Legal advice for business start-ups and SME scale-ups
We have a specialist team of lawyers with a vast experience in guiding “start-up scale-up” businesses through the maze of challenges they face as they reach for rapid expansion.
These “Start-Up Scale-Up” businesses are often based around technology, or have a new disrupting concept. We are able to help them set up for rapid growth whilst also assisting them to protect any critical intellectual property.
As a full-service law firm, our team of expert solicitors regularly advise businesses on a multitude of legal needs across Yorkshire, the Northern Powerhouse and beyond. We have worked with the region’s universities supporting start-ups and spin-outs by their students and academics.
How we can help
Our team has experience advising clients working within software and app development, medicine and healthcare, biotech, robotics, food, fast moving consumer goods (“FMCG”), digital and new media, creative media, advanced manufacturing and fashion clothing.
We understand that future success often depends on the ability to develop new technologies, new ideas, and innovative solutions. These are strengths which agile and ‘disruptive’ start-up and fledgling companies often excel at.
However, what can be daunting is the time and effort required to navigate the seemingly endless legal and regulatory hurdles, many of which are not easy to apply to businesses at the cutting edge of innovation. We are here to support that journey.
Our lawyers have experience in providing legal advice to developing businesses, from start-up or spin-out all the way through to exit, tailored to the appropriate stage for the business. Whether you want advice regarding funding, corporate structure, contracts, protecting your brand and ideas, GDPR, or retaining the brilliant people who are key to your business, we can help.
Key areas in which our expert solicitors assist start-up companies
Start-up investment often comes from “friends and family”, seed capital funds, grants, or in the form of “sweat equity”, where individuals get shares in exchange for services. It’s important that the terms of such investment are fully understood by all and documented appropriately. It’s not a big exercise at this stage but it’s likely to be a big headache later if it isn’t done right.
Most businesses are in the intellectual property business, whether they know it or not. This is often more true for innovative start-up and fledgling businesses. Some of this intangible value needs registration (such as patents or trade marks), and others may exist automatically but still need careful protection and exploitation (such as copyright). It takes advice and investment for a business to grow and exploit this kind of property. However, these valuable assets are often neglected by many businesses, sometimes until it is too late. Our legal experts can set you off on the right foot and help you maximise the potential of your creative assets at an early stage, whether it’s through branding advice, building your trade mark portfolio, or exploiting and monetising your intellectual property through licensing agreements.
Commercial contracts form the cornerstone of every business whether a small start-up or large plc, and getting these documents right first time can be crucial to whether or not your innovative ideas take off in a profitable way. Our team of commercial solicitors take the time to understand your company’s aims and needs so that we can ensure your contracts allow your business to develop whilst protecting your interests. Whether you are looking for some basic terms to get on a firm footing as you start out, or you want experienced negotiators to help secure a key contract with heavyweight business partners, we can provide clear and commercially minded advice to help you get those agreements locked in place.
If you are at the stage where your business can grow but can only grow fast enough with more investment, then it is likely that you need development capital. There are different sources of such funding, and we can advise on the suitability of proposed investors and make introductions. This is often the point at which the value of a business can increase rapidly, so it’s crucial to get the right legal advice on the terms of investment and the legal documentation required.
We are expert legal advisers in relation to Enterprise Investment Scheme and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme investments, which are really attractive to investors because of the generous tax reliefs. We advise individual S/EIS investors, companies receiving S/EIS investment and advise on setting up S/EIS Funds and on those funds making investments.
Where two or more parties come together to develop a business, it is of crucial importance that they get the right legal advice on what that structure should look like. We have experience of using partnerships, jointly owned companies, limited liability partnerships and other vehicles. We can advise on the best solution for each individual situation, designing it to meet the commercial, financial and tax requirements of the parties. One size does not fit all! Getting this right should both flag issues which might not otherwise get considered and avoid problems down the line.
Being clear on the terms on which you engage people is really important to ensure compliance with relevant employment and tax laws and regulations, in addition to providing certainty as to the nature and terms of the relationship. Our multi-award winning Employment team work with us to make sure that the businesses we advise get the very best practical and legal advice. We also advise on employee incentives, share schemes (including EMI) and can also provide HR consultancy and coaching expertise if needed.
Sometimes, for whatever reason, you may need to rip it up and start again. Whether it is lack of funding, colleagues falling out, technical issues or competitive pressure, sometimes that great idea needs moving to a new vehicle. When that happens, we can provide expert legal advice on how to move on, preserving the key assets but losing the problems. Our restructuring experts can show you how.
An important issue for any developing business is working out how best to monetise its innovative assets. A smart licensing strategy can release value in intellectual property and share the cost of development and expansion into new markets, helping your business to build success upon its creativity. Whether your products are best suited to a merchandising programme, on-premise licensing, or cloud-based ‘as-a-service’ licensing (such as SaaS), we can offer expert advice to ensure that the relevant agreements are properly structured, documented and managed to achieve the maximisation of the value of your assets whilst still protecting your underlying intellectual property rights.
Whether it’s GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, advertising and marketing regulations, website and privacy policies, consumer protection laws, or other niche regulations in your sector, tech businesses are becoming subject to ever-increasing sets of rules and regulations as governments try to maintain order in the digital age. When your business is small, it can be tempting to take chances that non-compliant behaviour won’t be noticed, but as your reputation grows any early mistakes could return to haunt you, and as such it is better (and less costly) to get it right first time. If you are unsure what personal data your business is processing, whether your marketing practices are going to get you into trouble, or whether you are operating in ways which are compliant with other regulations that apply to you, we can offer suitable advice at early stages so that you can embrace good practices from the start and avoid issues further down the road.
Our Start-Up/Scale-up Programme
Our SUSU Programme includes a broad range of support and advice for early stage and knowledge intensive businesses.
We act for institutions, funds, angel investors and founders of businesses to put in place the investment and legal structures to give their companies the best prospect of success.
As well as a full range of expert legal advice, clients taking part in our SUSU Programme benefit from introductions to funders, technical experts and other founders through our SUSU Network.
For more information, take a look at our SUSU Programme brochure.
Or to speak to one of our start-up scale-up lawyers, please call 0333 323 5292 or fill out the enquiry form below and we will be in in touch.