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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Law in Action! What’s it like working in the Student Law Office?

Natalie and Charlotte are final year law students who work in the Student Law Office as part of their MLaw degree at Northumbria University, Newcastle. In the Student Law Office, students work in teams of six (known as “firms”). Different firms specialise in different areas of law. Natalie works in a Civil Litigation firm and Charlotte works in a Business & Commercial firm. Here, they reflect on their experiences to date….

Natalie Richards (left) and Charlotte Stapleton (right)

Natalie Richards (left) and Charlotte Stapleton (right)

Why did you choose your firm?

Natalie (Civil Litigation): During numerous placements and throughout university I discovered a real interest in civil law. I really enjoyed the type of work undertaken by a civil firm and I was excited at the prospect of being able to engage in the variety of work contained within the civil law remit.

Charlotte (Business & Commercial): I wish to practice in a commercial firm in the future and I thought that this firm could provide me with much needed experience in this area.

What have you found most surprising about your area of law?

Natalie: When I mentioned I had opted for a civil law firm because of the option to engage in a variety of work, I had not envisaged just how diverse the cases would be from each other. Nobody in my firm, as of yet, has had a case even remotely similar to anybody else’s. All of the cases dealt with in my firm have been really specialised areas of law which has really surprised me. The standard breach of contract claim I had envisaged dealing with, at least once, has so far not ensued.

Charlotte: When working in a business & commercial firm, the expectation is that the clients for the most part will be stereotypical ‘businessmen’ – i.e. people dressed in suits etc. However this is not the case at all! We have a real variety of clients who come in for business-related advice and that came as a surprise to me.

What do you think sets your firm apart from others?

Natalie: The variety of work definitely sets the civil firms apart from the others because it gives us a wide scope of experience in many different disciplines. We are often involved in specialist areas of law that we have not come across before. This is very exciting and always keeps us on our toes!

Civil students also have the opportunity to draft court documents and witness statements, prepare contractual agreements, be participant to negotiations between parties and even (where appropriate) represent clients in court!

Charlotte: Being in the business firm offers you opportunities to go to various events. These events are excellent networking opportunities and can be beneficial for commercial awareness. One such event we attended was the hosted at the Newcastle Business & IP Centre. This was the ‘Inspiring Entrepreneurs’ event, which featured a live link-up to the British Library in London where a panel of business leaders answered questions from the audience and via twitter. It was interesting to learn how the various entrepreneurs started out and overcame any obstacles they faced.

We also have been given the opportunity and funding to travel down to London to give advice to our clients! This is a really exciting opportunity.

How many cases do you have on at a time?

Natalie: Typically I have had two cases running at any one time, although my case load has varied from three to one in accordance with the progression, complexity and workload of each case.

Charlotte: Usually students have two cases running at one time. Even if you have a couple of cases, you can manage your own time and set your own deadlines and as a result have more independence in your cases.

What type of cases do you deal with?

Natalie: There is such a wide variety of cases that my firm and I have dealt with, including issues such as planning, judicial review, negligence and wills. This variety has enabled me to gain knowledge and experience in lots of different areas of law.

Charlotte: There is no set type of case that comes through the door – they can cover a wide range of issues such as intellectual property, setting up a business, directors’ duties, websites, various types of organisations etc.

How have you found juggling SLO with your other responsibilities?

Natalie: To start with I found this quite challenging as I prioritised my work in the SLO, in order to meet the relevant deadlines. However, during my second term in the SLO I have managed to balance my time spent in SLO more equally with my other subjects, although naturally there will always be peaks where SLO will take priority again.

Charlotte: I have found this manageable. Unlike some other firms which deal with contentious issues, there are no set limitation dates which affect our cases. Nevertheless we work hard to prepare timely advice for our clients.

Each week you have a “firm meeting”. What is a typical firm meeting like?

Natalie: Most firm meetings, either at the beginning or end, entail a run through of everybody’s cases and talking through any problems we have encountered with our cases during the previous week. The body of each meeting varies from debating, civil procedure quizzes and games, looking at ethics and professional conduct and working on reflection, which has, embarrassingly, even involved my firm watching and providing feedback on my initial client interviews.

Charlotte: Firm meetings include discussing our cases and next steps, focusing on reflections, discussing articles that can be useful in reflections and visits out of the SLO such as to the Newcastle Business and IP Centre.

You also get the opportunity to lead a firm meeting? What happens in student led firm meetings?

Natalie: There are no specific topics set, although it must be SLO or civil related. They are likely to involve: reflections, debates, discussing articles, civil law games and quizzes and professional conduct.

Charlotte: Firm meetings can be on anything the student wishes. They can be focused specifically on SLO – e.g. reflection practice or organising personal files, or geared more towards ‘business’ and focus on developing our commercial awareness and professional conduct skills.

What have you learnt the most since the start of the SLO?

Natalie: I have learnt a great amount since starting in the SLO from opening, running and closing files to legal researching and writing. Overall, I have learnt how to apply the law in practice and how to tailor my research and advice to the client’s specific needs. This has enabled me to achieve the best outcome for the client.

Charlotte: Working in the SLO, you are no longer looking at the law for an academic purpose, but to help real clients. As a result of this I have learnt how to apply the law to real scenarios and am able to give better advice to clients in the context of their needs.

Would you wish to continue in this area in the future?

Natalie: I have really enjoyed the work I have undertaken in this area and I would definitely like to continue with these types of cases in future. Civil law tends to crop up in most other disciplines therefore I am positive this will not be my last encounter with civil law!

Charlotte: I would definitely like to continue in this area in the future. Law firms are a business and working in the Business & Commercial firm has helped me gain commercial awareness and better knowledge in general from discussing client cases in context of the client’s needs and the needs of their business.

How do you think it’s prepared you for a training contract?

Natalie: I’ve been given a lot of responsibility and independence in running my cases and I have managed my own cases from start to finish and met all of the deadlines without any prompting from my supervisor. I feel that this experience has been invaluable because it reflects what I will be doing as a trainee. Furthermore, having gained practical experience in how a client file is ran and organised will definitely provide useful when starting as a trainee.

Charlotte: Working in the SLO teaches you time management and how to manage and develop a case. It also helps with organisational skills as you have to keep your personal and client files up to date in line with professional practice. Following office procedure helps you prepare for the workplace environment and seeing professional conduct issues in practice helps you to identify them and learn how to tackle the issues.

This blog post was written by Natalie Richards and Charlotte Stapleton. 

Upon graduation, Natalie hopes to secure a training contract with a commercial firm. However, in the interim she will join her family business, developing her commercial awareness by gaining a solid understanding of how an international company is run. She strongly believes that this will make her a better lawyer.  Charlotte also hopes to secure a training contract with a commercial firm. In the meantime she plans to gain work experience through working as a paralegal or legal assistant in a company with a range of specialities in order to give herself a broad range of experience.

Sole trading!

Neil Robinson (The Custom Underground), Elaine Campbell & Natalie Baldwin (Northumbria Law School)

Neil Robinson (The Custom Underground), Elaine Campbell & Natalie Baldwin (Northumbria Law School)

We’re incredibly lucky to be able to work with creative entrepreneurs at the Student Law Office.  The energy and inventiveness of the creative sector captures the imagination of our students, who are thrilled to be able assist those businesses with free advice and documentation.

One such business is The Custom Underground which was launched in April 2013 by Neil Robinson, creating and designing bespoke shoes.

According to Neil, the business was born from a ‘moment of madness’ after deciding to doodle on a pair of plimsolls he was about to throw out. Since then it has quickly caught the eye of consumers, including a number of UK celebrities, and due to its soaring popularity he expanded his range to include t-shirts, hats and jackets as well as unique, one-off products.

With a growing consumer base seeking his bespoke products, Neil was keen to develop a tailored set of terms and conditions for his customers and was referred to the Student Law Office at Northumbria University. We were only too happy to help.

The entrepreneur, who lives in Stockton-On-Tees, said: “The Custom Underground has been really successful in quite a short space of time. I have had orders from the cast of The Only Way is Essex, members of dance group Diversity, and prominent UK DJs which has been amazing and really helped raise the profile of my work.

“The nature of my business, with bespoke and made-to-order products, meant I needed tailored guidelines so I was referred to the Student Law Office at Northumbria University.

“The help I received from the team there was fantastic. They understood exactly what I was looking for and they were great to work with, helping me to create a set of terms and conditions that covered everything from personalised designs and intellectual property to pricing, payment, returns and refunds.”

He explained: “I am really grateful to the Student Law Office – until recently I didn’t even realise this type of service existed. It’s brilliant that it can help people like me who are just starting out and don’t have a huge amount of money to pay for these types of services. I would certainly recommend it and I won’t hesitate to get in touch in the future as my business takes off.”

He continued: “I am still a one man band at the moment – everything about the business I do myself, including the website, orders and the designing of the products. I live with my partner and our two-and-a-half year old son so there is not much time for sleep.”

The custom and online elements to Neil’s business meant that standard terms and conditions wouldn’t offer the appropriate cover. More detailed and in-depth terms were required and it was important that we worked with Neil to ensure they were robust while fitting with the overall style of his website. Neil worked with our student trainee, Natalie Baldwin, who qualifies as a solicitor in September. We are thrilled that Neil was happy with the service we offered and we are looking forward to working with him again in the future.

For more information about our work with The Custom Underground, please visit: https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/about-us/news-events/news/2014/07/bespoke-law-service-for-bespoke-north-east-business/

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.