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.

 

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What’s so good about in-house?

When budding commercial lawyers consider their career in practice, or how they might acquire the elusive training contract, the focus on large commercial firms is natural. However, to focus only on commercial training in its typical sense is to deprive a future trainee of a goldmine of experience.

Hundreds of companies within the UK are registered to offer training contracts. Therefore the scope of opportunities is huge. Given that many overlook in-house experience as a route of training, a trainee may be competing with fewer peers for a place. However, it should be noted that training contracts provided by companies are less consistently offered in comparison to commercial firms, given that in-house legal teams tend to be small and tight-knit in nature.

Nevertheless, the variety offered by potential in-house experience is incredible. Companies registered to offer training contracts include Amazon, BBC, Burberry, Google, Sainsbury’s, Mercedes, McDonalds, Warner Bros and numerous football clubs.  During my in-house work experience, my enthusiasm for commercial law was reinvigorated. It is surprising how working within a business you are passionate for can change the way you see aspects of your academic work. Law is much more interesting in reality after all. So why not see how a working-business perspective changes your outlook; looking after the legal needs of a company you feel passion for is a powerful incentive.

I also found a wide breadth of work to be inherent within in-house work. Some areas of law clearly affect a business more than others, such as contract and employment. However, an in-house lawyer may have to address any legal issue which confronts the company. I found myself accompanying my seniors in dealing with some peculiar issues, taking me out of the office on occasion for site visits.

In-house experience also allows a trainee to see how their role affects a business from start to finish. Rather than providing advice and moving on to the next case, an in-house solicitor will be present to see the positive repercussions their hard work has for their employer first-hand. I found that being committed to one cause created a great atmosphere of teamwork within the office. The office itself was full of not only legal-heads, but also individuals who were purely about business. This mix was refreshing, creating a dynamic of different personalities with varying skills, experience and backgrounds.

Also, in-house experience offers an abundance of commercial awareness. Understanding how the world of business works is key if you are considering private practice, given the focus on providing a client-led service. Working in-house provides the opportunity to understand how legal work relates to a wider context. This allows a future lawyer to understand the thought process of a business which may be similar to that of a future client. The opportunity to develop legal and business knowhow simultaneously is priceless, and learning about new forms of enterprise every day is exciting. This is especially the case if you would like to broaden your horizons outside of a legal environment. However, being thrown in at the deep end is a concern often expressed; this being the reason for many solicitors practicing privately before moving in-house.

This brief discussion only highlights some of the advantages and disadvantages of considering the pursuance of a career or work experience in-house. Make sure to research your favourite company and see what they have to offer. Also, in the future you may want to pay more attention to the in-house pages of your Training Contract and Pupillage Handbook!

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

ABS: Will it create a law firm SOS?

A current commercial issue that may inevitably confront businesses in our region is the quite recent implementation of newly operating Alternative Business Structures. Alternative Business Structures is an innovative idea whereby under the Legal Services Act 2007 non-legal organisations can give legal advice and share management of law firms by obtaining a licence, resulting in external investment. The main purpose of its introduction is to provide more choice for consumers of legal services. Significantly this will impact upon many law firms and also many companies that may desire to adopt a new and cutting-edge business model. Organisations such as the AA and Co-op have now all become an ABS; expanding the legal sector. This may inflict damage upon smaller law firms who may find that their own existing clients and any potential new clients will choose larger organisations for reasons such as practicality, competitive rates and convenience. Although an advantage to companies, it may prove to become a disadvantage to smaller law firms who may already be struggling under crippling Legal Aid cuts, the pressures of differentiating their brand in an overly crowded legal market, and increasing client demands.

As this commercial issue is current and ongoing it is unclear and to an extent uncertain what impact the ‘ABS’ implementation will have in the future among businesses and law firms alike. But clearly there will be more competiveness and aggressive marketing campaigns in order to attract clients and bolster profits.  Neil Rose of The Guardian stated, ‘It may be a difficult time to be a lawyer, but – at least in theory – it should be a better time to be a client.’

Overall it suggests the party who will be gaining the most is the client from the street than the lawyer in the office. The significance of this current commercial issue cannot be underestimated and it is an issue that will only increase as we start to see the first effects of the change.

For more information, this link may be interesting:

http://l2b.thelawyer.com/home/insight/an-alternative-to-alternative-business-structures/3015083.article

http://www.sra.org.uk/sra/how-we-work/reports/research-abs-executive-report.page

If you are interested in setting up an ABS, the link below may provide some initial guidance:

https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/advice/articles/setting-up-an-abs/

This blog post was written by Connor Cartledge. Connor is a final year M Law student at Northumbria University who is currently working in a business and commercial firm in Northumbria’s Student Law Office as part of his final year studies. After University he hopes to obtain a Training Contract with a law firm. He has had a good range of experience with international, national and regional law firms.

Connor

Welcome to our blog!

Welcome to the first blog post of wetakecareofbusiness!

This blog is brought to you by the students and supervisors of the Business and Commercial firms at Northumbria University’s award winning Student Law Office.

Over the coming months, we’ll be telling you more about the work of the Student Law Office and what it is like to be a student involved in a clinical legal education programme. We’ll be providing you with some hints and practical tips about key areas of company, commercial and intellectual property law and posting any other information we think might be of interest.

We hope you enjoy reading and interacting with our blog. Please keep an eye out for future posts. We hope to start posting regularly from August 2014 onwards.