Realising the Potential of Local Economies
In the next instalment on our CR mini-series we focus on the work of the Birmingham office and a long-standing joint-venture with Business Link West Midlands, David Linacre explains all.
It can be very difficult for new businesses to get off the ground especially in the current economic climate. For those that do, many still face challenges when it comes to developing and growing their business further in order to reach their full potential. In 2009 it was reported that Birmingham was the worst hit UK city for unemployment with the number of people seeking Job Seekers’ Allowance tripling in one year. Unemployment in the West Midlands rose by 5.3% in the last three months of 2010 with 238,000 unemployed (Office for National Statistics).
As part of Pinsent Masons’ CR activity, we have partnered with Business Link West Midlands to provide a free public service providing impartial and expert support to small businesses and entrepreneurs, who have great potential but do not have the means to access commercial legal advice. The objective of the project is to generate significant improvements to the economic performance of the West Midlands through encouraging new businesses start ups.
Clients are encouraged to attend the clinics by Business Link’s own Business Advisors, which ensures that our support is targeted on those parties who Business Link identify, in their experience, as being most in need:
“What it means to entrepreneurs is that they can access legal advice at a crucial stage of their development and guidance that they simply wouldn’t be able to afford or cover in a usual scenario. This could make the difference between the business getting off the ground, or, in some cases, whether it has everything in place to turn the potential into a sustainable future.”
Business Link West Midlands
Over the past four years Business Link West Midlands has helped over 11,000 new businesses to start and created over 10,000 new jobs. The Pinsent Masons’ Business Advice Clinic has helped in its small way to Business Link West Midlands achieving this.
So what actually takes place during these meetings?
The clinic operates on a fortnightly basis with up to four, 45 minute client meetings per volunteer session. Two qualified solicitors with support from more junior staff (such as trainees) typically attend the sessions. The advice offered to clients covers contracting with suppliers, dealing with employees, securing premises and protecting a new invention or idea. The meetings are booked in advance and follow-up meetings are available where necessary.
Typically most pro bono legal advice clinics are aimed at offering individual or private client advice . The distinguishing feature of the Business Advice Clinic is that it utilises the commercial legal skills of Pinsent Masons’ lawyers to support start up businesses and, as a result, the growth of the local economy.
“The lifeblood of the economy will be new entrepreneurs and dynamic start-ups and we have a role to play in providing initial strategic assistance at a crucial stage of their development.”
CR Partner, Jonathan Fortnam, Pinsent Masons
One of our trainee volunteers Daniel Murphy also commented:
“Volunteering at the Business Advice Clinic provided me with a great opportunity to take the lead in advising clients of the Clinic, which is not a role I would ordinarily have. Participating in the Business Advice Clinic has given me increased confidence and has aided my professional development.”
This additional benefit demonstrates one of the many ways that such CR projects can be genuine ‘win-win’ situations for all those involved. Not only do the businesses receive the advice they need but our trainees and lawyers develop tangible professional and communication skills at a more junior level than would normally the case.