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Like most startup founders, you’re on life support. Surviving on short bursts of investor funding or bootstrapping your way to profitability - the last thing you’ll do is massacre your runway on legal fees.
You need the protection, but even average lawyers don’t come cheap. And engaging a specialist ‘startup lawyer’ from a brand name firm is simply too expensive for most startups. It’s tempting to DIY, and many founders do just that. But that can cost you dearly down the track.
As a startup ourselves, we get your pain and we’re doing our best to solve it. At Lexoo, we’ve unearthed some of the UK’s best startup lawyers. Like you, some work remotely on low overheads, running ‘lean’ practices while passing the savings to you. Others work in full service firms as resident startup lawyers - ideal for raising your series A and beyond.
We’ve not only found startup lawyers at great prices, we’ll handpick the most suitable lawyers to give you multiple, fixed fee quotes for your job within 24hrs. And the best part? The service is free.
“Sometimes the legal world can be fairly overwhelming but Lexoo helped us to find the lawyer we needed, quickly and easily.” Lambro Anastasiou,
Head of Finance, Lost My Name
We’ve connected 20205 startups and small businesses with lawyers so far - here are some of the most common jobs we see:Shareholders Agreement
And not just any off-the-shelf shareholders agreement either. Startups are super high risk, so your vesting needs to be solid in case one founder leaves. Startup lawyers specialise in this type of thing.
Also, when it’s time to raise funds, angel investors and VCs will likely insist on a new shareholders agreement, drafted in their favour of course. Having a good startup lawyer on board will help you negotiate the best terms and keep the playing field level.Terms and conditions
Every time your users browse, login, post or pay, you need to make sure they do it on your terms. This is where terms and conditions, privacy policies and cookie notices come into play.
Not only to do they set the rules for your users, but you need to include specifics to comply with various laws and regulations, depending on your industry. So knowing how each industry regulates the online and tech activities of a business is critical. And in the information technology world, this the domain of the startup IT lawyer.
A startup lawyer will not only cover the legal specifics, but they also bring practical experience to the table. For example: need T&Cs for your mobile app? A good startup lawyer knows what the iTunes and Google Play stores look for so that your app won’t get rejected.Employment contracts
The first few hires for your startup are critical. Your culture, productivity, even survival depends on getting the right people on board. It will be your biggest expense and the stakes are high.
A good employment contract, will protect you if things don’t work out. For startups, an employment lawyer will focus on post-termination rules such as non-compete clauses. Intellectual property (like your code) must be protected and clear boundaries should be set around side projects.
But on the employee side, they’ll expect to have some ‘skin in the game’, which means giving them some equity. This is where employee share options come into play. An employment lawyer normally won’t create the option agreement - use a specialist EMI options lawyer, for this. But any employment lawyer working with startups will know the basics and point you in the right direction.Commercial contracts
If you’re outsourcing the development of your technology, website or app, one of the first commercial agreements you’ll need is a contract to cover that development, such as a web development agreement.
Engineers and designers typically supply their own freelance or agency contracts, which protect their interests. And that normally means they’ll try to keep ownership of the code base (i.e. the intellectual property) and simply give you a licence to use it. For startups - built with an exit or sale in mind - this doesn’t fly. Make sure you take ownership of the code. After all, you can’t sell what you don’t own.
This is just one pitfall that startup lawyers look for in commercial contracts, whether it’s a supplier or customer contract, consultancy agreement or your own user terms or software licence. When it’s time to raise VC money or court potential buyers, they’ll examine all your commercial contracts to make sure they’re water tight. Not owning your IP can be a deal breaker.For even more tips, check out our free eBook, ‘Lawyer Up - An entrepreneur’s guide to working with lawyers’.
“Lexoo is a essential tool for any startup today. I used it to source a lawyer to create the Shareholder Agreements for my startup. It showed me multiple quotes within 24 hours from a range of lawyers. The quotes were much more competitive than using local firms. And the lawyer I got was more qualified than local firms were offering. I would highly recommend this service & have told my whole network about it. The lawyer I decided upon, had masses of experience right across the Startup space. Lexoo checked I was happy, all the way through, so great customer service.”- Natasha Homer-Earley, Gujiwo.com.
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“Stumbled across this site by accident. I was trying to get a quote for a shareholders' agreement and didn't have much of an idea about how much one would cost so I suppose it would have been fairly easy to overcharge me. Within a day or two I had a few quotes and then researched the lawyers who I had quotes from. It was really just an extremely efficient way of getting a quote. I was then able to speak to the lawyers who had given me quotes (if I needed) and make a final decision. Would definitely use this service again in future.”- Simon (Trustpilot)
"For me the biggest challenge is finding a lawyer who I can trust and who I know has the relevant expertise in this area. I'm not a lawyer myself so I don't really understand how it works.
When I talk to lawyers, often I don't really understand what they are trying to say. Sometimes I would speak to different companies and they would give me the quotes that would be so different.The value of Lexoo comes in the additional independent advice on top of the quotes.
Lexoo tells you, "Hey, here is the list of lawyers that we know are good at this stuff. These are their quotes and here is why we think these ones are going to charge £3,000 and another wants to charge £10,000." This really, really helps.
Lexoo helps startups for two reasons. First, startups are usually very price-conscious so the idea of getting quotes for the job from Lexoo helps so that when you call a lawyer, they will be able to talk to you over the phone and the quote won’t be, "Well I charge £400 per hour”; “How many hours will it take?”; “Well it depends." Then you've got this huge commitment, it's like a blank cheque or it feels that way. Lexoo gives a very good estimate of how much it's going to cost.
Founders often have little experience of dealing with lawyers in general. In a large company, you can probably go to the legal department and say, "Hey, I need to talk to a specialist lawyer." They would say, "Okay, I've got three names off the top of my head and they have a relationship with our firm." Then you don't have a problem and you don't worry as much about the cost. In a small company, when you need someone with specific descriptions, Lexoo really helps."
Adam is a specialist business lawyer on Lexoo. As well as advising clients on their contractual arrangements as part of his current practice throughout the past 7 years, he previously worked as a commercial lawyer for Orange for 7 years. Prior to that he worked as Dyson’s sole commercial and intellectual property lawyer, having previously had a grounding in commercial contracts at Richards Butler (now Reed Smith), a major international law firm in London.
“I do intellectual property work. That could be anything from starting and negotiating a complex international sale and purchase agreement through to advising a startup on intellectual property issues regarding a new music service, through to very straightforward things like drafting sets of terms and conditions and privacy policies for people.
I started in a big firm in the city of London. Then fairly quickly realized that wasn't for me, so I went to work as a lawyer within a company, as opposed to a law firm. I worked for about 8 years for Orange, the mobile phone company. After a while, I don't know, I just wanted to work with something that was a bit more mine, I suppose. Be master of my own little tug boat. So I made the jump and started to set up my own practice.
The thing I've really been enjoying working with startups is the energy, the inspiration, the can-do spirit, and the fact that they'll challenge me. They've got a product or a service that they're trying to make succeed in the market, and they want someone to help them through the common series of legal challenges in order to do that.
I love putting the gray matter and my experience to work, to get them to a good resolution. I'm inspired by them, I regularly am. I come home at the end of the day and tell my wife about some great new Lexoo job I was working on, and telling her all about what great new product it is. I feel like I've really added some value there to them. I try and be responsive. I try and bring novel approaches. I think it's always good if a lawyer can bring to a situation an approach of, "Yes, we can do this if," rather than, "No, we can't."
I think that's particularly important when you're dealing with startup businesses who are trying to maybe challenge status quos at some point. There's an energy and a charge about it that is almost unique to that kind of small, energetic, upcoming business.
I think people like me and other lawyers on the platform, we've really got something to give small businesses who are starting out. There's the obvious point that we've got the experience, but we haven't got the fleet of secretaries, we haven't got the oak-panelled library, so our overheads are quite small.”Click here to receive competitive quotes from qualified lawyers like Adam.
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