Exclusive: not-for-profit venture capitalists poised to invest in law firm start-up

BRE Ventures: championing innovation
Pic: Peter White

A not-for-profit venture capital business that promotes innovation is set to invest in a start-up law firm targeting the technology sector, Legal Futures can reveal.

The unusually named Atypical Law Firm will this week submit its alternative business structure (ABS) application seeking approval to go live with BRE Ventures as its majority owner.

Set to be the first ABS of its kind, it is the brainchild of solicitor Richard Lee, who said the focus will be on the “very specific needs of technology start-ups in Shoreditch” – the part of east London home to ‘Tech City’.

In addition, the firm will offer a centralised legal resource to all of the companies in which BRE Ventures is invested.

BRE Ventures is owned by the BRE Group, a one-time government agency that works to achieve better buildings, communities and businesses. Its profits are gift-aided to the BRE Trust, which in turn invests in research projects for the public benefit, carried out by the BRE Group, other research partners and by universities. The trustees are leading figures in the construction and engineering sectors.

Part of not being a typical law firm and of becoming an ABS, Mr Lee explained, is that once it is licensed, Atypical will offer clients a more comprehensive range of professional services under a unified pricing structure. “We’ll be much more than just a law firm,” he said – hence the name.

Atypical will be up to 75% cheaper than traditional firms, Mr Lee predicted, and will develop “a range of creative pricing structures”, such as equity for fees.

As well as employing a core team, Mr Lee is looking to build a network of freelance solicitors working from home, assisted by non-lawyer client relationship managers.

He is also planning to have a presence in BRE’s office in Shanghai as part of a focus on Chinese technology entrepreneurs and others moving to and operating in London.

Mr Lee said: “Our aim is to improve access to legal services for small businesses by breaking down the traditional barriers of prohibitive cost and unnecessary formalities. We are investing in technology and developing a new way of delivering professional services so that our clients can get the protection they need from day 1 rather than winging it for the first few years.

“We also want to provide a better and more rewarding environment for lawyers who are willing to embrace a new way of working which is far more in tune with the very specific needs and demands of the modern start-up.”



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