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Exciting News at Azrights

azrights newsFor 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.

What’s Next?

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

When Nothing Works Anymore – How Do You Get Cut Through?  

In a world where there is more and more noise, it can be difficult to be heard. Many of us feel that despite producing awesome content, we’re just not getting through to anyone.

To capture anyone’s attention requires more than good content.

This is a topic I’ve decided to research and study closely so in future posts I’ll be sharing my findings and ideas for distributing our content so as to reach more people. Watch this space.

You’re Not Alone If You Feel That Your Marketing Isn’t Working

You’re in good company if you find that your marketing isn’t working any more.

Mark Schaefer, in his new book, Marketing Rebellion, observes that his Chief Marketing Officer friends who represent some of the biggest names in the business, without exception all feel they are falling behind… on everything

They say things are just not working like they used to.

These are some of the biggest marketing stars at the most famous brands.

They’re experienced, deeply respected executives with some of the biggest companies in the world. They have limitless resources, access to the best people, and premier agency partner relationships. And yet they echoed the same desperate sentiment that many small businesses, and entrepreneurs with little or no budget feel.

Nothing seems to work anymore.

Identifying Your Niche

The book has interesting insights which has sparked off ideas for my marketing. I’ll be sharing some information about that in the future.

For what I’m about to communicate, the part that stood out for me was Schaefer’s suggestion that for your marketing to stand a chance of working, you need to make sure you accurately identify your “place” – what you want to be known for.

He suggests to then define your space – which should be an uncontested niche to tell your story.

Once you’ve done that Schaefer explains how important it is to create effective content to convey your message and build an actionable audience. I’ll be working on these elements over the coming months.

It’s about much more than just generating good content.

Creating More Than Brand Online Course

When I recently created my new online course to help businesses position or reposition their brands, I was able to reposition the Azrights business in the process.

At the time I hadn’t read Schaefer’s book.

My “place” – what I want Azrights and myself to be known for – is branding and trade marks, branding and copyright, branding and intellectual property, as opposed to just trademarks, or copyright or intellectual property legal protection.

Copyright, Trademarks, Intellectual Property

As an intellectual property law firm Azrights is currently positioned to deal with the legal side of branding – trademarking, copyright, and intellectual property. But it hasn’t previously provided branding services. Now, due to our repositioning, it does provide branding services.

So, we’ll be making various changes to the website so that in future it is quite clear to site visitors that Azrights also offers branding.

Drawing on my 15+ years of running a business I am well placed to support businesses with their branding. I have studied marketing mainly because it totally absorbs me as a subject.  I read lots of marketing books, attend many marketing and social media related courses, and so, it’s a subject I feel comfortable helping clients with.

My next book will be on branding.

What Branding Isn’t

Unfortunately, there is a widespread misconception that branding is all about a logo or visual identity work.

I’ve experienced branding of that type first hand on two occasions, both in my own businesses (twice), and when supporting branding projects helping agencies with name clearance or advising on other aspects of intellectual property.

The first experience I had personally with branding didn’t work out so well because I hadn’t thought through my brand for myself first before approaching designers. The second experience worked mainly because I’d done all the business thinking beforehand for myself.

Branding services combined with IP

The fact that I will be able to combine branding with intellectual property is what brings real value to the niche Azrights will henceforth occupy.

The disciplines of branding and intellectual property are so closely intertwined as to be inseparable. Yet intellectual property is not well understood by the branding industry as a whole.

Problems When Branding And IP Are Not Aligned

I see many problems when branding is divorced from intellectual property. The person who loses out when branding and intellectual property are not aligned is the business owner, and often they’re quite unaware that their identity is the root cause of the problem.

When certain issues arise in their business, such as a competitor muscling in on their turf, they don’t realise that the name they’re using is the reason they are vulnerable and unable to fight back to stave off the unfair competition.

Separating the two disciplines doesn’t generally give the best results

Bedding in New Positioning for Azrights

Once this positioning is bedded into the Azrights business and our website, it means Azrights will occupy a unique place.

It will be the first law firm that offers branding services to its clients in addition to intellectual property protection. Azrights will deliver some of the branding services through its sister company Azrights International Ltd.

Reason for Repositioning

When I initially set up Azrights back in 2005, intellectual property law firms were few and far between. So, IP was a good niche positioning for my firm to adopt.

At the time, in 2005, solicitors tended to handle litigious matters, copyright, and IP strategy while patent and trade mark attorney firms dealt with the registration of trade marks, designs, and patents.

I was being different in offering the A to Z of IP services – a full registration and litigation service as well as drafting of legal agreements.

However, this positioning soon looked run of the mill as the division between the two professions began to break down. Patent and trade mark firms soon began offering litigation work, while law firms delved into trade mark registration work.

Dozens of Other IP Firms

So, one reason the IP niche needed to change was this. A few years after Azrights was founded, dozens of intellectual property law firms began sprouting up, virtually overnight. Most of them now handle registration work and while IP was still a specialist subject back in 2005, it’s increasingly ceased to be niche.

The subject is now quite mainstream as non-specialist law firms, such as company commercial lawyers offer intellectual property work, including trade mark registration.

So, I could see the writing on the wall. It was time to make a change to our niche positioning.

The decision to encompass branding within our niche made complete sense from many perspectives.

Why Include Branding Services?

While the traditional path for law firms is to offer the full range of legal services as they expand and grow, the most important consideration for me was my own interests.

I’ve always wanted to do more than just legal work. That’s why I became an in-house lawyer at Reuters. I wanted to be involved in the commercial side of life, to advise on more than just law.

The branding industry currently comprises a plethora of design related companies essentially offering visual design identity work.

Some of them delve into the business side, but essentially the problem they have is that they are running too tight timescales and therefore their clients don’t have all the time they may need in order to properly think through the business issues that arise from the branding exercise.

So, there is a high risk of simply ending up with pretty designs, as I found to my cost after my first branding exercise.

Need for More Education

So, I believe that what is needed is more branding educational providers to help businesses to properly think through their branding before turning to designers for their visual identity work.

The current branding landscape is dominated by designers. And there are many law firms who offer intellectual property services to support branding agencies.

However, none of them is helping businesses with branding support. So, nobody currently occupies the position of offering branding along with trademarks, or branding along with copyright, or branding as well as intellectual property advice and protection – until now.

That is the position Azrights will occupy

As mentioned the two disciplines are intricately intertwined in a way that perhaps branding professionals who do not work with intellectual property law are sufficiently aware.

Otherwise, it wouldn’t be so common to see brand identities based around descriptive names that are incapable of being uniquely owned.  Nor would it be so common to see brands that are unprotected because the branding agency didn’t discuss legal protection when quoting for the work.

Why descriptive names are a problem

Any name may be registered with a logo, and many are. However, that doesn’t give the client any protection over the name if the name is too descriptive to function as a trade mark.

When a name can’t be uniquely owned, the client can experience a number of problems.

Every business must use a name that can function as a trade mark (that is a word mark) because having unique rights to a name is what enables the business to protect its revenues.

It always saddens me when a client comes to us because a “me too” competitor has muscled in on their turf. If the client has a descriptive name then there is little they can do to prevent the competitor stealing their market share.

A passing off action against a competitor who is using the same generic name as you would be throwing good money after bad, although I have seen many law firms take on such cases.

If you can’t uniquely own your brand name then you’re extremely vulnerable.

Branding and Intellectual Property Are Connected

Branding and intellectual property thinking need to go hand in hand. It’s no good creating the brand and then leaving the client to seek out lawyers to help them protect it.

By offering both branding and intellectual property insights, I can help clients in a unique way. Firstly, to identify a suitable niche, then to get their brand strategy and name sorted and once all that is clear, that’s when design services would be appropriate – an area that Azrights has no intention currently to occupy.

I am looking into using designers, developers and social media marketers that belong to reputable bodies who have codes of conduct to protect consumers. Or we may create our own code of conduct as well.

Mistakes people make

I see many mistakes around branding that I myself made when I first set up in business, such as paying far too much for “branding” which ultimately just consisted of some pretty designs.

I didn’t know enough about business at the time, and effectively abdicated responsibility for branding my business to a graphic design agency simply because I didn’t realise that branding was about much more than visual design work.

Much of the thinking about branding needs to come from the business owner, and these things take time. So, new businesses should avoid spending large sums of money on the logo and other designs until they’re clear about their business brand strategy.


It’s essential to have access to a deep understanding of both intellectual property and business when you’re creating or fine-tuning your brand.

Protecting your ideas and IP as you develop your positioning, name, tagline line and business plan is what branding involves. Therefore, these are best dealt with together before seeking help with visual identity work.

This is the new Azrights niche. You’ll find plenty of Intellectual Property law firms and plenty of branding agencies, but nothing that combines branding with trademarks, branding with copyright, or branding with IP. Yet these belong together.

I feel strongly about this subject because it’s important to me to impact, inspire clients and teach clients what is involved to brand themselves so they can make their positive contribution to the world.

I have just launched a new online course called More Than Brand. It will help you get clarity on how to position your business in the market and protect your distinctiveness.

Learn more about More Than Brand Online Course!

A few simple questions

As it’s becoming more and more important to be customer focused we are aiming to better understand what people and potential clients need. So, we’ve created a Survey Monkey questionnaire around the subject of my forthcoming book Legally Branded which will be published this Spring.

The book is aimed at businesses who often need to know how trade mark and intellectual property law affects their decisions, such as on choice of new products names. Intellectual property issues also frequently come up when a business is commissioning works protected by copyright, or simply when they want to use existing copyright material as part of their brand marketing campaigns.

Please answer the general questionnaire unless you’re an agency that advises clients on naming or branding projects in which case answer the agency questionnaire. If you’re a trade mark or other IP specialist please don’t complete the survey as it will probably skew the results.

General questionnaire

Agency questionnaire

We will be collecting results at the end of this month (31st January), so should you not find the time to get through the questionnaire before then there is no need to look at it.

Many thanks.

The Banking Bailout and BP Oil Spill – Lessons for SMEs and why a New Legal Service Model is Needed

When something bad happens to a big, well known business, we’re all surprised. Recent examples are the bail out of the Royal Bank of Scotland and the oil spill disaster that seriously damaged BP’s brand and finances. So, what can a small business learn from this, and what steps can they take to avoid a similar fate? Getting the right legal advice can protect businesses from many risks that could threaten their very existence. Azrights Solicitors are introducing a new system to help SMEs’ and start ups’ budget stretch to achieve a strong legal foundation for their online business

View the original release at PRWeb

When something bad happens to a well known business, we’re all surprised. Recent examples are the bail out of the Royal Bank of Scotland and the oil spill disaster that seriously damaged BP’s brand and finances. You hear comments like: “How could they have got that so wrong? ”

So, what can a small business learn from this, and what steps can they take to avoid a similar fate?

Getting the right legal advice helps. Currently the legal model used by law firms puts access to legal advice out of the reach of many small businesses on a tight budget. This results in a focus on documents at the expense of ongoing support. Azrights Solicitors are introducing a new service to address this and provide SMEs with more relevant assistance.

Risks ignored in pursuit of profits

The common error these headline disasters highlight is that of not taking enough time to focus on understanding and managing risks. This is especially so for SMEs given the pressure to make enough money to justify their very existence.

However, a commitment to address risks and dealing with them properly would greatly improve the prospects for any business.

The right and wrong way to manage risks

Though start ups may be aware of the need to manage risks, they may not realize the best way to do this.

Many business people want to avoid unpleasant consequences, and fear entering into unfavorable contracts or being sued. So on starting up in business they will often consult a lawyer and spend money on legal documentation prior to starting up. Some may simply purchase documents or write their own agreements, by copying those of their competitors.

Those that do put aside a budget tend to spend their money on various legal services, generally encompassing an array of legal documents being drawn up. What they may not realize is that these documents may well become rapidly outdated as the business evolves. Therefore, it would be more appropriate for them to reduce and manage their legal risks by having a fee plan with their lawyers providing ongoing help and access to resources for document production and learning about risks. An emphasis on the documents a start up needs is inappropriate because what the business starts out to do may not be what it ends up doing.

Businesses often take time to discover their core products and services, or the best market for these. They commonly start off offering a broad range of products or services, but as they understand the market better they become clearer about the demand for their goods or services.

Given that start ups change radically in the early years, and look nothing like their initial manifestation just a few years later early phase legal work should provide a solution which includes ongoing help to keep the business current in its legal compliance.

The need for solid foundations

Once businesses are up and running, the calls on time and finances soon mount and they may be unwilling or unable to devote a lump sum for legal fees. They may not even realize they need to spend further on legal risk management, especially if they have spent a lot already on legal documents.

But legal and other needs change with the business. Neglecting fundamental legal, insurance, financial or tax issues means the owners are going to be stressed, wondering when something bad is going to happen or whether the business will make it for the long haul.

How lawyers can help in building the right business structure

To help in this, lawyers need to be trusted business advisers rather than providers of documents. By offering the SME the necessary guidance to manage their legal requirements and documentation lawyers add real value. Even if the business owner is on a budget and cannot afford lawyers to do everything for them, it is possible to access their lawyer’s strategic help.

Azrights will unveil a new system to assist online businesses to access legal help at prices all SMEs can afford. Azrights solution will even provide a way for SMEs to retain legal assistance on an ongoing basis using the lawyer as a consultant rather than as document drafter.

Details of this innovative solution will be given in a free teleconference on 28 September which Azrights Intellectual Property and Internet Lawyers are hosting. Shireen Smith will explain how to affordably use Intellectual Property and Internet legal guidance to create an online business on solid foundations while avoiding unqualified advisers and the purchase of off the shelf templates. This is the system all online businesses will want to access in order to avoid building their businesses on shaky foundations.

Any online business that is looking for a cost effective way to enable a specialist lawyer to play a bigger role in their business from the outset, shaping and advising on direction– not just when the business has grown successful enough to warrant an in house legal service – needs to sign up for this teleconference.

The teleconference is presented by Shireen Smith, who having created a business herself, understands the emotional, financial, and creative investment clients make in their own future. With her insight into legal risk and regulatory risk management, the conference offers businesses a way to access something quite different – that is, real help to manage and prioritise legal budgets while controlling risks.

The seminar is presented by Shireen Smith, who has created a business herself, and understands the emotional, financial, and creative investment clients make in their own future. With her insight into legal risk and regulatory risk management, the seminar offers businesses something quite different – that is, real help to manage and prioritise legal budgets while controlling risks.

Sign up for our free teleseminar on 9th September, and learn how to implement a solid business foundation affordably.

Azrights are an Intellectual Property and Internet law firm and trademark attorneys. For further information on Azrights, visit our Internet law and online branding page.

Next Firm Links Meeting

Firm Links had its inaugural meeting on 2nd June.  The meeting focused on PI insurance, and proved very useful.  As a result various separate initiatives have got under way.  Also we decided to schedule a second meeting for Friday 10th July at the slightly later time of 8.15am.  The meeting will finish at 9.30.

As before, the meeting format will be to allow for brief introductions and “elevator speeches” from everyone round the table, before moving on to discuss this month’s topic – marketing.

The latest Business Barometer reported that business confidence in the UK rose for a third consecutive month in May to its highest level in nearly a year. The survey of more than 200 businesses found that 44% expect their activity to increase during the next 12 months, compared with 35% who stated this in April. Only 16% of respondents expect business activity to decrease, down from 21% who thought this in the previous month.  Do you share these thoughts? How would you describe your business confidence since the start of the year?

What are the available options for marketing legal services?  Are advertisements in the yellow pages effective?  How about social media? Word of mouth marketing, such as BNI?   How do people cope with all the demands of running a practice, as well as marketing?  Has anyone successfully outsourced marketing and what worked and what didn’t?

Is the latest news in Time Online about the legal industry facing loss of 10,000 lawyers good for smaller firms?  Does it present any marketing opportunities?

As referrals are an excellent way to bring in new business for your business, one good reason to attend this event is the opportunity to discuss the different types of arrangements, such as reciprocal understandings or referral fees, and potentially meet the right people to begin or expand your referral contacts.

In general referral fees paid between lawyers are not subject to Code of Conduct rules requiring disclosure to the client (because solicitors are deemed to have sufficient independence of judgment).  Whether people want to charge referral fees or not, it makes sound business sense to have a variety of other legal professionals to whom you can refer work and from whom you would hope to receive referrals.

There are still places left, so if any solicitors from firms of fewer than 5 partners would like to attend please get in touch:[email protected]