A Look Inside BfE: Legal Advisory Team

February 11, 2018 | Christos-Stavros Konstantopoulos

How many members does the Legal team have, and who are they?

We have three members in the Legal Team:

1. Legal Director – Darius, first year law undergraduate at Girton.

2. Associate – Sophie Bird, final/second year law student (doing the undergraduate affiliate degree) at Hughes Hall.

3. Associate – Duy Le, a third year HSPS student at Pembroke.

What is the role of the Legal team within BfE?

The Legal Team seeks to provide research support to start-ups on the legal matters which affect the operation of their business. This provides entrepreneurs with a basic understanding of the rules, regulations and practices of which they should be aware in order to avoid substantial legal problems such as a dispute or regulatory action in the future. The research support given is always tailored to the respective queries of the individual start-ups.

What have been some of last year’s highlights for the team?

Over the course of the last year, we concluded legal engagements for several start-ups in Kenya, West Africa and Zimbabwe. For example, we conducted legal research on the process and forms for registering a trademark and industrial design in Kenya for two Kenyan start-ups focusing on renewable energy. We also conducted research for two renewable energy start-ups in West Africa, focusing on corporate structures and their tax implications, personal data protection regulation, and the general landscape of dispute resolution, insolvency, and the credit system. Furthermore, we helped several start-ups in Zimbabwe in the area of contract law. While it was challenging researching law in a foreign jurisdiction, especially one that does not have all of its law translated into English, it was gratifying to be able to find the answers to the client’s particular questions. For Duy, the highlight was when the client emailed a thank you note to him and explained how helpful his briefing was!

Can you recall a particularly challenging engagement, or period, for the team?

In general, most engagements were smooth. However, one particular challenging engagement was mentioned by Sophie, who faced a lack of effective communication from her client. She was given the task of looking over a series of contracts that Hutano had concluded with investors and suppliers, but the company had been unresponsive, perhaps due to the political development in Zimbabwe. Thus, the actual work she could do was limited to research on points to consider when concluding investment agreements with VCs etc.

What do you enjoy about being part of BfE in general, and the Legal team in particular?

Darius: “The enjoyment of being part of BFE comes from the knowledge that everyone in the society is striving towards a common goal of assisting the start-ups we are engaged with, who may lack access to certain expertise due to their circumstances. It is always a humbling reminder that as a student community we are endowed with access to specialised knowledge, people, networks – and this should motivate us to seize the opportunity to use such resources for the benefit of others. Being part of the Legal Team has been a memorable experience as well. Functioning as a small unit, the Team’s members strive to achieve the goal of solving legal questions that these start-ups may have. In the first term,

I have enjoyed doing meaningful work for two Kenyan start-ups with regards to Copyright and IP law. Currently, as the new Director of the Legal Advisory Team, I look forward to new challenges and will certainly do my best to ensure that the Legal Team remains a strong and effective unit within the BfE framework.”

Sophie: “I enjoy exploring new points of law that have more practical application than what we study, and I like the community feeling of BfE.”

Duy Le: “The Legal team gives me a lot of autonomy and at the same time prompt support when I need it. I was given briefings for two clients and Jefferi, the team leader, entrusted me with sole responsibility to carry out my research and draft my briefings; yet he also replied to my queries very responsively when I had them. BfE and its focus on social enterprise in developing countries chimes nicely with my interest in development. Being part of BfE gives me the opportunity to get involved with actual initiatives and businesses.”

What are the plans of the Legal team for the coming months?

The Legal Team has big plans going forward. As a new unit within BfE, we are in the phase of standardising various processes with regards to documentation, communications and work procedure. These will be helpful to new and existing Team members in terms of increasing efficiency and improving work quality. In addition, the Legal Team seeks to expand its network in the coming year, and is currently in discussion with notable and prestigious law firms with the aim of establishing partnerships. This will allow the Team to gain an even wider access to information and professional expertise and, naturally, improve the quality of the work we can provide to start-ups we are engaged with.