France’s August & Debouzy extends helping hand to start-ups

French independent August & Debouzy is launching a scheme to support young entrepreneurs, inviting French start-up companies to bid for one of 10 low-priced support packages.

The initiative, known as ‘Start you up’, will see 10 businesses run by entrepreneurs under 40 have access to August & Debouzy’s services for €200 a month for one year. Any legal need will be met under the deal.

Litigation head Kami Haeri, who was one of the driving forces behind the scheme, said he expected that the types of companies to bid for one of the 10 spots would be mainly digital and technology businesses, or companies launched by employees of larger organisations wanting to be more in control of their own destinies. 

“We used to be a start-up,” Haeri said, explaining the rationale behind the move. “That spirit of entrepreneurship is still active in our DNA – everyone is involved in the development of the firm.”

He said the firm had talked to many small businesses which said they felt unable to turn to a large law firm for legal help due to a lack of budget. Haeri said they had indicated that they allocated around €2,000-3,000 a year to legal services. He added that the firm expected most of the advice required to be on fairly straightforward matters such as terms and conditions, employment contracts and tax advice.

Despite the low cost of the scheme to the companies, lawyers had been told to treat them as any other client of the firm.

Each Start you up business will be allocated one partner and one associate as relationship managers.

“Hopefully we’ll find some gems,” Haeri said.

At the end of each year a new group of companies will be chosen for the scheme. Haeri said he hoped that the previous year’s cohort would remain as “classic” clients.

Candidates for Start you up will be selected by a panel consisting of the project’s ‘godfather’, the president of French financial media group La Tribune, Jean-Christophe Tortora; three August & Debouzy partners; the firm’s general director, Pascale Pontroué; and a representative of business incubator group ESSEC Ventures.

The project is also supported by a panel of senior business figures, including the legal heads for Microsoft and AXA Real Estate in France.

Entrepreneurs have until 30 November to submit an application, with the final selection to be made on 15 January 2014.