The early stages of a start-up are usually pretty hectic. You’re working non-stop with a shoestring team, pouring whatever money you have into R&D and marketing.
The legal side of things can easily fall by the wayside and in areas like data — applicable to nearly all companies these days — or emerging technology IP, the law is changing fast. From GDPR to patents, copyrights to trademarks, it’s a minefield that many young companies fail to address until it’s too late.
Left to right: Jimmy Desai, Sara Hyder and Emmanuel Vranakis
That’s exactly why Coaching Law started earlier this year. Based at Club Workspace in Quality Court in the heart of London’s legal district, the three-strong team (Jimmy Desai, Emmanuel Vranakis and Sara Hyder) specialise in advising young companies on these complex legal issues.
“Approaching lawyers can be a bit scary because people don’t know where to start,” says Emmanuel. “Do you focus on the price? Or the expertise?” Coaching Law offers a more accessible option, a source of friendly advice akin to an in-house lawyer. “Start-ups don’t have the funds to have a full-time in-house counsel,” says Jimmy. “We can come in for a couple of hours and give them a heads-up.” The team also offers in-house training for more established companies whose staff might need updating on matters such as GDPR.
Indeed, data is a common issue. “It’s the new currency,” says Emmanuel. “People want to do quite sophisticated things with it, involving adtech or AI.” Where emerging technology is concerned, the law can take a while to catch up. “That’s the tricky bit because it’s where law gets a little bit subjective,” says Jimmy.
Coaching Law also advises start-ups on early-stage ideas. “People come to us with an innovative business model and sometimes we have to tell them they can’t do it,” says Jimmy. “But it’s better that they find out early before getting too excited. We can help people work out how to operate without infringing the relevant law.”
The risk of not protecting one’s own intellectual property is just as significant. “A lot of people don’t realise the consequences of not having legal protection for their IP,” says Sara. “They don’t quite appreciate the cost and time it would take to bring forward infringement cases. So it's best to get protection early.”
Above: Sara Hyder, Co-Founder and Head of Marketing at Coaching Law
Coaching Law’s top tips for start-ups
- Get legal advice to protect your IP
Do this early, and get as much as you can because you might not even need to pay for it.
- Track the people who have worked on your project
In order to define your company’s IP, you will need to know who did what right from the start. You might have had three co-founders originally, before one dropped out. Perhaps a friend came up with an algorithm or designed a logo. Keep a record of everyone’s involvement.
- Discuss how you are going to divide the shares
Do this at an early stage, before it becomes a legal problem later on. Start as you mean to go on — in a professional manner.
- Don’t rush to hire a lawyer
If you do run into legal issues, you may not need to go to a lawyer straight away. Legal coaches can give you the lie of the land at a fraction of the price.
- Discuss abort fees with lawyers
If you’re selling your company, ask your lawyer at the outset what the abort fee is. That way, if the purchaser pulls out several months down the line, you won’t be left with a huge legal bill and no money to pay for it.
- Keep your ideas under wraps
If you’re applying for a patent, don’t tell everyone about your idea first. Doing this, whether by email or in a PowerPoint presentation, can void your patent.
Discover more free legal advice at coachinglaw.com and check out Workspace's free and exclusive funding advice services.
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