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.

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.

How important is your business image?

Last month, food and drink giants Nestlè announced they had cancelled their sponsorship with the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), due to fear that the recent corruption and doping scandals enveloping athletics would damage its public image. This begs the question: how important is your business image?

The importance of having a good image

In their statement Nestlè explicitly state that they wish to protect their image and reputation. This is with good reason as in 2014/15 they registered sales of CHF 91.6 billion and no doubt they would want this to continue to rise. With allegations of corruption and doping surrounding the IAAF, Nestlè would no doubt be dragged into this scandal and guilt by association would at some point take place.

A good image is vital for a business to survive. Having a good image and reputation means that you may not have to spend a significant amount of time persuading potential customers or business partners that your services are worthwhile.  This could result in your business being transformed from a small, unknown business to one of the most trusted businesses in your sector. Instead of spending money on trying to improve your image, your image and reputation will speak for itself.

What happens if your business does not have a good image?

Should your image start to falter, it is important to ask why. For instance, has your business just received a bad review for the services it provides? Or are you in partnership with a business that does not have a particularly good image itself? Whatever the cause suffice to say that the problem needs immediate attention. If your business does not have a good image or reputation it could lead to the Nestlè scenario: cancellation of a partnership contract. It is interesting to note that Nestlè was not the first to act. The IAAF’s biggest sponsor, Adidas, reportedly pulled out of their contract too.

How can your business obtain a good image?

The most popular way a business can obtain a good image is getting involved in charity events. Not only do businesses get involved but so do law firms. For example, Morrisons are now the sponsors of the Great North Run in Newcastle. By sponsoring a national event that so many people use to raise money for charity, Morrisons will improve their image not only in the public eye but in the corporate eye also. Having completed the run myself I would say it indeed works!

Law firms also like to engage in charity work. For example, Muckle LLP provided pro bono services to over 60 charities that would have cost over £100,000 so that they could do their bit to help the local community. There are other great examples of law firms being active when it comes to charity work. Sills and Betteridge choose a different charity each year and then help raise money for that particular charity by organising different events, such as a bake sale or participating in the Lincoln 10K. These events and services help the local community and show the public that the law firms are responsible businesses.

Chris MThis post was written by Chris Middleton. Chris is a final year MLaw student currently working in the business and commercial firm in the Student Law Office. On graduation Chris hopes to travel through Europe before securing a training contract or a paralegal job to start his law career. Outside of law Chris is a keen sportsman, with football and long distance running being his main disciplines within sport.

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.

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act – How will affect you?

On 26th March 2015, the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act received royal assent. This Act aims to encourage more SME start-ups by reducing the barriers that they face in their drive to innovate, grow and compete. How does this affect you? You may be surprised!

Small and medium sized enterprises make up 99% of all businesses within the UK. The North-East has had one of the largest increases in SME start-ups in recent years! So this new Act will be very influential.

Although the Act came into force in March 2015, its provisions are being implemented in a staggered approach.

Here are some of the main provisions contained within the Act:

Corporate Transparency

This is a requirement for all companies to identify anyone within their company who has significant control and to then register this at Companies House. You will also need to keep a ‘People with Significant Control Register’. This will be publically available.

  • Significant control: is when someone
    • directly or indirectly holds more than 25% of the nominal share capital; or
    • directly or indirectly controls more than 25% of the votes at general meetings; or
    • directly or indirectly is able to control the appointment or removal of a majority of the board; or
    • actually exercises, or has the right to exercise, significant influence or control over the company; or
    • actually exercises or has the right to exercise significant influence or control over any trust or firm (which is not a legal entity) which has significant control (under one of the four conditions above) over the company.
  • Enforcement: A set of regulations have been published, alongside a consultation. We expect the provisions to come into force in April 2016.  From June 2016, companies can choose to keep their register at Companies House.
  • Aim: one of the key aims of the Act was to improve the transparency of ownership and control of businesses. In turn this was hoped to increase the trust in UK businesses and encourage more people to start-ups.

Simplification of the filing regime

Companies used to have to file an annual return with the Registrar of Companies on a set date each year. This relayed detailed information about the company such as its shareholders and share capital, but it tended to duplicate information which had already been given earlier in the year. Companies will now have to submit a confirmation statement instead.

  • Confirmation statement: Companies will not have to give duplicate information. Instead they will just have to give a confirmation that this information has previously been delivered to the Registrar as requested during the year or is being delivered with the confirmation statement.
  • Enforcement: This will come into force in June 2016. No set date on which the statement needs to be made, but companies will be expected to file one at least every 12 months. The new statement will detail any changes made since the last statement.
  • Aim: Hoped that it will reduce the administrative burden on companies.

Directors (including shadow directors)

  • Shadow directors: Shadow directors will have the same general duties as appointed directors.
  • Aim: to improve the standards of a shadow director to increase their accountability where certain standards are not met.
  • Enforcement: May 2015.
  • Definition of a shadow director: this has been changed by the Act. The previous definition provides that a person who gives advice in a professional capacity is a shadow director. This has been extended. It now includes that advice or guidance, directions or instructions given in the exercise of a function conferred by or under legislation is sufficient to satisfy the definition of a shadow director.
  • Aim: To ensure that those posing as a shadow director are now covered by this definition.
  • Enforcement: May 2015
  • Directors’ Day of birth: Directors are no longer required to include the day of their date of birth on the company’s public register of directors. But, the company is still required to send these details to the Registrar. The month and year will still be available for inspection, but not the date.
  • Aim: To give directors more privacy
  • Enforcement: October 2015
  • Consent to act as a director: Previously for someone to act as a director or secretary they needed to provide a ‘formal consent to act’. This was done by signing a paper form or via personal authentication or an electronic filing system. This has now been replaced with a statement.
  • Statement: When a director is appointed Companies House will add a statement that the person has consented to act as a director to the relevant appointment and incorporation forms. The company will then have to consent to this statement. Companies House will then write to all directors to make them aware of this new appointment and that it has been registered at Companies House. This makes the new director aware of their statutory duties and gives them a chance to object if they did not consent.
  • Enforcement: October 2015.
  • Corporate Directors: Normally a UK company must have at least one natural person as a director and could appoint corporate bodies as other directors. This will no longer be allowed.
  • Enforcement: This provision will come into force in October 2016, subject to further consultation. Existing corporate directors will cease to be directors a year after the provisions have come into force.

These issues will affect any company which falls into the bracket of a small or medium sized (or even micro) enterprises, In reality, this  accounts for most of the businesses in the UK. So it is likely that if you are a company and are reading this, these changes will affect you!

For more information about business vehicles, please click here. If you’d like to know more about the Student Law Office, please see more information here.

Emma StampThis blog post was written by Emma Stamp. Emma is an MLaw student at Northumbria University, working with the Business and Commercial firm at the Student Law Office. On graduation she hopes to secure a training contract with a firm that specialises in clinical negligence. Outside of University she enjoys baking, yoga and reading.