Can we help you?

We are getting ready to welcome our new Year 4 MLaw students into the Student Law Office. This year, we will have four Business & Commercial firms. Each firm is typically comprised of six students.

In the Student Law Office, our students are exposed to working with real clients under the supervision of qualified solicitors who are also full-time lecturers. Normally, our students are able to advise business owners, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and not-for-profits in relation to a range of issues, including the following:

  • Choosing an appropriate business structure: we can advise about the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a partnership or a limited company. We are also able to guide you through the process of incorporation.
  • Website health checks: we can ensure you are displaying appropriate disclaimers on your website. We may also be able to prepare terms of use, privacy policies and cookie policies for your website.
  • Intellectual Property: would you like to know more about copyright? Are you unsure whether to use your new logo? Have you received a worrying letter saying that you have infringed someone else’s IP? These are all issues which our students have advised clients about in the past.
  • Corporate governance: we can advise on directors’ and/or trustees’ duties, the rules and procedures that companies need to adhere to, and advice on Companies House filings.

We have also built a reputation for working with start-ups and early stage businesses. In particular, our students can make suggestions as some of the issues you may need to consider as you go forward with your business. For example, our students recently advised a start-up on their chosen brand, and prepared a non-disclosure agreement for use with external parties.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive and we are always interested in hearing from people who may require our assistance.

Our students will be starting in the office in October, so we will be taking new enquiries from the end of September. If you feel that you may benefit from the assistance of our students, please submit an enquiry by clicking here or alternatively by calling us on 0191 227 3909. Please note that we cannot guarantee that we will be able to provide you with advice, as this will depend on the nature, urgency, and complexity of your enquiry, and the capacity of our staff and students.

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Do law students need to network?

The phrase ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ is something which I have heard many times throughout my education. Yet I am not sure if I ever really understood the importance behind the meaning, until I began to think about my career prospects.

Networking should not be overlooked in any industry and as law firms are becoming increasingly business orientated, having links is a necessity in order to open doors in a competitive market.

So what is networking?

Networking is best described as making a collection of associates and keeping this connection active. This can be achieved by regular communication and is for the mutual benefit of all parties involved. Networking is not based on what you can get but how you can help.

For many, networking is not considered to be one of the most important attributes when preparing for a job and a lot of prospective employees will put their experience and qualifications necessary, above the power of knowing people in the industry. However, being acquainted with people in that industry could set you apart from everyone else.

Over 60% of jobs are being filled in a ‘hidden market’. This means that, unless you know someone in that company, you will not see a job advertisement anywhere.

However, networking is not just for people who are looking for a job, it is applicable to all professionals who want to expand their links and ultimately stay in a competitive industry. According to Lexis Nexis, networking can allow you to:

  • Enhance your profile in the industry;
  • Share and gain information and thoughts;
  • Get insight into other opinions so that you can take those on board and make changes.

Who should I network with?

It is not just about networking with people in Law. Networking can also be applied to people in professions other than your own. It can be helpful to know people in areas such as accountancy or business in case you need to refer clients to different people and, in turn, those connections can refer clients to you.

As a student what should I be doing?

Whether you are a fourth year student or a first year student or even a post-grad, it is never too late to begin networking. Networking events are running all of the time, you could volunteer at an organisation or join a student society and there are plenty of law firm networking opportunities. For example, Ward Hadaway recently hosted a networking charity quiz night. This is a perfect opportunity to make some links with a top law firm.

So what should you do before you turn up to a networking event?

In order to avoid awkward silences you should do some research beforehand. Try to find out who will be attending and prepare some questions which are relevant to their field. Questions are a really important part of networking as people enjoy talking about what they do and it shows you are interested in their personal careers.

How can I catch people’s attention at an event?

Preparing a short pitch can help you keep other people’s attention. Your pitch should include who you are, what you’re studying and what you want to do after university.

Business cards

A business card is a useful tool, but do not hand these out unless somebody asks for it! However, if a professional gives you their business card, use this to search them on social media and send a follow up email or tweet.

Good luck!

Charlotte P

This blog post was written by Charlotte Padgett. Charlotte is a final year MLaw student at Northumbria University currently working in a business and commercial firm in the Student Law Office. In September, Charlotte is planning on working and volunteering in Australia for one year. Her interest outside of law include animal welfare and travelling.

Do you have a PSC Register?

What is the PSC Register?

From April 2016 all private companies and LLPs have been required to maintain a Persons of Significant Control (PSC) Register. This is a record of the people who own or control the business which is available for public inspection. Notably, it does not replace the registers of directors and members, these must also be present and kept up to date.

A director or secretary will have to:

  • make sure the register identifies those with significant control over the company and details their information. This includes their name, date of birth and service address;
  • the register must include the nature and extent of the PSC’s control. For example, it must list the amount of shares the person holds;
  • provide this information to Companies House annually as part of Form CS01 (which has replaced the Annual Return);
  • update the register when it changes; and
  • make the register available for inspection at the company’s registered office.

Who is a PSC?

A PSC is an individual:

  1. who holds more than 25% of shares in the company (or more than 25% of the remaining assets if the LLP were to be wound up); or
  2. who holds more than 25% of voting rights; or
  3. who holds the right to appoint or remove the majority of the board of directors (or those involved with management if the business is an LLP); or
  4. who is otherwise able to exercise significant control over the company. This could include someone having the independent power to change the nature of the business; or.
  5. who holds the right to exercise or actually exercises significant control over a trust or company that meets any of the other 4 conditions.

Companies House has an excellent video explaining how to identify a PSC.

If a PSC refuses to give information this constitutes a criminal offence. Failure to take reasonable steps to ascertain who is a PSC is also a criminal offence.

If your business does not have a PSC, a register will still need to be kept and state the following: “The company knows or has reasonable cause to believe that there is no registrable person or registrable relevant legal entity in relation to the company.”

Why should your business have a PSC?

It makes the company transparent and promotes trust and accountability. As such, it could persuade potential investors to invest in the company. Without a PSC register it may be difficult to attract investors due to the lack of transparency.

In any event, it is compulsory and liability can arise for failure to comply to keep this register. Failure to comply carries an initial fine of £1,000 (or maximum 2 year prison sentence) and, until this is rectified, there is a £100 daily fine.

This blog post was written by Karl Lynch. Karl is a student working in the business firm within the Student Law Office. Karl has experience in a variety of industries but hopes to obtain a training contract at a local commercial law firm. He has a passion for business, in particular corporate governance.

How is Artificial Intelligence affecting the legal sector?

As technology is becoming more advanced with the introduction of smartphone apps providing a wide variety of services, how long will it be before you can get legal advice from your smartphone? It may be closer than you think.

In 2016 a second-year student at Stanford University created “the world’s first robot lawyer”, called DoNotPay, which has helped to overturn over 160,000 parking tickets. The creator of DoNotPay, Joshua Browder, told Venturebeat.com that he is also going to use the programme to help people with HIV understand their legal rights and to collect compensation for people whose flights were delayed beyond four hours.

Although at an early stage, the advancement of technology into the legal sector is evident. There are a number of examples, including NextLaw Labs  – a global collaborative group focused on developing new technologies to transform the practice of law around the world.

One start-up that has been helped by Next Law Labs is Ross Intelligence. Ross Intelligence has developed an artificial researcher, which uses a legal databases, such as Westlaw and LexisNexis, to find information based on questions that you can input into the programme. This may significantly reduce a client’s bill. If the artificial intelligence is doing  most of the research then the solicitor doesn’t have to – less time spent  leads to lower bills for the client.

Many other areas are being heavily influenced by technology – take self-service apps for the taxi industry,  for example. So the case for a cheaper way of accessing legal information is understandable. The legal sector has historically been seen as a very high end area of expertise, and therefore the price reflects the amount of work and skill that goes into the job.

The question then is:  should there be an influx of artificial intelligence which is capable of doing a majority of the preliminary research needed for a case. And where do the trainees fit into any new system?

One of the main jobs a trainee will do is to draft documents and undertake research to be passed onto a supervisor. Should the use of artificial intelligence increase, and these jobs taken by artificial researchers, the need for trainees may slow down somewhat. The legal profession is already very competitive – the Law Society reported that from August 2013 to July 2014, there were only 5,001 training contracts available, for the 16,116 students who graduated with a law degree during the same period.

The need for trainees will always be essential to a large and expanding law firm, however as a law firm is a business, smaller firms may see it as more cost effective to use artificial researchers rather than hire trainees in the future. It will be interesting to see how this develops. Of course, there is still a need for a personal approach to tailor the services to the client’s business, so it is unlikely that we will see practicing robot lawyers any time soon.

Reece

This blog post was written by Reece Trammer. Reece is a final year student studying at Northumbria University in a business firm in the Student Law Office. Upon graduating, he will be looking for a Training Contract or Paralegal work in a commercial law firm. His interests outside of law include football, rugby and snooker. 

 

Brexit and the Northern Powerhouse: Doom & Gloom or New Opportunities on the Horizon?

It’s not just the ‘Fog on the Tyne’ which appears to be casting a dark cloud over the North. On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) voted in favour of leaving the European Union (EU) and the aftermath has left the future of the North of England in considerable uncertainty.

For some time many have considered the region to be the ‘poor relative’ to the South East of England, the financial heart of the services industry continuing to beat strongly. Those in the North may be forgiven for the pessimistic whispers whirling around the region. The North was once recognised as the industrial heartland of the UK but many now associate the region with the particular low-points in its history. Ship building sailed away from the area in the 70s, the mines closed in the 80s and 90s, in the 00s the global recession significantly damaged the economy of the area, and in the current decade the furnaces of the steel industry have been extinguished.

Prior to the referendum, the 2010 coalition Government coined the term the ‘Northern Powerhouse’. This was a proposal to boost the economic growth of the area by supporting the inter-connected development of the region’s ‘core cities’, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool to move the UK economic reliance away from the South East. The vote for Brexit has since cast some doubt on the commitment to this plan to strengthen the North. However, there is an argument to suggest that such a pessimistic outlook may be misplaced.

One of the tenets of the Northern Powerhouse is to create transportation improvements between the core cities in order to increase productivity within the area. The North-East corridor has already established strong transportation links by land (A19 & A1), sea (Port of Tyne, Teesport and the Port of Hull), rail (East Coast main line) and air (Newcastle and Durham Tees-Valley Airport). These links have already been utilised by many international corporate investors such as Nissan, however further improvements may soon be on their way. In the 2016 Budget, the UK Government pledged £60 million worth of investment towards the development of ‘High Speed 3’ (HS3). This is the concept of a rail link between Manchester and Leeds decreasing the total travel time between the cities to just 30 minutes. Not only will this bring productivity improvements by way of decreased travel times but also the opportunity for regional stakeholders to get involved. This may be by way of the creation of HS3 or the future sustainability of the scheme and will likely secure a significant amount of jobs for those who are currently finding opportunities for work hard to come by.

Furthermore, the Government has also pledged to reduce Corporation Tax to 17% by 2020. Corporation Tax has already been cut from 28% to 20% in recent years making it currently the lowest within the G20. A further cut will surely make the UK one of the most globally competitive market places for businesses to locate. In doing so this will bring employment, growth and opportunity to the region. The signs are already there that such incentives are bringing new opportunities to the region. Science Central is currently under construction in the West-End of Newcastle City Centre boasting 24 acres of development aimed at promoting science and technology within the region. Newcastle already accommodates world leading science and technology initiatives including Campus North – a programme encouraging digital business start-ups, The Centre for Life – providing world-leading medical research, Siemens – employing thousands of jobs in the region supporting technology and rail development and two National leading universities – Northumbria and Newcastle Universities – creating some of the region’s future business leaders. The North of England has long been considered the home of ‘heavy industry’ however, the promotion of science and technology in the region may suggest the development of a new ‘white coat’ economy within the area. Science Central, and those other similar initiatives, are therefore a significant ‘thumbs-up’ for science and technology development within the region.

Many have suggested that the North is currently heavily sustained by contributions from European Regional Development Fund and without this the North will struggle to sustain growth in the future. Though it is a legitimate point of concern, there are signs that there are initiatives in the pipeline which seek to fill the void this may leave. One of the policies of the 2015 Conservative Government has been to promote the devolution of powers from central government to local authorities, so that resources may be best distributed by regional bodies who have a greater sense of know-how as to areas which most need it. The effects have already been felt in some areas across the North. The Greater Manchester Agreement has delivered not only its first mayoral election, to take place in 2017 but has also secured significant investment in the local economy. This has included a £300 million Housing Investment Fund, powers to share autonomy for health and social care, devolved business and support packages and a consolidated transport budget. Within the North East, similar initiative are already in their infancy such as the North East Combined Authority (NECA), a strategic authority with combined powers over the local economy, transport, development and regeneration. The NECA have recently published targets for securing initiatives in the area creating £400 million investment and 8000 further jobs.

Overall, despite the initial uncertainties which manifested out of the vote for Brexit, there are signs that the Northern Powerhouse will continue to grow and develop with new and exciting opportunities. There are also signs that the Northern economy is beginning to diversify into new industries a world apart from its traditional ‘heavy industry’ heritage. The signs are there that the ‘Fog on the Tyne’ may soon lift and with it reveal the new ‘Local Hero’.

Matt R

 

This post was written by Mathew Robinson. Mathew is a final year MLaw student at Northumbria University and has secured a training contract with Bond Dickinson for when he completes his studies which he is looking forward to. Mathew is a big Middlesbrough FC fan and in his free time can be found on the football pitches around Newcastle.

Visit to the SLO by the President of the Law Society

On the 28th February 2017 six final year law students within the Student Law Office (SLO) met with Robert Bourns the current President of the Law Society. Mr Bourns was on a visit to Northumbria University to enable him to see the pro-bono clinic in action and had the opportunity to meet with students from business and commercial, civil, housing and welfare firms within the SLO.

The meeting took place after introductions by all the students and a brief description of the firms that we are all in. Mr Bourns began by asking us about the type of client we see in the SLO and through discussion it was clear there is a difference within the firms from predominantly just everyday clients in housing, welfare and civil to start-up businesses/partnerships and charities within the business firms.  Not only was seeing the diversity of the clinic of interest to Mr Bourns but it was useful for the students too because it illustrated to each other how different our experiences have been within the SLO. We explained the types of work we have all undertaken from drafting of contracts, criminal appeals and discrimination cases.

Students were interested to hear Mr Bourns views about how it is important to protect the vulnerable people in society who are most at risk and how ensuring criminal defendants are robustly represented helps to avoid miscarriages of justice.

Mr Bourns was particularly interested to hear how our time in the SLO had shaped our career ambitions for after graduation. The majority of students said they were still interested in pursuing a legal career but noted how difficult in the current climate it is for students to obtain the elusive training contract. The students agreed that the work we have undertaken in the SLO has been valuable experience for all our careers, we all have developed practical skills which has built on our academic knowledge.

Overall it was a particularly stimulating visit for the students involved because it allowed everyone to learn more about each other firms but also because it gave rise to discussions about pro-bono work and the impact of government cuts to funding and how this makes pro-bono work more important and necessary.

This post was written by Lauren Graham. Lauren is a final year MLaw student currently working in the business and commercial firm in the Student Law Office. On graduation Lauren has secured a graduate position within tax consultation.

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Business & Commercial firm collaboratation with Entrepreneurial Business Management students

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It has been a busy start to Student Law Office (SLO) for the Business & Commercial firms and students in Victoria Gleason’s group have had the opportunity to test their skills early in the year by taking part in a ‘Generator Session’ with  Entrepreneurial Business Management (EBM) Students at the Northern Design Centre.

Lucy Hatt (EBM Programme Leader) and Victoria Gleason (SLO Module Leader) organised a collaborative Generator Session on Wednesday October 26th 2016.  Six final year Law students  joined a larger group of students from the EBM programme to work together on problems and opportunities sourced from the business projects of the EBM.

The EBM programme is one of a small number of undergraduate programmes in the UK incorporating venture creation as part of the curriculum.  Students learn business by doing business. Generator Sessions run as part of the programme four times a year for the entire programme group (all years together).  They offer a chance to show off key strengths, network across the programme, showcase learning, and to apply learning to real business situations.  It is a combination of brainstorming, problem solving and presenting. The Business & Commercial students were invited along to the session to help highlight potential legal issues to the EBM students and also to help participate in the problem solving.

The EBM students found the contribution of the law students really valuable; one commented, “Today was really fun as well as informative.  I feel like I learnt a lot from the external people that came in, as well as learning more about each other.”

The law students also thought the session was a great success one commenting “everyone seemed to benefit from this session, both business and law students” and adding “it allowed [her] to consider different issues which may arise when dealing with a business”.