The business lifecycle generates an evolution of obstacles to overcome, and our core role is to guide businesses and work with them to navigate through the challenges they encounter.
At start-up stage, it is all about survival. Stay alive. That’s it. Anything better is a bonus. So, how does a corporate lawyer help a young business to keep breathing? Well, by explaining what “nice to haves” are not necessary right now and advising on how to limit legal spend to the bare essentials. For instance, do you really need to register a trademark? Or draw up a shareholders’ agreement?
Playing a key role
A key role we do play is connecting clients with others who may be helpful to their business. This might be another business owner who has successfully taken their business to the next stage, or a potential customer, supplier, or investor. At the same time, we are often well placed to warn them about sharks – there aren’t many in Norfolk waters, but there are certain traits and characteristics to be wary of.
This county is a great environment for businesses to thrive. We are a very collaborative community of decent people with sound morals who are trustworthy.
As a business evolves and grows, it becomes more stable developing into a profitable entity. Now the directors will have the luxury of being able to afford to take more comprehensive professional advice. A corporate lawyers’ role is often to explain what additional things could be done to improve the risk profile of a business and, therefore, enhance its value. For example, ensuring all intellectual property is protected, updating employment contracts and tightening up T&Cs etc.
But wait a minute! I just said that these things were not essential? Well not quite, it is all about priorities and risk analysis. This varies hugely from business to business and depends on the nature of the business owner.
The exciting stage is ownership transition: crowdfunding, investment, setting up a share option scheme, bringing management into the shareholding, or even selling the company. These transactions vary in complexity, but as soon as the business owners relinquish some or all of their ownership, things change. The process of providing an incoming party with due diligence on the company needs to be managed carefully; negotiating the terms of the deal requires energy, focus and endurance, with many transactions taking months of work. We have a key role to play in this. Understanding the client’s bargaining position as well as analysing the characteristics and personalities of everyone involved are key skills to establish the best negotiating position.
The hardest part of our role is providing guidance in situations which cannot be fixed, such as a buyer pulling out of an acquisition for no good reason leaving you high and dry.
A deal is never done until it’s done. This is the crux of the role of a corporate lawyer, to always keep one eye on what happens if …