Public Engagement

qLegal: free legal advice and the entrepreneurship community

qLegal is a law clinic based at the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London. Its mission is to provide free legal advice to entrepreneurs and start-up businesses across the UK. Clemence Tanzi, Centre for Commercial Law Studies, explains how it works.

10 December 2018

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The cohort of 2018-2019 qLegal advisers at their training day in TransferWise HG, London (October 2018).

qLegal is a law clinic based at the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London. Its mission is to provide free legal advice to entrepreneurs and start-up businesses across the UK.

Potential clients start by sending qLegal an enquiry on their website. They can help early stage entrepreneurs with intellectual property law, corporate and commercial law, and data protection law issues. The legal advice is provided by qLegal student advisers, supervised by qualified solicitors from some of the best law firms in town. qLegal students receive the best training from experts in their field.

Over the past 5 years, qLegal has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs understand their legal issues and grow their businesses successfully. The law clinic has grown strong links with the start-up community by providing not only 1-to-1 advice, but also to a growing audience through free legal workshops and masterclasses. qLegal is part of Tech London Advocates and has recently formed a partnership with the Digital Catapult Machine Learning Garage. It is also the longest partner providing external training to future developers at Ada, National College for Digital Skills.

Tina Götschi, the Head of Computer Science at Ada, National College for Digital Skills, says of her experience working with qLegal: “[We] have had great experiences working in collaboration with the students and team at qLegal. The qLegal students and our teachers have co-created workshops, using their legal knowledge and our curriculum knowledge, to give Ada students a practical and tangible application of the legal requirements in the IT Industry. This collaboration has enhanced Ada students’ understanding of the application of law to technology and we look forward to more collaboration in the future.”

qLegal is also part of the EU funded project eHealth Hub, and provides legal support and guidance to  European eHealth SMEs in partnership with the University of Amsterdam.

Feedback from entrepreneurs shows the need for such services, and an appreciation for the quality of the advice received: “qLegal made legal advice accessible to me - not only financially, but also in terms of giving me a place to start, which is often the hardest step in unfamiliar territory! Their advice was broken down into clear recommendation areas with clear steps to taking action on each.”

Initially a project from the Legal Advice Centre at QMUL in 2013, the law clinic has grown to encompass many programs, such as the Teach Tech Law program, the LawTech Externship and CoachBright x qLegal, and now offers an Entrepreneurship Law Clinic half module on the LLM.

qLegal is involved with the local community in East and South London. The Teach Tech Law program allows QMUL postgraduate law students to provide classes to school pupils on law and entrepreneurship. Each year, teams of pupils from each school pitch their business idea to a jury of experts at the Digital Catapult Centre in London. In the UK, 24% of pupils on free school meals go onto university compared to 96% of private school pupils. In 2016, only 2.5% of all 18 year olds in England who were eligible for FSM at school got into a high tariff university. Community participants in Teach Tech law are school pupils from St Paul’s Way Trust in Tower Hamlet, East London and Saint Gabriel’s College in Camberwell, South London. A significant number of pupils attending both schools would be on FSM. For most young people, it is impossible to aspire to a career without knowing it exists, and most importantly what it entails. Through Teach Tech Law, pupils not only develop their own business idea and discover what it takes to become an entrepreneur, but they get to meet and be mentored by university law students.

The law clinic also strives to provide innovative new learning experiences. This year, qLegal has offered 8 more LawTech Externships (one day a week work placement in UK start-ups) to qLegal students, and will offer more places for their January 2019 cohort. qLegal aims to support the development of new skills for the lawyers of tomorrow. Growing their own awareness and emotional intelligence, deepening their listen skills and effective communication at work are some of the skills used in coaching. qLegal partnered with social enterprise CoachBright to deliver coaching skills training and offer coaching opportunities to qLegal students.