to give new entrepreneurs assistance from law students on topics such as different business structures and employment and liability issues.

Campus-wide invite

The conference will conclude with a rapid-fire Q&A session to a panel of business law experts. Startups will be able to pose questions on anything from trademark and patent law to employment contracts and non-disclosure agreements.

The primary goals of this year’s Legal Innovation Conference are to have lawyers and new business ventures learn from each other, hear each other’s concerns and make personal connections.

However, in a progression from the conference’s two previous iterations, Purewal and his fellow students also want to broaden their potential audience.

The virtual format ensures that participants may join from throughout Alberta and British Columbia, he said, and the invitation is open to University of Alberta students across campus who are interested in business and entrepreneurship.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to meet startup founders and to get an education that may be valuable to them a couple of years down the road when they’re ready to start their own venture.”

The 2021 Legal Innovation Conference will be delivered via Zoom. REGISTER for interview sessions and the Q&A to receive their links.

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