Emma Roe, partner and head of commercial at Shulmans LLP
Emma Roe, partner and head of commercial at Shulmans LLP offers her advice to technology businesses on when to seek legal advice.
When budgets are tight in the early days of a growing business, it can be hard to prioritise allocating funds to legal advice. However, saving this sort of external support for when your business gets larger or more developed can be a false economy. The commercial team at Shulmans has seen this happen all too often when clients come to them seeking advice only after the horse has bolted. To prevent this, there are a number of focus areas that it is important to address as early as possible.
Ownership of fundamental assets like customer data, website content or coding of software developments is a key issue. Young, rapidly expanding businesses may feel they can save money in this area, particularly when funds are tight. However, those businesses often come to regret such a decision when they discover their growth is built on shaky foundations.
Awareness of the legal basics and early involvement from an experienced commercial lawyer provides opportunity for issues to be dealt with more simply and cost-effectively. Approaching a legal team for advice at a late stage is disheartening for all parties.
This kind of error around ownership often comes from a mistaken belief that simply paying for work to be done by a contractor, such as a third party developer or creative, will entitle the business to claim intellectual property rights in the outcomes, but this is not the case without correct documentation.
An early and basic understanding of key legal risks and vulnerabilities, particularly around the areas of ensuring your business owns everything being done for or on behalf of it, as well as regulatory risks, can really save management time and sleepless nights in the long term.
Early legal input is also the key to ensuring that the best opportunities are available to the business as it expands its options for making money from those assets.
If licensing to others, or working in joint ventures to further develop the ideas and assets of a business, are a next step on the route to expansion, having secure ownership and protection of those assets will be an essential requirement for many prospective partners.
Driving a great bargain with those third parties can be dependent on how much of a clean bill of health your business has going into those partnerships and working relationships.
Sponsors of the Digital Enterprise Top 100, the commercial team at Shulmans is available to provide tailored legal advice to support growth and invites businesses to arrange a no obligation discussion about their requirements. Make sure you act now to secure the future.
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