Four legal tips to keep your business running smoothly in 2021

laptop on wooden desk with someone typing1 The pandemic is getting worse, democracy in the USA seems to have collapsed, and if you have to say "you're still on mute" one more time, you'll explode.

And it's only the 11th of January.

Here are four legal tips to help keep your business running smoothly in 2021, despite — perhaps even because of — all the madness.

Update your GDPR record of processing, and check your transparency information

Most organisations which process personal data need to have a record of their processing.

If you have one, check it is still up to date. In particular, if you've made changes to what you do to help you get through the pandemic, you might not have got round to updating your record yet.

If you do not have one, or are not sure what this even means, check out our simple guide.

You need to tell people what you are going to do with their personal data, before you do it. If you've changed what you do and haven't updated your transparency information, again, get this on your road map.

Transparency information — often in the form of privacy notices, but sometimes confusingly called privacy policies — should not be complicated or confusing, and you don't want one which reads like it was written by a lawyer with a bad case of legalese. Nor do you want something written by someone well meaning but without an eye for the detail of the law, unless you're willing to accept the risk that your procesing activity is unlawful.

Here's our guide to writing privacy notices in three simple steps, with some examples from our own transparency information.

(And if you need other privacy advice, we're here for that too — we've helped multinationals, start-ups, charities, another law firm, a regulator, anti-fraud services, and many others, on all manner of privacy and data protection topics. Just drop us an email.)

Review your terms of business

If you're like many businesses, you'll have paid for some terms of business — or, worse still, grabbed someone else's — some years back, and perhaps never thought of them again. You just send them out, or make them available to click through, so that you're "covered".

But are you really covered, or are you carrying risk unnecessarily?

Do your aging terms still reflect what you do and how you do it? Has the pandemic changed what you do?

Do you even know what's in your own terms? Can you even understand your own terms? If you can't, your customers probably can't either — and if you were picking between a supplier with a contract you could understand, and one you couldn't, which one would you choose?

Last year, we:

  • prepared standard terms for a telephony provider's hosted PBX services
  • tidied up a web hosting company's out-dated standard terms, replacing them with a new, "plain English" set, which reflect the major changes they'd undergone as a business since their last set

If you know what you need, we can help you implement it.

Even better, if you don't know what you need, we can help you work out what should be in your terms — fixing what's in there already, removing things which don't help you, and adding bits which you've missed — and helping ensure that they are fit for the job.

And, of course, if you're launching a new business — bravo! — we can ensure that your first set of terms work for you.

Yes, you'll have to resist the temptation to just grab some terms from a template site, but wouldn't it make more sense to have some terms which were actually prepared with you, and your new business, in mind?

Got new services coming this year? Build legal review early in your process

One of the most frustrating situations we face is when someone comes to us saying "we've developed a new service, and want to tick off the legals".

I can kind of understand it — if you're building something new and exciting, "the legals" probably detract from that sense of excitement — but it also means that your options for making changes, if required, are limited.

It makes far more sense to build in legal review and advice early on in the process, when it's easier to adjust what you are doing, or make design changes so you don't fall down an avoidable pitfall or run into a blocker which you could have avoided.

In 2020, we helped:

  • a hardware client add a new rental model to get their hardware into more offices
  • a healthcare company roll out a women's well-being app
  • a chariable body launch a platform to manage awards ceremonies (including negotiating contracts with some of the world's biggest film studios)

to name but three of the exciting things we worked on last year.

We're happy to do one-off reviews, but some clients really appreciate having legal advice on tap, through a retainer. This means that you've got guaranteed legal attention when you need it, from someone who's familiar with you and your business.

Beyond helping you design your service, we can help with the important peripheral issues.

For example, we can help with short, snappy terms for beta testing (we helped a really exciting new WebRTC service just before Christmas get their beta off the ground), as well as giving you advice on doing your marketing lawfully, and on dealings with regulators.

Revisit your supplier arrangements

If you've been thinking about how you do business, chances are you'll have been thinking about your suppliers too.

If things have changed because of the pandemic or (dare I say it?) Brexit, and you want to make changes to your relationship — perhaps apportion risk differently, or simply reflect the changes to what you are buying in the deal structure and pricing — now is as good a time as any to do it.

Last year, we:

You may also have suppliers coming to you, looking to do things differently. Even if they say "it's just a small change", is it really?

  1. This image is made available through the CC0 Public Domain Dedication↩︎