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Supporting SMEs with Legal Issues

Running a business is in equal parts exciting and daunting. It involves complex legal issues which are overwhelming without the proper legal advice. CJCH’s commercial solicitor, Gareth Thompson, discusses the most common issues faced by SMEs and the value a commercial solicitor brings to a business.

How do you support businesses that are just getting started?

It is important to ensure incipient businesses have all the relevant documents in place to begin trading. This will vary from business to business but will usually include employment contracts, insurance, due diligence and risk assessment. Finally, it is crucial that the business takes steps to protect its intellectual property, which may not be at the forefront of the owner’s mind.

How can a business solicitor help an SME choose the right business structure?

This will depend on the needs of the business owner. Each business structure has its own strength, seeking legal advice will help you choose the right one. The most commonly chosen business structures are as follows:

  • Sole Trader
  • Partnership
  • Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)
  • Limited Liability Company (Ltd)

What are the most common legal issues SMEs face and how can solicitors help business owners avoid them?

The initial issues faced by SMEs usually revolve around setting up employment contracts and drafting articles of association. Whilst it might be attractive to business owners to use standard templates for these documents, there is a real risk that they do not suitably protect your business interests. This might lead to costs for the business later. Consulting a solicitor in the first instance mitigates this risk.

How can SMEs ensure that they are GDPR compliant? Why is this important?

Ensure that staff are appropriately trained and appoint someone as GDPR liaison within the company. Compliance is crucial as the Information Commissioners Office can issue large fines for companies in breach.

What are your top tips for someone looking to start their own business?

Get contracts written! Get insurance! Protect your Intellectual Property! Continue to seek legal advice from a commercial solicitor as the business matures.

How can we help?

The CJCH commercial team’s services span the full spectrum of corporate and commercial requirements. From startups to SMEs & large organisations, we provide legal support and advice to leverage opportunities and minimise risks to your business.

Get in touch via:

Telephone: 0333 231 6405

Email: commercial@cjch.co.uk

Your Business, Your Solicitor – Adding Value to your Business with Legal Advice.

Business Law

Last week we took part in Solicitors Chat with the Law Society as part of their ‘Your Business, Your Solicitor’ campaign. Gareth Thompson, Head of Commercial at CJCH sat down to talk about the various ways a commercial lawyer can use their business law expertise to facilitate properly informed decision making for their clients.

What are the benefits of consulting a solicitor for business law advice?

Solicitors can carry out proper due diligence and risk assessment. Consulting a commercial lawyer can add value to a business by promoting legally compliant and ethical business dealings.

What issues do you advise businesses on as a solicitor?

Commercial lawyers can give advice on a wide range of business matters. Everything from commercial acquisitions, employee relations, asset securities, business structuring and raising investment capital.

How do you work with your clients to make sure their needs are met?

The most important job of a commercial lawyer is to understand the business structure, aims and objectives of your client. Communicating constructively with your client and managing their expectations correctly to meet their needs.

Ultimately, a good commercial lawyer will act like a business partner, not just a service provider. Advice should always be relevant, and outcome focused.

As a solicitor, what value do you feel you can bring to a business?

Solicitors can add value to a business by being proactive at managing risk, protecting revenue, maintaining cash flow and maximising profits. Commercial lawyers can provide tailor made solutions to businesses of all sizes – from start-ups, medium size or large organisations.

What are the key things that make a positive solicitor/client relationship?

There needs to be understanding of the client and solicitor’s roles, needs, objectives and goals. It is important to be honest about your intentions, expectations and the ability to deliver. You must be transparent about time, costs priorities and resource management. Ultimately, for a positive relationship there needs to be trust – in expertise best intentions and commitment to outcomes

How can we help?

If you have an inquiry about your business, CJCH’s commercial services span the full spectrum of corporate and commercial requirements. Talk to a qualified member of our commercial team today.

Get in touch via:

Telephone:  0333 231 6405

Email: commercial@cjch.co.uk

CJCH History Month: Clarke & Hartland shaking up Cardiff

By Charlotte Bardet

In 1982, former prosecutor Brian Jones contacted Stephen (Steve) Clarke to ask him to form a new law firm under the name Brian Jones & Co. Steve, currently Senior Partner at CJCH, had completed his training contract under the supervision of Brian at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Steve qualified in 1980 and two years later joined forces with Brian to establish a mainly Criminal Defence law practice in Canton, Cardiff. Brian Jones & Co. then opened its second office by partially moving to Clifton Street in 1983 and then fully moved to Clifton Street in 1985, when the firm changed name to Brian Jones Clarke & Co. It was at this time that Tim Hartland, now CJCH Managing Partner, joined the practice as a trainee solicitor and would later go on to become Partner when Brian retired in 1988. The firm became Clarke & Hartland Solicitors in 1990, with a staff of 16, and made its final move to The Parade, in Cardiff, in 2001.

Brian, Steve and Tim all specialised in Criminal law. The firm delivered prosecution work for the British Transport Police in South Wales throughout the 1990s, as well as defence criminal work, and acted for the Police Federation of South Wales. In the mid-1990s, Steve was one of the first solicitors in Wales to be given Higher Rights of Audience owing to his extensive experience, and about 5 years later Tim acquired Higher Rights as well. Both Partners appeared regularly in the Magistrates Court and conducted Crown Court proceedings. When the opportunity to develop the CJCH licence compliance programme came about, the skills both Steve and Tim had developed in criminal practice at Clarke & Hartland were ideally suited for what the project would require.

As well as Criminal law, the firm had experts in Commercial, Conveyancing, Matrimonial and Family law. Clarke & Hartland classed themselves as a high street practice, “providing local services to local people” Steve remembers. They developed their client base upon recommendations from previous clients and acted for many local families. In contrast to the work CJCH now does, Clarke & Hartland acted for very few corporations or companies, even throughout their commercial cases. Their work ethic was very personal and the strength of their team was grounded in excellent people skills. Steve noted that, unfortunately, this aspect of legal work is not as relevant anymore, with an ever-growing reliance on technology and big corporations.

Stephen Clarke & Tim Hartland

Around 2010, Clarke & Hartland recognised that the days of small high street practices were numbered. When the government threatened to introduce changes to the way legal aid would be administered in England and Wales, the firm decided to anticipate any future problems this would create by expanding its volume of work to ensure a criminal contract and merging with Colin Jones Solicitors, in 2013.  CJCH become one of eight firms appointed to do criminal work in South Wales and one of five in Gwent, where there had previously been a total of 65 and 25 respectively.  The changes to legal aid never ended up taking place and therefore the newly establish CJCH had to consider what new opportunities were available to them as a bigger firm.

Clarke and Hartland had been built upon Brian and Steve’s close working relationship at the CPS, as well as Brian and Tim’s regular tennis matches at Penarth Lawn Tennis Club. This theme of forging a working relationship based upon knowing someone for a long time would continue with the Colin Jones merger. Although Steve and Tim knew Colin Jones professionally as a criminal solicitor, they also knew him socially. Steve had also played rugby with Nick Wootton, CJCH Chief Financial Officer, for years and knew Jacqui Seal, CJCH Senior Partner, through the CPS, and had previously worked with her brother. This work ethic mixed in with a comfortable environment gave them the incentive to grow and gain more experience as a firm.

In moving from a well-respected, experienced high street practice to a global business providing legal and corporate services, Steve and Tim have tried to carry across one element of Clarke & Hartland in particular to the new business. “Clarke & Hartland was very much in our images and our personalities” claims Steve. They wanted a happy working environment and were able to have one for 30 years thanks to having a staff of no more than 20 people. With a staff of over 130, CJCH have tried to maintain this convivial, hard-working and conscientious atmosphere, all within a welcoming environment.

Tim admits that it is very difficult to say exactly where the firm is headed in the future, especially given its extraordinary expansion in the last 4 years. They are confident that CJCH has only just started its growth pattern and in the next five years it could be three times the size it is now. CJCH Consulting has already established itself as brand leader in a niche market, and nobody else is currently replicating what we’re doing, nor the way we do it.