With our extensive experience in the technology sector, Bellevue Law is uniquely placed to support founders, investors and their senior management teams through the highs of growth-based recruitment and the challenges of redundancies and legal disputes.
Why do tech companies choose to work with Bellevue Law?
First, because we understand what it is to be a startup. As a young, boutique law firm with an innovative model, we have both first-hand experience of disrupting a traditional market, and an understanding of the unique challenges this brings.
Next, because we have extensive experience of working with fast-growth, tech and challenger businesses and their founders and investors. Our clients span a range of sectors including software engineering, platform providers, fintech and challenger banks, and telecoms.
Additionally, because technology companies want laser-focused technical excellence at the right price. Our specialist employment and litigation lawyers have backgrounds in leading international law firms and extensive private practice and in-house experience, and are able to advise on complex technical issues where required. Equally valuable to our clients, however, is our commercial approach and ability to partner with our clients in a way that many other firms cannot. Our founder Florence Brocklesby has been described by a tech client as:
‘the most operational employment attorney I have worked with. Period’
Our business model, which removes unnecessary overheads, allows us to provide our clients with the support of outstanding senior lawyers cost-effectively.
How do we address employment law basics when we are in fast-growth mode?
Our team is very experienced when it comes to drafting crucial employment documents – such as employment contracts and service agreements – in a way that caters to the specific requirements of disruptive companies (for example, where the parties involved might be entitled to options or equity). We regularly work – as one team – with trusted lawyers in our network specialising in company, commercial and corporate law who can prepare corporate documents and shareholder and option agreements. We’re also familiar with the essential paperwork a young or fast-growing business needs (from employment policies to handbooks).
While these policies can be less of a priority whilst pursuing a new idea or during a period of rapid growth, they are essential for the hygiene of the organisation and its future success, and will safeguard the company as it progresses. Our insight and practical skill mean that our clients are free to focus on what they love best: growing their business.
How do we change the shape and size of our business?
Bumps in the road are inevitable, particularly in industries where innovation is at the forefront – and sometimes things just don’t work out. We are highly experienced at supporting challenger businesses through redundancy processes, and understand how painful these can be for both the affected employees and the management team who have worked so hard to grow the business and often have personal relationships with those who are exiting.
We help by supporting clients through the redundancy procedure in a pragmatic, cost-effective and human way. We start by understanding the commercial background, and provide clear strategic advice on options and legal risk as well as practical advice and support throughout, including guidance on fair selection and consultation processes. We are regularly asked to take part in redundancy consultation meetings with our clients – in fact, we have recently done this via video-conference during lockdown – and they tell us that our experience and sensitivity makes these run as smoothly and successfully as possible. In addition, we can prepare all relevant documentation (including settlement agreements in cases where clients wish to offer enhanced redundancy packages in exchange for employees waiving potential claims against the business).
How should we handle complex employment issues and senior executive exits?
We regularly support our technology and high-growth clients through tricky individual employment problems, including performance management and disciplinary processes, and also have extensive experience of conducting internal investigations.
Unfortunately, it’s sometimes necessary for senior executives to exit the business: perhaps the person who was right for the role originally is no longer; perhaps there has been some fundamental disagreement about the direction of the business; or perhaps there has been a personal conflict. Negotiated exits for senior executives can be complex and personally difficult for all concerned, especially where the individual leaving is a co-founder or longstanding member of the senior management team. If there is a dispute over ownership of the business, for example where this hasn’t been properly documented, this can be particularly risky and time-sensitive, and potentially could hinder the company’s ability to attract investment. Our extensive experience of advising clients and investors through the exit of founders, directors and shareholders allows us to support management strategically and sensitively during this process.
How does Bellevue Law’s approach differ from others’?
In short, because we treat people the way that we would want to be treated in the same circumstances: fairly, humanely and with clarity.
Culture and values play a big role in business success – and we fully understand the importance of that and how actions resonate down the years. Tech companies often face unusual challenges in this area, especially if they have grown swiftly from a loose or informal workplace structure. As the company evolves, it is important to take time to put in place the right structures and ensure that behaviours and cultures are appropriate. We have a great track record of doing precisely this for technology companies.
In the tech sector, in particular, it can be important to ensure that due consideration is given to diversity and unconscious bias, and we are able to provide training on these issues.
We have a wealth of experience generally and with high-growth clients particularly, and are alive to the issues that can present over time – and how best to handle these without disruption to the business.
You probably don’t want to use a lawyer who produces a 20-page answer to a single question (which leaves you still none the wiser as to what to do for the best). Our technology clients love the fact that we provide clear advice that can be acted on, in a timely fashion.
Why might tech companies choose us for their disputes?
Our litigation team is able to represent clients in matters ranging from straightforward debt recovery and contractual disputes to high-value complex litigation.
Of particular relevance in this sector, we have extensive experience of shareholder disputes, including over the ownership and value of high growth businesses, and have successfully acted in complex, high value litigation on this issue. We also advise clients on disputes with departing employees (for example, where they are said to be in breach of confidentiality or intellectual property obligations or post-termination restrictions).
We understand the personal, practical and legal impacts of such scenarios, and are able to offer targeted, cost-effective advice, as well as drawing on the considerable experience of our litigation team where necessary.
Have you run redundancy programmes for tech companies?
We have run redundancy processes for a number of technology and startup businesses, and have recently advised others on furlough under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Do you advise on employee-side issues too?
We do. The mix of work we do for companies, founders and senior executives means that we are better placed to advise both sides.
What kinds of disputes do you get involved in for technology companies?
We are able to advise on a whole range of commercial disputes. These disputes range from smaller figures to tens of millions of pounds. We combine big firm experience with an agile approach and adapt our strategy to the budget and values at risk.
Why have you been successful in working with technology and startup firms?
We have a lot in common with our clients. Our business model is innovative: every one of our lawyers works remotely at least part of their time, and all of them work to agile hours. We’re entrepreneurial and values-driven; and, most importantly, we’re people first and lawyers second.
Can you provide examples of your work for tech companies?
Yes, we’ll happily provide testimonials and referees upon request.
If your tech or challenger firm is seeking a different kind of legal counsel, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re here to help.