When you’re starting out in business you may want to keep your costs down to a bare minimum but sooner or later you’ll need proper legal advice to protect both yourself and your customers/clients. We asked Jill Dovey from Newcastle-based Muckle LLP to share her thoughts on when to bring in the professionals.
Hi Jill, can you please explain your role as a ‘Tech Specialist’ at Muckle?
Like you Paul, I worked in-house at Sage for 7 years so my specialism is working with clients who are either tech businesses or those who are working with this sector, for example clients working with developers to create mobile apps for them. I am passionate about working with emerging tech and helping to commercialise technologies, so I enjoy helping prepare the terms and conditions for new apps and software solutions.
All ‘tech’ includes data so I also spend a lot of time advising clients on the new EU General Data Protection Regulation, which everyone is talking about at the moment. There is a lot of negativity around the GDPR but it is also a real opportunity to be seized and exploited as the core is ensuring the integrity of your data and that your customers trust you with their information.
You have a wide range of clients of different sizes and sectors but do you see any common issues or barriers to growth?
It’s usually confidence and networks. This is where we can help. Lawyers know a lot of people including fund managers who we can introduce you too. Sometimes we may also have other clients in your space who might have been through the same thing or are working on fixing the same problem so we can help create commercial partnerships. We are also great at spotting flaws in plans or loopholes, so we can sometimes help prevent problems and break down some of those barriers to growth.
When & why do you think a startup or micro business should seek legal advice from you?
The earlier you can speak to a lawyer the better. For example, it’s easier to make sure a mobile app complies with data protection laws if you involve me in the planning stages before the app is built. If your business is based on a mobile app are you sure you own the intellectual property rights in it? You would be surprised the number of clients when it comes to valuing their businesses get the development contracts out and realise that wasn’t included in what they paid for. Investing a little bit of money in some legal advice at the outset can drive true value later down the line.
Despite what people think of lawyers, we don’t charge by the second and initial chats are usually completely free, so you have nothing to lose! At Muckle we always agree costs in advance and agree all invoices before they are issued, so there won’t be any nasty surprises.
Conversations with lawyers shouldn’t just take place when something goes wrong. I like to have ongoing relationships with all my clients and try to speak or email regularly just to see how things are progressing. This isn’t about me trying to get more work out of someone but to enable us to provide relevant commercial advice the more we know about our client’s businesses the better.
Can you tell us what you’ve been doing to make it easier and more affordable for startups & micro businesses to work with Muckle?
At Muckle we understand that the cost of lawyers is usually the biggest blocker from engaging with us. We have just launched a new service called Mi Business. This is a subscription service for a fixed period of 12 months. You can either subscribe for 12 or 24 hours of legal advice/support across the year.
The advice can be taken at any time but is paid for in a set amount per month. Your Mi Business legal retainer gives you all the day-to-day support you need. That could be things, like:
- new employee contracts, policies and procedures
- terms and conditions for your new products and services
- intellectual property – protecting your growing brand and reputation
- advice on the latest data protection laws or help selecting the right website policies
- landlord, tenant and lease-to-buy advice on your premises
Mi Business clients can also get hundreds of pounds worth of free extras:
- free legal health check – including checks on your website, terms and privacy policies
- free and unlimited debt recovery letters – written by our top-ranked experts
- free compliance management – we manage your registers and Companies House submissions
- free e-news letters – keeping you informed of the latest legal issues in business
These packages are perfect for companies that turnover less than £2m a year and have fewer than 30 employees.
Find out more
If you’d like to discuss the Mi Business service or have a free, informal chat about how Muckle can help you and your business, please email Andrea Gibson or give her a call on 0191 211 7922.
Jill will be one of over 50 speakers sharing practical tips and advice at our Newcastle Startup Week festival on 14-18 May. See who else is speaking and book your ticket here.