Ottawa-based intellectual property boutique law firm Brion Raffoul didn’t invent the work anniversary party, but the one it hosted Thursday was so good it might want to slap a patent on it.
It’s been 15 years since lawyers Art Brion and Natalie Raffoul teamed up to become global leaders in protecting innovation. They first met as “greenhorns” at Shapiro Cohen LLP, a crowd of clients, colleagues, friends and family heard during the celebration held at the firm’s 329 Churchill Ave. N. office building in Westboro.
“Two young associates with a passion, ambition and shared love for IP law,” said Raffoul of how it all started.
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Raffoul and Brion had dreamed of becoming business partners. “I think you just know when you have a very strong professional connection with someone, when you trust each other, you trust each other’s instincts, you have so much respect for each other, and your skills are complementary,” Raffoul told OBJ.social.
In some ways, their timing had been perfect. In other ways, not so much. Raffoul had been very pregnant with her eldest, Jacob, when the firm was launched Sept. 1, 2008.
“Even though it was a crazy time to start a firm, we just felt like we might not get this chance, we might not both be in the same place at the same time ever again, where we could start something together,” explained Raffoul. “So, this was our opportunity.”
At first, the firm operated its paperless law office remotely. It began offering a flat-fee cost structure that moved away from the hourly billable model. Being small has allowed them to be more nimble, said Raffoul. “We’re able to give personalized, more tailored experience to all our clients, depending on their business needs, and we can make quick business decisions that you can’t necessarily make at a larger firm, where you have these bigger partnerships.”
To date, Brion Raffoul has filed more than 4,000 patents worldwide and has just acquired its 728th client. Between five to 10 percent of its client base is in Ottawa.
“We have clients in every continent except Antarctica. Relations there might be a bit frosty,” said Raffoul, who light-heartedly reminded everyone she was a lawyer, not a comic, when her tough audience reacted to her goan-inducing pun.
The milestone anniversary gave the law firm a good excuse to show off its renovated office building. It bought the two-storey property in 2018 but moved in during the pandemic. Guests socialized while enjoying drinks, music and food catered by hospitality veteran Erin Clatney, director of Parlour restaurant and event space in Wellington West and of DISH. Her daughter, Charlotte DePonte, is now working with her as her events director.
Macarons were provided by Quelque Chose Patisserie.
Attendees included Shelley True from local marketing agency TRUEdotDESIGN. It helped Brion Raffoul with its recent rebranding. Also spotted in the crowd were Niraj Bhargava, co-founder and CEO of NuEnergy.ai; Sadegh Farzaneh, president and CTO of Galtronics Canada; Julia Slanina, founder and CEO of Treehouse, a management software specifically designed for the maternal health community; CPAs Rolland Vaive (Vaive and Associates) and Sarwar Qureshi (Paterson & Company), Ed Bryant, CEO of M&A advisory firm Sampford Advisors, and Lionel Regis from MakerLaunch, an accelerator designed for engineering students and recent alumni entrepreneurs through the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Engineering. Brion Raffoul has been corporate partner of MakerLaunch since the program’s inception in 2019.
Brion Raffoul has a team of 18, including lawyers, managers and paralegals. Prior to Westboro, it operated out of consecutive buildings it owned in Vanier, where Raffoul also did some volunteer work. As well, she’s served on The Ottawa Hospital Foundation board and is an ongoing supporter of BGC Ottawa.
Raffoul, who was born in Montreal but grew up in Ottawa, earned an engineering degree at Western University and a law degree at Queen’s University. She’s gone on to distinguish herself in her field and remains one of the “very few” female IP lawyers with an electrical engineering background. She’s managing partner of the firm.
One of her professional passions is advancing IP policy on the provincial and federal levels because, she said, “Canada has, historically, been really behind in terms of protecting our intellectual property. I want Canada to be a vibrant country with lots of good, strong, innovative businesses.”
Brion was born in the Philippines but came to Canada with his family in the late 1980s following a coup d’état against the government back home. He got a degree in computer engineering at McMaster University, followed by his law degree at the University of New Brunswick, where he was also editor in chief of the law journal. His parents, both lawyers, eventually returned to the Philippines, where his father, Arturo Brion, is a former secretary of the labour department and a retired judge of the Supreme Court.
In her remarks, Raffoul thanked everyone, from her business partner, to their staff, to their clients, to their respective families, which, in her case, consists of supportive husband Mark Hubert and their three kids, as well as her mom, Beatrice Keleher Raffoul, whose “unwavering belief in me has been my guiding light”, and her late father, who passed away this past summer.
She marvelled at how far she and Brion have come since their early days as aspiring associates. “This journey, with its ups and downs, its long nights and early mornings, has been more fulfilling than we ever imagined. The best part is, we’re celebrating it tonight with everyone who’s been part of the story.”
She and Brion raised their glass in a toast. And then the party continued.