Andrew Masson is an IPilogue Writer and 2L JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Heather-Anne Hubbell, an experienced lawyer, litigator, self-described “Serial Entrepreneur”, and Founder and CEO of Phundex. In her career, Heather-Anne has tackled very diverse roles, including as a successful international tax law litigator. She has also succeeded outside of traditional legal practice. She established a consulting firm in Jersey on the Channel Islands and is now CEO and Founder of a financial services platform (Phundex) operating out of the United Kingdom. She provided great advice both for lawyers that want to practice outside of traditional law firms and for entrepreneurs at all stages. Heather-Anne is an inspirational person, one who encourages you to make the most out of life. Her advice and stories would make you believe that you can accomplish anything.
Heather-Anne spoke of taking risks and not being afraid to face new challenges from a place of experience. She did not start her professional career as a lawyer. She worked for several years before attending Osgoode Hall Law School, where she got her LL.M. in tax at night while continuing to work. She then went on to practice in tax litigation, start a consulting company, and eventually faced her biggest risk and stopped practicing law to focus on Phundex full-time. She said the day she decided to stop practicing law was tough, but she knew the skills she had learned as a lawyer would stay with her for life. This strategic way of thinking allowed her to branch out and explore other interests and take advantage of new opportunities as they arose. She transitioned from one job to another without trouble.
Many may advise against a major life change like starting your own company after working for 3 decades as a lawyer. However, Heather-Anne has a unique perspective; she was simply motivated when “an opportunity presented itself that was really interesting!” Through her experience, she recognized that a lot of her work could be simplified and accomplished on a single platform – Phundex.
To protect users’ information, the Phundex platform allows an administrator to control user permissions from the same or different companies to collaborate on the same accounts and documents without compromising other private information. Developing Phundex was an iterative process and there were many steps and failures before reaching the final product. Heather-Anne believed this is an important part of the process and follows the motto of “fail early and fail often” about being an entrepreneur. For example, Phundex spent six months in development to ensure the platform was secure and encountered both failures and corrections to develop a final product having the functionality she envisioned. As a lawyer, Heather-Anne had the experience to understand what was required of her platform in terms of privacy laws. But she kept learning and still sought outside expertise with different parts of this process as needed. As an entrepreneur and lawyer, she stressed that you do not need to know and do everything yourself. It is important to seek help and utilize all resources available to you. For example, through Osgoode, entrepreneurs can use the IP Innovation Clinic to get legal IP advice. Additionally, for both lawyers and entrepreneurs, she stressed the importance of building a diverse network of people with different expertise and reaching out to them for advice. Legal work and lawyers tend to be insular, but experts across different areas add value to your network. From a strategic perspective, she encourages everyone to not simply network but to surround themselves with good people who give good advice.
In addition to her practical advice about being a lawyer and an entrepreneur, Heather-Anne also emphasized the importance of being a good person. With her companies and when looking for jobs, she suggests that you should determine what they offer in addition to money, notably in the context of fostering diverse and welcoming spaces. For example, after a co-worker informed her that they found the terms “whitelist”, “masters list”, and “blacklist” derogatory, Heather-Anne banned those terms from being used within her company. Additionally, during Ramadan, she changed her team’s eating habits to be conscious of others’ fasting. Heather-Anne believes that these changes are “little things, but really important to other people”. Heather-Anne provided some excellent life advice: build a network, ask about opportunities that intrigue you, empathize with others, and fail early and often. For anyone feeling unsure about their future, Heather-Anne’s story shows that you can take chances on opportunities you find interesting.
On behalf of the IPilogue Team, I am especially grateful to Heather-Anne Hubbell for her time. I would also like to thank York University’s Provost, Lisa Phillips, and the Provost’s Office for introducing us to Heather-Anne and helping us arrange this interview.