What sort of legal support do you need?

RECENT figures showed that 2019 was a record year for startups, and 2020 is set to be even better. With the uncertainty surrounding Brexit finally out of the way, experts predict we will see a surge in the number of businesses setting off on an exciting new journey.

Yet many are put off by all the legal support they believe they need – just to get going. Here, one of the country’s fastest growing law firms shares its advice on what you really need. This list compiled by Harper James Solicitors – who provide legal services to more than 1,000 clients nationwide - may surprise you.

What you do NOT need a solicitor to help you with

Having an idea! Many entrepreneurs get their lightbulb moment when they least expect it. Others have to work on it. Talking to friends, family, work colleagues, attending local chamber of commerce events and visiting websites like startups.co.uk are a great way to help come up with and develop an idea. 

Making a business plan. There are numerous free templates and guides available online for writing your business plan. Some of the best can be found here and here.

Market research. An absolute must when setting up a company. You can do your own primary research in the form of surveys, polls, questionnaires and focus groups. These are reasonably simple to do, once you have decided which questions you want answered. You can also commission any number of market research companies to do this for you on a bespoke basis. Some of the bigger market research companies include Mintel and Euromonitor. 

Choosing a name for your business

There are certain legal considerations when naming your business, and they are different depending on the legal structure your business takes. Generally, though, your business name must not; be offensive or contain any sensitive words or imply connection or endorsement from a government body or local authority. And they must not be the same as or too similar to someone else’s business name, unless you are a sole trader using your own name, or your business is part of the same group as the existing business name. 

You don’t really need a solicitor to advise on choosing your business name. You can check existing names of trade marks via the Intellectual Property Office and check the Companies House Register for details of business names already registered. 

I will definitely need a solicitor to help choose the right business structure and register though?

Yes and no…Whether or not you will need legal advice on choosing the best legal structure for your business clearly depends very much on the size, complexity and goals of the business you’re setting up.

Of course, a solicitor can advise you on which legal structure will best meet your needs, but so can a business adviser or financial adviser.

What you DO need a solicitor for?

Helping you with agreements about business premises. No matter what kind of business structure you’ve chosen, it’s advisable to get legal advice from a commercial property solicitor if: 

  1. Your business is buying or selling commercial property
  2. Your business is going to be a landlord or tenant of commercial premises
  3. Your business is taking over an existing commercial lease
  4. Helping you with licences to trade

There are as many licences to trade as there are different business ideas. There are, however, many licences which you can apply for yourself, including those for street trading, selling alcohol, and operating food premises. You can find a complete list and usually apply online. 

However, there are some kinds of licences that are very specialist, and which will require advice from a licensing lawyer. The types of licence you may need legal help with include: Air carriers and civil aviation; Controlled medical drugs; Consumer credit; Due diligence on licensing; Gambling and betting licences; Licensing any intellectual property and overseas trading, such as importing and exporting. 

Top tips for founders of new start-ups this 2020:

Firstly, be super organised-have a clear plan of what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it, bearing in mind the things that you have control of and those that you don’t. This could take the form of a detailed business plan or it could simply be a short list of priorities for your first quarter. It most certainly should include some form of financial forecasting, both for you personally and the business. Think about worst-case scenarios and plan for them, ensuring you can weather early set backs...because there will be some.

Continually measure performance against the plan and be prepared to make changes, but not too soon.

Secondly, put in place solid foundations to protect you and the business. This can mean needing to fork out for professional support in the early days, but likewise it could simply mean making well considered decisions and doing some of your own legal and accounting work.

Finally and most importantly, enjoy it! In my experience there is nothing else like it - there will be lots of highs and lows. Revel in the highs and celebrate them because they will get you through the lows.