Sky’s the limit for OpenWorks!

This year has been particularly exciting for students Elena and Dan who have been lucky enough to work with a group of British engineers who are set to take the security and counter terrorism markets by storm.

OpenWorks Engineering Ltd, founded in July 2015, has invented a system that offers security operators a ground-breaking alternative way to defeat nefarious drones. The company has now presented the official launch of their SkyWall100 drone defence system at the 2016 Home Office Security and Policing event and we can expect to see the first SkyWall100 systems in use before the end of the year.

SkyWall100 Front Shot

Chris Down, Managing Director of OpenWorks, said:

“Authorities around the world have been looking for a system like this and we are proud to continue the tradition of British innovation in the security industry.”

Providing OpenWorks with free legal advice and documentation at such an important stage has been a unique opportunity for Elena and Dan to develop their legal skills. Working with Roland Wilkinson, OpenWorks’ Financial Director, Elena and Dan drafted terms of use, a cookies policy and a privacy policy for the company website, and advised on general corporate governance issues. The work has provided a thrilling insight into the issues facing young businesses and the latest developments in the technology and engineering sector.

Elena and Dan said:

“Working with OpenWorks was a wonderful experience. Not only did this allow us to develop our legal skills with a commercial client, but, importantly, we were able to spend time really getting to know the business. We were inspired by their innovative personality, ambitious aims and strategic future plans and we are excited to work with other young businesses in the future.”

Elena and Dan headshots

Dan and Elena in the Student Law Office

Roland Wilkinson, Financial Director of OpenWorks, said:

“As a young start up, OpenWorks Engineering was looking for some legal guidance on website policies. The Student Law Office took on the whole process, delivering complete policies ready to publish with minimal input from myself. Elena and Daniel were professional and knowledgeable with prompt updates throughout. For appropriate legal counsel, I would thoroughly recommend the Student Law Office.”

The Student Law Office would like to wish OpenWorks every success in the future and we look forward to following their progress with SkyWall100.

This blog post was written by Elena Cross and Dan Watson. Elena graduated from Northumbria University this summer. Elena has secured a training contract with Bond Dickinson LLP in Newcastle for September 2016 and is excited to get started! In the meantime, Elena will continue to work as a bridal consultant in a wedding dress shop and enjoys spending her free time cooking and socialising. Dan also graduated from Northumbria University this summer. He has aspirations to become a commercial lawyer and outside of work has passion for playing and watching sport.

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Farewell from the 2015/16 firms!

It’s that time of year again where students who have been working in the Student Law Office begin to prepare for life after university. Following on from Abbie’s welcome post in November, it seems fitting to reflect on the work we have completed this year – and what a year it’s been!

Campus - CCE

We have been dealing with queries ranging from website policies, terms and conditions and intellectual property issues from many different clients including an engineering business, a sole trader service provider and even a university business clinic.

Our time in the Student Law Office has given us an exciting insight into commercial practice. We have also reflected on how our work may have long-lasting benefits for clients who are able to invest funds elsewhere and continue to progress in a thriving business community.

The experience has undoubtedly enhanced our career prospects by providing us with a year of unique practical legal experience and an increased level of commercial awareness.

On a personal note, we felt an amazing sense of achievement when we saw that our client has successfully implemented policies we had drafted onto their company website.

Below, some of our fellow students reflect on their experience and what they have enjoyed the most.

Robyn Heeran says:

“Throughout this year in the SLO I have really enjoyed the hands-on learning experience. Knowing that a client is depending on you to advise them on real life issues ASAP is really motivating and rewarding.”

Perri Byrne says:

“I have really enjoyed working with real clients, especially being given the responsibility to hand and manage their cases.”

As well as our client work we have been lucky enough to be involved in the Student Law Office in other exciting ways, including:

  • travelling to London to give intellectual property advice to a client;
  • leading our own firm meetings (this included playing Jenga and Pass the Parcel!);
  • networking at the Inspiring Entrepreneurs event;
  • receiving a visit from a member of the University of Strathclyde’s Law Clinic; and
  • raising an enormous amount of food for Newcastle West’s foodbank!

The experience has been truly unforgettable and the lessons learnt will stay with us throughout our professional lives. We hope that next year’s students and clients have an experience as enjoyable and rewarding as ours!

This blog post was written by Elena Cross and Dan Watson:

Elena and Dan


Elena is a final year MLaw student currently working in a business and commercial firm in the Student Law Office. Elena has secured a training contract with Bond Dickinson LLP in Newcastle for September 2016 and is excited to get started! In the meantime, Elena will continue to work as a bridal consultant in a wedding dress shop and enjoys spending her free time cooking and socialising.

Dan is a final year MLaw student who is currently advising commercial clients in the Student Law Office. He has aspirations to become a commercial lawyer and outside of work has passion for playing and watching sport.

 

Trade Marks 101: Part 2

In this two part series, Perri Byrne and Liam Faulkner are taking us on a whistle stop tour of trade marks. In Part 1, Perri explained what a trade mark is and the benefits of registration. Here, in Part 2, Liam looks at how to register a trade mark.

In the highly competitive business world that we live in, the well known phrase “dog eat dog” is an understatement to say the least. If it wasn’t hard enough having to fiercely compete with other businesses that aim to conquer the market, there are new businesses popping up round every corner who also have the burning desire to succeed. However, there are tools available to all business owners which can potentially propel them to flourish in even the most cutthroat business environments! You need to look no further. One essential tool that is readily available to you is the registration of your trade mark. If you’ve had the tenacity to create such a creative brand, then why not make sure it was protected?

How can I make my application to register a trade mark?

You may have imagined the registration process entailing a damp old office down a corridor of your local town hall where you are presented with stacks upon stacks of dusty books containing previous trade marks, in which you have to tediously sort through to only find out that someone had registered the same trade mark ten years before you. Thanks to the 21st Century, this is not the case at all.

You will make your application to the UK Intellectual Property Office (click here for more about the IPO).

There are three methods available when applying to register a trade mark. Whichever method you choose, you will need to identify the “class” or “classes” that you wish to register it under. This is essentially the field/fields your trade mark will have protection in, for example “education” or “advertising”.

1)           Firstly, there is the standard paper service (post) which costs £200 (for one class of goods/services). There is a fee of £50 for each additional class.

2)            The second method is an online application, which costs £170 for one class, with a further £50 fee for each additional class.

3)            The final method is the ‘Right Start’ scheme which costs £200 (for one class) and is also an online service. You will pay only half of the fee with your application (for instance, if applying to register under one class, this would be £100). If the report is successful you may then proceed with the registration and the remainder of the fee will then be payable.

With each of these methods the Intellectual Property Office will email/post the examination report to you within 20 working days.

What happens after the application?

If the examiner has no objections to the registration of the mark, you will be published online in the Trade Marks Journal for a period of 2 months. This is open to public inspection in which, interested parties may oppose the registration. As long as no objections arise during that period, then the trade mark will be registered and a registration certificate will be issued to you. Consequently, you will now be the happy owner of a registered trade mark!

laimThis blog post was written by Liam Faulkner. Having studied intellectual property previously he has found it very interesting to apply this knowledge to real life scenarios. In his spare time he enjoys playing football, and after graduating he hopes to either secure a training contract or work as a paralegal.

Trade marks 101: Part 1

In this two part series, Perri Byrne and Liam Faulkner are going to take us on a whistle stop tour of trade marks. Here, in Part 1, Perri outlines what a trade mark is. She then goes on to explore the benefits of registration. In Part 2, Liam will explain how to register a trade mark.

What is a trade mark?

A trade mark is defined under s.1(1) Trade Marks Act 1994 as ‘any sign capable of being represented graphically which is capable of distinguishing goods or services of one undertaking from those of another’. In other words, a trade mark enables consumers to identify goods or services as originating from a particular company or relating to a certain product or service. Trade marks typically take the form of words or logos, though it is possible to protect more unusual forms of trade marks such as colours, slogans, shapes of products or packaging, sounds and even smells.

Trade marks may be registered or unregistered. Registering trade marks usually offers the best protection but unregistered trade marks can be enforced in certain circumstances under the law of passing off.

It is important to distinguish trade marks from other types of registration such as domain names or company names. Registering a company name at Companies House does not provide trade mark protection for that name. If a person registering a company name wishes to prevent third parties from using an identical or confusingly similar name in the course of trade, it is important to file a separate trade mark registration to better protect the name.

What are the benefits of owning a registered trade mark?

If your register your trade mark, you are entitled to:

  • sell and license the brand
  • take legal action against anyone who uses the brand without permission, including counterfeits
  • use the ® symbol next to the brand – to alert others that it is a registered mark and warn anyone against using it.

For more information about trade marks, we recommend you visit the Intellectual Property Office website.

 

PerriThis blog post is written by Perri Byrne. Perri is a MLaw student working in a business & commercial firm within the Student Law Office at Northumbria University. Upon graduation she hopes to obtain a training contract within a commercial law firm. Meanwhile, she plans to carry on her work at the Citizens Advice Bureau and to undertake a paralegal position in order to enhance the skills which she has developed.

Are you commercially aware?

Commercial awareness is an important skill that every employer looks for in candidates. Many students assume that it’s only relevant for those seeking corporate careers. That’s not true. Anyone who wants to be a solicitor, regardless of the type of firm they want to work for, needs to have commercial awareness.

Commercial awareness is one of the key requirements that a proficient and competent solicitor ought to master. So, for aspiring lawyers it is important to be commercially aware in order to secure a training contract.

SO WHAT IS COMMERCIAL AWARENESS?

Commercial awareness can be defined as staying up-to-date on daily activities and developments in the business and commercial world. However, commercial awareness is not merely being aware of the news. It also about understanding the implications of what is going on in the world- politically, economically, socially and how that impacts the clients of the firm. Commercially aware solicitors can tailor their advice to reflect the circumstances of their clients and in doing so will help to build stronger client-solicitor relationship.

Commercial awareness is about appreciating how a law firm works as a business. Law students usually understand how the law works. But to be commercially aware students need to also understand that a law firm is a business and it needs to make money. Employers want to see that you are also business minded and can identify ways in which the law firm can increase revenue. For example, this can be by undertaking exceptional work for the client so that the client brings in further work to the firm or by identifying a gap in the market or an opportunity to win a new client.

HOW CAN YOU BECOME COMMERCIALLY AWARE?

It is important to emphasise that becoming commercially aware does not happen overnight. It must be developed over a period of time, beginning with your basic legal education and growing as you continue your studies and embark on your legal career. Hence, thorough preparation is key to becoming commercially aware.

Research is the easiest way to gain commercial knowledge. Try reading newspapers, business publications and company newsletters, relevant books, watching relevant TV programmes, downloading business podcasts or reading business and commercial blogs like this one!

Predominantly you should be watching the news and reading newspapers daily to expand your general knowledge, as this is crucial to becoming commercially aware. So if you are interested in a particular story, make sure you follow it up all the way though to demonstrate genuine commercial awareness. One way you can do this is by, perhaps, signing up to the Law Society Gazette and keep updated on the stories which interest you.

Try and stay up-to-date on the latest deals, transactions, legislative changes and other relevant developments such that you are able to understand and appreciate both the big picture as well as the local economy on the doorstep of the firms you want to work for.

Work experience is probably the most practical way to gain commercial acumen; as it may give you knowledge about how a particular firm works. The strength and weaknesses of the business and what is affecting the business at that particular time.

Working in any kind of job though, not necessarily one in law, will provide insight into how a business is conducted, what factors contribute to success or failure, how to utilise manpower and resources to the best extent, and what will be the bottom-line result.

Other methods include taking part in discussion forums, industry-specific networking/ business clubs, attending lectures and seminars which focusses on business and commerce.

USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO BECOME SOCIALLY AWARE

Social media has become a part of most people’s daily life. Social media is an easy and fun way to become commercially aware.

Facebook

Facebook can aid in becoming commercially aware, since news outlets such as the Financial Times, The Times, Bloomberg Business and The Telegraph have their own Facebook pages.  You can effortlessly keep up to date with the latest affairs on your newsfeed by liking their pages, and simply clicking on article that interest you which will help your commercial awareness. It would be even better to like the pages of the Law Firms you are interested in potentially working for, as they may post updates about the firm which may be useful to know for interviews.

Twitter

Twitter can also be used to help individuals become commercially aware. You can follow the twitter pages of the news outlets mentioned above e.g Bloomberg Business and Financial Times. You can also follow The Law Society and the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority as well as the pages of the firms you want to apply to in the future, to keep up to date. Even the Student Law Office has a twitter page!

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a professional social media platform which acts as your online CV. So it is essential to have a profile on LinkedIn and ensure it is optimised for recruiters.

LinkedIn can help you be commercially aware as you can follow a range of law firms and remain updated on their activity. You can even check out the profiles of people who already work at a specific law firm to get an insight about the educational and professional background of the people the firm employs.

And last but not least, don’t just ‘consume’ information – you need to understand and apply what you’ve learnt. Recruiters are searching for candidates who can make connections, draw conclusions and understand the world around them. Recruiters want evidence – you need to give it to them!

rezwana dithy

This blog post was written by Rezwana Dithy. Rezwana is a MLaw student working in a business and commercial firm within the Student Law Office. After graduating from University, she hopes to secure a training contract within a commercial law firm. In the meantime, she plans to undertake paralegal work & also continue her work advising older clients at Age UK to develop important skills she will be utilising in practice.

Which business medium is best for you?

Deciding to set up your own business can be an exciting yet daunting experience. You’ve come up with your business plan, but do you know what medium your business will take? Are you going to go it alone as a sole trader? How about a partnership? Maybe register as a company limited by shares?

This blog post will tell you about each business medium and provide you with the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

Sole Trader

A sole trader is someone who is self employed. They own their business by themselves and have completely responsibility for it. That doesn’t mean to say you would have to work alone, a sole trader can have employees.

Profits from a sole trader’s business forms part of that person’s taxable income. This is subject to income tax which is paid via a self-assessment each year

ADVANTAGES DISADVANTAGES
THE PROFITS OF THE BUSINESS ARE ENTIRELY YOURS – once taxes have been paid and any employee wages (if applicable), the remaining sum is yours to do with as you please. UNLIMITED LIABILITY – By far the biggest disadvantage of setting up as a sole trader is that liability for the businesses losses and debts falls entirely on you. If your business falls on hard times, you will be liable. This can include your home being at risk as well as personal savings and any other assets you have both inside and outside of the business. Also, if for any reason a customer sues the business, they are essentially suing you.
CONTROL – As the only owner of the business, you will have complete control over the running of it. Decisions will not have to be put to a vote or require approval from anyone else making it easier and faster to implement changes. FINANCE – Setting up as a sole trader can be expensive. You will need equipment, machinery and perhaps premises. These will need to be paid for out of your own money whether savings or a loan. Unlike  a company, you cannot sell shares in the business to raise money.

 

IMPROVED CUSTOMER SERVICE – It could be argued that as a smaller sole trader business you are able to offer a more personalised approach to your customers. This is because as the only owner you are a lot more involved in the business. It seems that you can develop relationships with customers, than can turn in to repeat loyal buyers as well as suppliers that can lead to cheaper rates. SELF-STARTER – As the only person involved in the business at least to start with, you will have to do every job required from sales to cleaning. At the outset you will be particularly busy and it is down to you alone to keep on top of everything. This inevitably means working long hours including evenings and weekends.
LESS RED TAPE – Setting up as a sole trader has the least amount of ‘red tape’ surrounding it. The only requirement is to inform HMRC of your business. Once that is done, you can start trading right away. DECISION MAKING – Although I’ve included this  in advantages, it can also be a disadvantage. As you make all the decisions, there is nobody to fall back on for help, or to blame if the wrong decision is made. The success or failure of the business rests on you. This can lead to a build up of pressure, particularly at the start whilst the business is developing.
PRIVATE DATA – Information about a sole trader is kept private. This is not the same for companies. REVERSE ECONOMIES OF SCALE – Sole traders are unable to take advantage of economies of scale in the same way companies and larger corporations, who can afford to buy in bulk. This can lead to being charged higher prices for stock which may be reflected on to your customers.
ACCOUNTS – As a sole trader all you are required to complete is a profit and loss account. Subsequently, accountants’ fees are usually lower than for completing company accounts. IF YOU DON’T WORK, YOU DON’T MAKE MONEY – This speaks for itself. If your business is closed, there will be no customer purchases. If there are no purchases, the business is not making money.
WORKING HOURS – As a sole trader, you decide when you want to go to work. If you decide you want a day off, you can take it. It has been said that the best part of being a sole trader is having the freedom to strike the perfect balance between work and social life.

Partnership

A partnership is where two or more people carry on business together. For tax purposes they are treated the same as sole traders in that the profits and losses are subject to income tax via each partner’s self-assessments each year.

Generally, each partner has equally responsibility and authority to run the business (unless stated otherwise in a partnership agreement) and the actions of one partner can bind the entire partnership.

Although not a requirement, most partnerships have a detailed partnership agreement setting out a range of terms of the partnership. This includes, how the business will be financed, which partner does what work, what happens if one partner dies and what happens if one or more of the partners wants to dissolve the partnership.

You can find out more about Limited Liability Partnerships here.

ADVANTAGES DISADVANTAGES
CAPITAL – As with a sole trader business, a partnership cannot sell shares in the business in order to raise funds to set up the business. However, with a partnership there are at least 2 people to contribute towards that initial start up fees. The more money that can be put into the business allows for better flexibility and more potential for growth. This in turn should hopefully lead to more potential profit. TAXATION – Partnerships are taxed in the same way as a sole trader. Each individual partner pays income tax on their share of the profits. This can be a disadvantage as partnerships usually have bigger profits than sole traders (due to the higher amount of capital first invested). This can lead to big tax implications for the partners.
LESS RED TAPE – Setting up as a partnership is generally quite easy. Much the same as for a sole trader, the only requirement is registration with HMRC. JOINT AND SEVERAL – Business partners are jointly and individually liable for the actions of the other partners. If one partner makes an error, or gets the business into debt, all the partners will be liable for that debt.
KNOWLEDGE – A partnership may benefit from the combination of complimentary skills of the two or more partners. There is a wider pool of knowledge, skills and contracts. Different partners can specialise in different aspects of the business. DISAGREEMENTS – Perhaps an obvious disadvantage of a partnership is the danger of disagreements between partners. One partner may feel that their idea is ‘better’ about a decision or how the business should be run. This can lead to disagreements that can harm both the business and the relationship of those involved.
FLEXIBILITY – Partnerships are quite flexible in terms of management. There is no interference from shareholders. You only need agreement from the other partner/s. UNLIMITED LIABILITY –  As with a sole trader, the partners of the business have unlimited liability for the losses and debt of the business. Although this liability could be split between the partners this could still be a large amount. This could lead to losing your home, personal savings and any assets within or outside the business.
SHARED RESPONSIBILITY – The pressure and weight of running the business does not rest on one person’s shoulders. It is shared equally amongst the partners. Rather than splitting the management and taking an equal share in each task, each partner may take on the full task that they excel at. For example, if a partner is particularly good at figures, they may deal with the book keeping. Whereas another may be good at sales and so deal with that aspect of the business. PROFIT SHARING – The profits of the business are shared equally between the partners (unless stated otherwise in the partnership agreement) This can lead to issues if one partner is not putting as much effort into the running of the business as others but still getting the benefits.
DECISION MAKING – As there is more than one person making decisions, the partners of the business can help each other out when necessary. Each partner can bring something different to the table and these can be moulded together to achieve the best outcome for any problem the business may face. DECISION MAKING – When decisions are made, all of the partners will need to agree in order for things to be done. This reduces the flexibility of the management of the company slightly, particularly to sole traders. However, this is still greater flexibility than with limited companies.

Private Company Limited by Shares

The biggest difference with a company from the other mediums is that they have their own legal identity. This means that the company’s finances are not linked to your personal finances. The company is responsible for its own debts and liabilities but also keeps any profit it makes (after payment of corporation tax). A company can then pass these profits on to its shareholders through payment of a dividend. However, this is not compulsory, but it is the only way to personally benefit from the profits of the company.

The day to day running of the company is done by directors (which can vary from one director to quite a few) but any major decisions must be approved by the shareholders (again this can vary from just one shareholder to hundreds). Shareholders are able to purchase shares in order to raise capital to put back in to the company.

A private company limited by shares must be registered with Companies House and can involve quite a bit of paperwork and cost.

ADVANTAGES DISADVANTAGES
LIMITED LIABILITY– By far the biggest advantage of setting up your business as a private company limited by shares is that each shareholder is only liable for the amount unpaid on their shares. This is For example: if you had 10 shares at a cost of £3000 and you have so far only paid £2000. If the company fell into difficulty, your liability would only be £1000, even if the company had debts of £100,000. CONTROL – Although a company has directors who deal with the day to day running of the company, any big or important decisions have to be approved by the majority of the shareholders. This can be difficult to achieve, particularly when there are a large number of shareholders.
CAPITAL – A company limited by shares can increase its share capital and allot these new shares in order to raise money that can be put back into the company. This makes it a lot easier to finance than a sole trader or partnership who have to use their own money to fund the business. RED TAPE – Setting up a company limited by shares involves a lot of red tape and is covered by strict registration rules. It must be registered with Companies House which costs £15. There is also quite a lot of paper work to be completed that is quite detailed.
STATUS – A professional and corporate image is created by setting up a private limited company. This can boost the value of the business as bigger corporations and industries are likely to do business with a company rather than a partnership and particularly with a sole trader. This is because private limited companies are considered to be more established, credible and committed. PRIVACY – The accounts of the company, as well as the names of the shareholders and directors and also the directors’ personal addresses are all in the public domain

Dividends – Dividends are payments made to shareholders each year out of the profits the company makes. Although these are not compulsory, if the business is making large profits yet not paying dividends, questions will be raised. Unlike for a sole trader and partnerships, profits do not go directly to you. Once dividends are paid, any surplus profit is reinvested into the company.

CONTINUITY – The company is not affected by a change of shareholder or director. The company will continue regardless. It is not affected by the death either a shareholder or a director. The only way a company can cease is through liquidation, administration or winding up. TAXATION – Taxation for a limited company is complicated. A private limited company has its own separate legal personality and so tax is not paid via income tax as it is for a sole trader or partnership. Instead, a company pays corporation tax which can be complicated. This can lead to higher accountancy fees. Each shareholder will still have to pay income tax on any dividend they receive each year via self-assessment.

 

Not sure which business medium is right for you? Why not contact the Student Law Office to see if we can help? 

This post wasAbbie written by Abbie Swales. Abbie is a final year MLaw student at Northumbria University who currently works in a Business and Commercial Firm with the university’s Student Law Office. After graduating from university, she hopes to obtain a training contract within a commercial law firm. Outside of university, she enjoys watching Formula 1, baking and spending time with friends.

Hello & Welcome – from the 2015/16 firms!

Hello and welcome from the SLO business & commercial firms of 2015/2016!

Our SLO business & commercial firms are full of interesting and talented individuals who are all eager to advise local businesses, charities and entrepreneurs.

Abbie's firm in the Student Law Office (L-R: Matheesha, Emma, Robert, Jodie, Chris and Abbie)

Abbie’s firm in the Student Law Office (L-R: Matheesha, Emma, Robert, Jodie, Chris and Abbie)

Many of us have already had wide-ranging experience of working with clients, including work experience within a law firm, and volunteering with the Citizens Advice Bureau and Newcastle Law Centre. We are really looking forward to having a great year working in the fantastic award-winning SLO’s business & commercial firms.

We are hoping for a variety of cases to allow us to develop our knowledge and understanding of the different aspects of business and commercial law. We love to be kept busy, whether it’s researching, drafting, interviewing or reflecting on our experiences!

We have a number of new blog posts in the pipeline. They include information about changes to the law and news about events we’ve attended. Please do keep checking back on the blog for more information.

This post was written by Abbie Swales. Abbie is a final year MLaw student at Northumbria University who currently works in a Business and Commercial Firm with the university’s Student Law Office. After graduating from university, she hopes to obtain a training contract within a commercial law firm. Outside of university, she enjoys watching Formula 1, baking and spending time with friends.

 Abbie