For some time I’ve been looking forward to the regulatory changes in the solicitors market that were finally introduced in November 2019. The new regulations support solicitors to provide services through new entities, to work in new ways, and use new technologies. They do away with the overhead costs that are unnecessary for 95% of the work we do at Azrights.
These costs of regulation are high because “reserved activities”, which in our case means court proceedings, may only be undertaken by organisations that are subject to a number of additional controls. Less than 5% of our work constituted reserved activities so it was an easy decision to change the business in light of these new rules. We will no longer offer litigation.
We have been up against non-regulated providers who were freely offering intellectual property services outside solicitors’ law firms without the steep overheads and prohibitive and unnecessarily overburdened costs of regulation that we were subject to.
Had we wanted to compete with them we could have traded through an unregulated entity, but we would have had to give up our practising certificates and act as “non practising solicitors”. We didn’t want to do that.
Impact on Azrights Solicitors
Now, thanks to the new regulations we can minimise our costs and reduce the charges for clients by trading through our separate business, Azrights International Ltd, while still practising as solicitors. We are implementing these changes with effect from 1 April 2020. On 31 March Azrights Solicitors will close.
While Azrights International Ltd will not be a regulated law firm, the only real change forour practice as solicitors is that we will no longer offer litigation services – namely court proceedings.
We have always preferred to focus on helping clients stay out of court and to fare better should they find themselves in court, than to deal with disputes once the client has fallen off a cliff.
It’s exciting therefore to be able to offer wider services, such as support with branding and brand development, business growth, and in-house legal services too. Our hourly rate will drop significantly to make us much more affordable to clients.
If you’re confused by the legal service provider landscape here is a comprehensive survey of the legal industry in this article, which also covers the new permitted providers such as freelance solicitors and solicitors operating through non regulated entities.
We have been ready to make this change for years as regulatory changes were gradually transforming the legal services landscape. The new rules were postponed on several occasions while the details were being sorted, and now they have finally passed into law we are thrilled.
Working through Azrights International Ltd will enable us to expand our non-regulated activities to introduce the innovations that the market needs.
This has always been one of our top values, to innovate in line with market needs. We believe we can add significant value in the intellectual property and branding space.
Separation Between Branding and Intellectual Property
The problems that we see stem from the fact that IP is not well understood, and therefore is treated as separate to branding, even when the activities being engaged are part and parcel of the legal dimension, such as choosing names.
When you are not intimately aware of how IP impacts names, logos, taglines and other brand elements, it can be all too easy to believe that it is appropriate to separate branding activities from IP. Consequently, branding agencies tend to leave IP to their clients to deal with, as IP is perceived to be all about law, and hence not within their remit.
Clients who do not have the benefit of an in-house legal department or expertise in IP, don’t understand IP any better than their “branding” advisers. So, when it’s presented to them as an issue to address with their own legal team during a branding exercise, even when their agency is choosing a new name for them, it’s all too easy for them to assume it is yet another expense that they can postpone.
However, IP is property just like physical property. A name is the equivalent of land. Just as you wouldn’t postpone buying that plot before putting buildings on it, so you should not develop a brand around a name you do not own. That is to gamble with your future business success. IP cannot be postponed till later. That is how serious mistakes and unnecessary costs arise.
IP is an intrinsic aspect of branding and should be one of the first points to address before undergoing any visual identity work.
Therefore, we are introducing BrandTuned to support businesses and agencies.
BrandTuned is a pre-branding, or pre-rebranding solution giving founders and businesses the opportunity to think through their brand and address their IP issues. They can do some serious thinking about their brand so as to be better prepared when they go to an agency or creative for a visual identity..
Using BrandTuned will help every founder and marketing director to emerge with IP that’s properly protected.
The branding actions you take after BrandTuned are likely to lead to a more successful outcome thanks to having already protected your brand, and to the depth of thinking you will have given to your business vision and brand before commissioning a visual identity.
New names really should not be chosen without the involvement of a trade mark expert who also understands the marketing and business side of branding.
That’s why BrandTuned gives founders an opportunity to choose a name, and have it searched and protected.
Business Growth and In-House Legal Services
Invariably growing a business is intrinsically about building the brand. What is less well appreciated is that legal agreements and advice often give the business commercial input and support which will help the business to take the right actions and grow.
We are excited to be introducing an in-house legal service for small businesses and see ways to add real value to clients. We can also support clients to connect with each other, and our integrated brand and marketing solution, BrandTuned will enable clients to fine tune and manage their brand.
Perfecting, protecting and promoting a brand is about so much more than just registering a trade mark or getting a logo.
We will soon be releasing information about how to access BrandTuned so keep an eye out for news on this by following me on Linkedin