Designed for start-ups: how can we bridge the legal advice gap for UK entrepreneurs?

Designed for start-ups: how can we bridge the legal advice gap for UK entrepreneurs?

Nesta’s 2019 survey highlighted that perceptions around cost, difficulty of access and a lack of technology were the main barriers reported by SMEs who have been put off from looking for legal help. 

Even the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) recognises the issue. Anna Bradley, Chair of the SRA Board, said: ‘Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. From helping complete a new lease to taking on the first member of staff, sound legal advice is crucial if businesses are to succeed. But it's clear that too many small businesses struggle to access the legal support they need.’  

This cry for change has been largely ignored by the legal industry. However, a new breed of law firm is challenging the norm. 

Harper James Solicitors was founded by Toby Harper in 2014. He’d seen first-hand the struggles small businesses faced when trying to access quality legal support, often at stages critical to their development, and wanted to offer a solution. While working as the in-house counsel for a Midlands venture capital firm, Toby hit upon a revolutionary idea: 

Toby Harper, CEO & Founder of Harper James

'What if a law firm operated like a nimble start-up, focusing its most valued assets – solicitors – on giving legal advice without the bureaucracy or administration found in a traditional law firm? And what if those solicitors were to work remotely, could it then offer ambitious businesses more affordable rates for its high-quality legal services?’ 

Armed with an encyclopaedic knowledge of business financing and all things start-up, Toby left his in-house role and secured a government loan to set up his own law firm. His aim was to transform business legal services by creating a modern law firm purpose built to meet the demands of entrepreneurs

In the space of just seven years, Harper James Solicitors has worked alongside an incredible 2,300 companies. What Harper James' clients have in common is innovation, ambition and determination to not only survive, but thrive.

‘Supporting entrepreneurs and new businesses has always been my passion,’ Toby says. ‘As an entrepreneur myself, I know the barriers that exist to getting your idea off the ground. Harper James believes in providing access to first-class legal advice which businesses need - at a cost that won’t bankrupt them at the first hurdle. Helping our partners achieve their business dreams is at the heart of the service we provide.’

It’s thanks to Harper James’ innovative pricing models that many SMEs – who may have previously felt legal support was out of reach – are now able to access expert legal advice at affordable prices. Built around a unique subscription model, Harper James' legal services are tiered according to how much legal support your business truly needs. 

‘I wanted to create a service that was dramatically different in the way it was priced that would get people talking,’ Toby says. ‘We’ve achieved that and attracted a lot of new clients along the way.' 

For many, that starts at just £125 per hour: a fraction of the cost traditional City law firms offer their services. The larger subscription plans allow clients to bulk-buy hours, meaning the more they buy, the lower the hourly rate they are charged. 

And, as businesses grow, Harper James’ packages grow too, meaning its clients can access all the help and support they need on the journey to reaching their goals. Like the ambitious clients he is proud to support, Toby is in no mood to slow down. 

‘Unless you continually evolve your offering, it is hard to thrive,’ he says. ‘I have big aspirations for this firm. We’ve grown rapidly in six years. And, at some point we will become a top 100 firm. It may take us a while to get there, but we will. And we look forward to supporting lots more clients along the way.’ 

Futureproofing your business

Advice from experienced lawyers can help prevent issues later down the line. 

Harper James’ lawyers typically have at least 10 years post qualified experience (PQE) and have either worked in-house at a large international business or been employed at a top 100 UK law firm. They all follow a remote working model and this flexible way of working has broken down geographical barriers and allowed Harper James to build partnerships nationwide. 

Toby explains: ‘Our experienced lawyers work flexibly, which allows them to achieve a good work-life balance. This in turn reduces our overheads, so we can pass on those cost savings to our clients. But one thing we never compromise on is the quality of our service.’ 

That service allows start-ups and SMEs to access all the legal support their business needs to scale up. 

Transparency from the start

Sector pioneers

It’s a tough world for businesses starting out, especially in 2021 as we continue to deal with the consequences of a global pandemic. Counting sector pioneers like HopinHospify and Howamigoing as their clients, Harper James was created to enable start-ups like these to scale with legal support that’s swift, transparent and affordable. 

Pay-as-you-go subscription models are typically something people associate with their mobile phones or TV steaming services, but Harper James’ is braking the mold with their modern pricing structure that has been designed for forward-thinking firms. 

The Enterprise plan, a legal support package designed specifically to support the needs of start-ups and smaller businesses, has a £189 monthly subscription fee. This provides clients with one hour of legal advice every month which rolls over if unused, plus access to additional legal support from just £125 per hour. 

This allows businesses to spread the cost of legal advice while enjoying peace of mind that additional support can be accessed quickly without costs skyrocketing. 

‘It's like having my own in-house counsel’

From CBD oil to next-generation graphene, online event conferencing to medical diagnostic equipment, Harper James' client list reads like a rollcall of British innovation. Clients of the firm prize the speed and efficiency of the Harper James legal experience, commenting on their 'proactive approach to legal services provision' and confirming they offer an 'invaluable service for any small business.' 

Chris Mason runs Namos Solutions, an award-winning Oracle consultancy and likened the relationship with Harper James to that of a partnership, rather than a typical customer and supplier: 

‘Harper James are our trusted legal adviser and having them by our side at key moments in our business growth, knowing we are protected, is immensely reassuring. Each of the individuals we’ve worked with at Harper James has always shown incredible expertise and the utmost professionalism with very much a “can-do” attitude.’

For Jo Evershed, founder of Cauldron Science and online experiments builder Gorilla, there are real benefits to working with Harper James as her business scales: 

‘It's been a breath of fresh air to work with Harper James Solicitors. It's like having my own in-house counsel, but at a fraction of the cost. It's an invaluable service for any small business.’

When it comes to raising finance and working with investors to help scale start-ups and SMEs, Harper James’ experienced corporate team is valued by leading VC and investment companies. Kieran Hill, COO of Ascension Ventures states: 

‘Our long-standing relationship has enabled us to get deals over the line quickly and efficiently - with minimum fuss.’

Discover the range of transparent support plans and enjoy peace of mind with quick and easy access to business legal experts. 

About the Author

Toby Harper

Toby Harper

Founder & CEO
Toby Harper is the Founder & CEO of Harper James Solicitors, as well as a corporate and commercial solicitor.


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