FIRST class legal advice

SLO FIRST Face to Face 2

L-R, Charlotte Windebank, James Warnock, Caroline Theobald, Jaimie Hill and Victoria Gleason

At Northumbria Law School’s award winning Student Law Office, students are exposed to working with real clients including dynamic local businesses, under the supervision of qualified solicitors.

Current law Students James Warnock and Jaimie Hill have recently been assisting one such company, FIRST Face to Face Ltd, by providing it with free legal advice and documentation at an important stage in its development. FIRST is the brainchild of founder Charlotte Windebank and was set up in 2014 with the aim of establishing a network of business, industry and academia to promote young people’s future employment and enterprise opportunities.

The company has been going from strength to strength and Charlotte’s entrepreneurial spark has recently been recognised by Maserati and the Centre for Entrepreneurs as she was listed in the Maserati 100 – a list of the most successful business leaders actively supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs.

FIRST provides a networking environment in which business professionals and aspiring entrepreneurs can establish vital connections, as the company’s motto stresses, “all new business starts with a conversation”.  The company has worked to deliver exciting projects and events to a wide range of clients and partners and also works closely with established local networking business Bridge Club, headed up by Caroline Theobald who is also a director of FIRST.

One recent FIRST project involves working  with ‘NEETS’ (Young Persons Not in Education, Employment or Training) in conjunction with Sunderland City Council, and aims to get 16-18 year olds interested in a career in IT. Another involves FIRST providing mentoring support to NUOVO, Northumbria University’s Enterprise Society.

With FIRST going through an important stage of growth and development, Charlotte thought the company would benefit from obtaining some legal advice and a contact recommended that she get in touch with the Student Law Office at Northumbria University. The Student Law Office provides free legal advice to the public in a range of different legal areas including business and commercial law.

Charlotte said of the service:

“The Student Law Office was engaged to provide FIRST with advice about branding and intellectual property, its website terms and conditions and its ongoing filing and administrative requirements. Given the strong social media and networking focus of the business it was great that the students were able to work closely with FIRST to ensure the website terms were robust whilst fitting with the overall ethos of the company. I was really impressed with the service the Student Law Office provided”.

Victoria Gleason, the qualified solicitor supervising the students’ work added:

“It is great that James and Jaimie have had the opportunity to work with such an inspiring business and to put their legal knowledge into practice. I know they have found it great preparation for their legal careers and that Charlotte has even been kind enough to provide some networking and careers advice to them in return. I think this collaboration between the Student Law Office and FIRST highlights that the North East is a brilliant place to study, work and start a business.”

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Clinic Collaboration with qLegal

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This year, we were delighted to take part in the first ever business law clinic collaboration of its kind.

Charlotte and Joseph from the Student Law Office provided trade mark advice to Thomas and Youn from qLegal.

qLegal provides free legal advice, workshops and resources to tech start-up companies and entrepreneurs. Those legal services are provided by high calibre postgraduate law students under the guidance of legal professionals from collaborating law firms and academic staff at the School of Law. You can find out more about qLegal here.

The project involved the students travelling to their respective clinics and engaging as client and advisor. It culminated in the team completing an application to register the qLegal trade mark – see the photo above! After submitting an application the students engaged in a round-table discussion about their experience of the project – which was overwhelmingly positive. Both parties were also able to reflect on the differences between the clinics: assessed/non-assessed, compulsory/voluntary, postgraduate/undergraduate students. Our hosts also kindly took us on a visit to the Royal Courts of Justice and the Law Society!

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We would like to thank the team and students from qLegal for being such wonderful clients and we look forward to many collaborations in the future. You can also read qLegal’s reflections on the project here.

Business & Commercial supervisors nominated for Student Led Teaching Awards

Elaine and Victoria were delighted to receive nominations in this year’s Northumbria University Student Led Teaching Awards.

Elaine and Victoria said, “We would like to thank the students who put our names forward, and for the kind words that they included on our nomination forms. It really does mean a lot to us, and we are both very grateful. It is a pleasure to work in the Student Law Office. We always feel that we learn as much from our students as they learn from us!

TA Elaine

TA VG

A legal tune worth hearing!

Playing in bands and embarking on tours while attempting to pass a law degree has been no easy feat, but one of the most rewarding experiences I have had. Now I’m close to the end of my degree I’m able to use my legal knowledge to my band’s benefit, but this has not always been the case and there has been times where we have lost money as a result. Hopefully this article will give a brief insight into the legal problems bands can face and why it’s important to obtain legal advice in these situations.

Contracts, contracts, contracts

Many bands, including those I know personally, still do a large portion of their work in the music industry without contracts, which is essentially playing with fire. To explain contracts in brief:

  • They usually set out all terms agreed upon by the parties and set out any obligations that have to be fulfilled.
  • They may contain remedies for situation where one party does not fulfil their end of the contract.
  • They are essentially there for the protection of the interests of all parties involved.

It is often helpful to have a written contract in place where a band is booking a show where they are required to sell tickets. It may be the case that the promoter has agreed to promote the show in a certain way and the band has agreed to sell a certain number of tickets which, if left unsold, must be paid for by the band. So what would be the outcome if the promoter does not promote the show and the tickets are not sold as a result?

  • Without a contract, the promoter will still realistically be able to ask for the money to account for unsold tickets, even where it may be his fault that the tickets are not sold, as the band has no proof he has committed to promote the show in a certain way, and the promoter is in a position of power.
  • If a contract is in place – and it has been drafted appropriately – the band may be able to point to the clause in the contract which sets out the promoter’s obligations. They can argue that the promoter has failed to hold up his end of the bargain and that has led to a reduction in ticket sales.

This is a prime reason to make sure there is a written contract wherever possible, for the protection of your interests. A solicitor who specialises in commercial contracts can help draft that contract.

Per diem? Plain English please

While having a contract in place is all well and good, it is useless if you don’t really understand what’s being said. Many contracts contain a lot of legal jargon. Take two bands with the same contract which:

  • Gives a £40,000 advance for recording and two tours within the first year, with repayment conditions attached,
  • Includes a £25 per diem (daily allowance) per band member,
  • Includes provisions which would ultimately lead to 75% of tour merchandise sales going to the label and not the band.

Band A, who have taken no legal advice, may be swayed solely on the £40,000 advance which they may not be even able to repay through album sales if the album ‘flops’. Without any thought to what a ‘per diem’ is or the merchandise sale provision, the band would not realise that each member would make very little money from good merchandise sales and a basic daily allowance. In comparison Band B, who have taken legal advice, will be in a better position to hopefully negotiate a better deal with the label after these provisions have been explained to them by a lawyer.

Free legal advice

As I am well aware, many young bands would not have the funds to hire a lawyer to aid them in drafting contracts and explaining detailed provisions to them why the free legal advice service provided by the Business and Commercial Firms within the Student Law Office at Northumbria University is invaluable to bands starting to take their first steps within the music industry. We are coming to the end of the academic year at the Student Law Office, but bands might want to contact the SLO in the new academic year (October 2015) to see if any assistance can be provided. For more details please click here.

This blog post was written by Joseph Muir.  Joseph is an MLaw student who is currently advising clients as part of a Business and Commercial firm within the Student Law Office. On graduation he hopes to spend some time working on his music before securing a training contract which will allow him to further develop his interests in media law.

 Joseph

Victoria & Elaine speak at the 2015 CLEA Conference, Glasgow

Victoria Gleason and Elaine Campbell, Business & Commercial firm supervisors in the Student Law Office, recently presented at the Commonwealth Legal Education Association Conference in Glasgow on the theme of using and encouraging creative activities in clinical legal education. They spoke about student-led firm meetings, blogging, and networking activities, drawing on their own experiences in the Student Law Office.

The abstract can be found here.

Keeping yourself informed in the information age: a quick guide to copyright

The 21st century is an increasingly technological era, and it has become all too easy to break the law with just a few misguided clicks. With personal computers in every home (perhaps served by super-fast, fibre optic broadband) and mobile phones that provide us with 4G connections while we’re on the move, it is more important than ever to be aware of copyright law. This is because, thanks to the principle of strict liability, ignorance is no defence.

What is copyright, and why should you be aware of it?

Copyright is quite a novel form of protection for intellectual property – notable examples of which include songs, films, photographs and literary works. Whereas entrepreneurs seeking to protect their brand by way of trade mark, or their product by way of patent, will find that there are applications to be made, and registration fees to be considered, copyright protection applies automatically. When an artist creates a copyrightable work, their rights to that work are protected without them having to take any formal steps, or pay any fee.

Another potentially startling fact about copyright protection is that it generally lasts for a period of 70 years – far longer than the maximum term of an expensive patent. Given that copyright is an automatic form of protection – which lasts for the better part of a century – it is more than likely that every song, video and photograph you encounter online is protected by copyright. Being aware that each piece of content you come across is someone else’s intellectual property is the first step towards ensuring that you respect their rights.

What do we mean by “copying”?

Copyright protection may be free, but it is comprehensive. “You get what you pay for” is not a maxim to be bandied around here. Where an item is protected by copyright, the law not only prevents anyone other than the copyright owner from copying that item, but also prohibits several methods of ‘communicating’ that item to the public. This includes electronic methods of sharing, such as uploading files to a website. Failure to abide by these laws may result in an injunction – meaning you’ll be compelled to remove the image (or other item) you have shared – or, more seriously, financial penalties.

Can you get a licence?

Where an artist has rights of ownership over a copyright work, they might choose to provide third parties with a licence to use that work. Often, the owner will charge this third party a licence fee. This allows the owner earn money for the use of the work, without losing their rights to the work as a whole – for example, a photographer might sell rights to their work to a magazine, or newspaper publisher. If you infringe copyright, the financial damages you’ll be made to pay will often reflect the cost of the licence fee you would otherwise have had to pay to the owner.

The dangers of social media

Given the recent popularity of social media platforms such as Instagram and Tumblr – which rely on the sharing of user-generated content – it has perhaps become easy to get the impression that sharing is a carefree affair. However, the law makes it very clear that it is no defence to say that you were unaware that your actions were unlawful. In one case, it was said that if a blind man were asked to photocopy a set of documents, without being informed of the contents, he could still be found liable for copyright infringement if he copied a copyright work as a result.

It is hoped that this highlights the importance of keeping yourself informed, and that by bearing in mind the principles of copyright law you can make sure you won’t run into unnecessary difficulties online. Think before you share that video, or post that photograph.

This blog post was written by Calvin Walker. Having advised entrepreneurs as a member of a Business & Commercial firm in the Student Law Office, Calvin has developed a particular interest in the areas of IP and IT law. After graduating he is hoping to secure a training contract with a commercial firm in order to build upon his experiences in the SLO.

Calvin

10 TED talks to make you commercially aware

Commercial awareness is both a flexible and elusive term.  Perhaps it could be defined as the following:

“an awareness of business trends, strategies , successes, failures, threats, opportunities , events and a knowledge of entrepreneurship.”

For commercial lawyers, possessing the quality above is essential. A lawyer in a commercial context must have a firm grounding in both the legal and business marketplaces. An awareness of the competition and the growing trends within the legal sector is critical for a firm that wants to keep pace. Equally, as every client is a business, a solicitor must have a thorough knowledge of the relevant industry so that he can offer relevant, effective, and future-proof advice to a client.

A fact that employers often stress also emphasises the importance of commercial awareness; a law firm is a business. Therefore, an understanding of what makes a business successful, and the challenges it may face along the way, is an important tool for any prospective solicitor.

Many students find it difficult discovering ways to become commercially aware, many reaching straight for the business sections of the newspaper or going online to read the latest commercial and legal bulletins. However, there are much easier ways. Podcasts, blogs and apps perhaps make it easier than ever before to passively absorb business-sense. Less tedious than a broadsheet and something that you can tackle on the way to University.

A similar, and equally brilliant, untapped resource are TED talks. TED talks are video lectures, ideas and presentations. Better yet, TED talks are a great resource for picking up a subtle, and perhaps deeper understanding of commercial awareness. Listed below are ten great talks, focused on a range of general commercial issues, to get you started and send you on your way to becoming a guru of the commercially aware.

  1. Joseh Pine – What consumers want
  1. Margaret Steward – How YouTube thinks about copyright
  1. Ray Anderson – The business logic of sustainability
  1. Ricardo Semler – How to run a company with (almost) no rules
  1. Drew Curtis – How I beat a patent troll
  1. Harish Manwani – Profit’s not always the point
  1. Michael Porter – Why business can be good at solving social problems
  1. Nigel Marsh – How to make work-life balance work
  1. Yves Morieux – As work gets more complex, 6 rules to simplify
  1. Phillip Evans – How data will transform business

This blog post was written by James Warnock. James is currently studying the M Law degree at Northumbria University and is working as a student advisor for business and commercial law within its Student Law office. On graduation he hopes to secure a role which will allow him to apply the law-based skills he has acquired within a commercial context, whether this is in-house, in private practice or in a wider business context. He aspires to work alongside unique and passionate forms of enterprise.

James Warnock