Nadeau Young LLP - Catherine & Kyle
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started.
My name is Catherine and my partner’s name is Kyle. We are both lawyers and together we opened a law firm in January of this year! We graduated from law school in 2016, completed the lawyer licensing process and then took a few months to decide what to do. Typical legal careers begin at the “bottom of the ladder” so to speak, but we wanted to be able to focus on areas of law that we liked, and wanted flexibility to be able to continue to travel and work on side-projects. We are very much about working to live, rather than living to work. So, we figured why not try working for ourselves? We launched the firm in early January 2018, and have been chugging away ever since.
Did you both always know you wanted to be lawyers?
Definitely not! I applied to law school on an impulse, actually. I’d just finished my undergrad in Classical Studies and Italian, and wasn’t too sure what to do next. Kyle applied to law school for similar reasons. He had worked as a kinesiologist for a year after graduating from university, but quickly found that it was not his passion and sought something more exciting.
Entering the law industry must be challenging as it is – what made you decide to take on the challenge of starting your own practice on top of that?
Starting our own practice, as opposed to getting a job in a law firm, really hasn’t been that much of a hurdle. The real difference is entrepreneurship versus working as part of an organization. Each career path can be challenging in its own way. I think it just depends on your personality and what challenges you are up to facing. Kyle and I would rather embrace the challenge of finding new clients or figuring out our own accounting, than, for example, face the challenge of working for a company we don’t believe in.
You focus on working with small businesses and entrepreneurs. What about that area of law interests you most?
Working with entrepreneurs is completely inspiring. It’s fascinating to meet and work with creative individuals who are passionate and have a clear vision. We love to learn about and encourage new ideas. Our goal as lawyers is to simply collaborate with small businesses and entrepreneurs to help them bring their ideas to life and create a positive impact on the community.
What do you enjoy most about being a part of the Ottawa community and working with other business owners?
As lawyers, we find it exciting to help new businesses come to life. Ottawa has grown so much over the past few years and entrepreneurship has helped our city develop a thriving and diverse economy.
On your website you talk about being accessible to clients. Why is that an important distinction for you?
Accessibility is a rare gem in the legal community. How many clients walk into a lawyer’s office feeling intimidated or uncomfortable from the get-go? Dreading it perhaps? Feeling as though their lawyer is holding them back? Being able to afford a $400 hourly rate?
Accessibility for us means feeling at-ease with your lawyer. It’s an inviting office, friendly faces, a safe space, no legal jargon, and open conversation, maybe over a nice cappuccino. We want to break down the mould of the stereotypical lawyer. In our opinion, visiting your lawyer should be a positive and exciting experience. It means you are taking steps toward accomplishing your goals and finding solutions to problems. It’s a good thing!
What does a typical day look like for you? How do you handle running the business together while working on separate cases?
Our office hours are by appointment, so we really don’t have a regular schedule. Not having regular office hours allows us to take time off as we need or completely throw ourselves into a file. For example, we recently completed 40 hours of work for a client in less than three days. Alternatively, we spent last week wine tasting in Kelowna. Why not, you know? As for cases, we rarely handle them separately. Kyle and I collaborate on almost all files. We work best when we work together. We each have different strengths and skills, and we divide the various components of file work based on our preferences.
Tell me a bit about your core values: respect, integrity, excellence, and community. How do those play into your day-to-day work?
Our values are so important to us,- it’s the “why” behind our firm. When we finished law school, we briefly considered taking jobs in a law firm. Through the process of researching potential employers and going through interviews, we realized that many law firms had either practices or an office culture that we did not want to participate in or promote. Kyle and I may not have 10 years of legal experience under our belts yet, but we certainly have a lot integrity and strong values. We realized from the beginning that we were not prepared to compromise our values, for a job or otherwise.
We started Nadeau Young to be able to combine the practice of law with our values and outlook on life. It’s about making the law a positive experience for our clients, others, as well as us. Kyle and I don’t live for a bottom line; we live for building community and creating a positive impact.
Respect is about how we treat each other, our clients and people we work with. Nothing bothers us more than hierarchy and inflated egos. Excellence is ensuring clients receive the best possible service we can offer. Being a small law firm with lower fees does not mean our services are any less excellent than our counterparts. Far from it—because Nadeau Young is small, it is absolutely essential that our clients receive high quality services. Remember that when you come to see us, you are not getting services from an employee. Kyle and I both have a vested interest in the success of Nadeau Young. It’s one of the reasons our firm is unique and enables us to compete with the bigger firms. Finally, community is about bringing change to the legal field and offering the consumer an alternative, creating a positive impact on our city and helping people make their dreams come alive.
Tell us how you went from law students at the University of Ottawa to running your own law firm.
After graduating in 2016. It took about a year and a half to write the bar exams, complete our articling and obtain our licenses. After that, we took a few months to travel and figure out what our next plans were. The beauty of being a lawyer is that you really don’t need a huge investment to start a business. Our minds are our equipment. Beyond paying rent for an office, our biggest expenses are licensing and insurance fees. Lots of people think that they need to practice under a senior lawyer for several years, but it’s really not necessary. Law school and the Law Society give you everything you need to start practicing on your own.
What is it like not only working together, but running a business as a couple?
It honestly feels very normal. We are not at each other’s throats all day—we actually love working together. We each have strengths, and when we work together, it’s kind of like of having the best of both worlds. We rarely disagree when it comes to the business or how to run things.