Legal Advice for Photographers with Lucy Wheeler
It is a pleasure to introduce our newest Ambassador to RISE, welcome Lucy, I am very excited to have you here in the RISE family, sharing your professional knowledge and helping Photographers understand everything legal for them and their business. Lets dive right in…
RISE: Can you tell us how you started your journey to become a lawyer?
It’s probably a little sad, but I’ve wanted to be a lawyer for as long as I can remember. Growing up I was always told I could argue either side of any argument and when it came to applying for university law was the obvious choice. I was lucky to get a place at a top law school in London and was right in the heart of where law is made. I would spend time between lectures between the Old Bailey and the Royal Courts of Justice. It is still a real pinch me moment when I attend the RCJ now for clients.
RISE: Legal talk gets people all nervous, why do you think that is?
Often because it is something they don’t know much about. Legal is something that people put off or ignore and they think it will be complicated or scary and it really doesn’t have to be that way. It simply needs to be another business task like accounts or marketing that you visit each month and progress as required.
RISE: I love the soft, approach and brand you have taken with ‘Lucy Legal’ what inspired you down this route?
Thank you so much. My reputation in the industry has always been one of being accessible and friendly, not often the words you would use to describe a lawyer. Getting ‘the legal stuff sorted’ is so important for any entrepreneur, no-one wants to be made to feel like they don’t know something. My aim for Lucy Legal is to help my clients to feel confident explaining the way they run their business to their clients. So although a refund policy or a cancellation policy is a legal clause it’s also often so much more than that, in reality it comes down to whether you will be attending someone’s big day to shoot their wedding and that’s the stuff that matters to my client’s clients so it matters to me too.
RISE: You decided to make things less complicated, I mean let’s face it, where does anyone start with legal documents, it’s very overwhelming. Where is a good place to start?
I think the best way to start is by understanding that legal is an element of running a business which can actually elevate your brand. Take John Lewis for example, their returns policy is one of the most generous policies for stores in the UK. It goes above what they are legally required to do. It also creates trust and it reflects their brand values. If you can start to see legal as the components to your business which are going to improve your reputation and get people talking about the great customer service you provide it won’t be that task you keep putting off.
RISE: What do you find your biggest challenge?
I find it frustrating when people break the rules. I see a lot of people growing their businesses in a really unauthentic way. Breaking sales laws in their launches and stating something like “no refunds” which is entirely incorrect as a consumer will always have some rights to a refund if they can demonstrate certain things. I just try and take that all in and provide more education and information in my social channels so that even if people aren’t in a position to get legal protection, they can still run their business properly.
RISE: Do you think there are certain legal documents that every business owner should have, regardless of what business they are in?
I call them the triple threat and they form the basis of my Get Legit programme:
- Privacy Documents – A notice and a policy (the are two separate things) and
- Sales Terms – Either a contract setting out all the key information (specification of services, disclaimers, limitation of liability, IP clauses, copyright etc) or terms such as refunds, returns, cancellations.
- A Trade Mark – A businesses’ biggest asset can often be their brand name or tag line and it can cost a lot of money to rebrand if this isn’t secure.
- One of the biggest topics that always arises within our creative industry is the subject of ‘Copyright’ is this something we should actually worry about?
It’s a really big problem across a number of industries but especially creatives. The best way to handle it is to ensure you have protected your brand with trade marks and clear IP clauses. Imitation is so frustrating but it’s also unlikely to stop any time soon so sometimes it is better to focus your energy elsewhere
RISE: Can the same blanket contract really be used for all, or should it be bespoke?
Each contract will need to be made specific for a certain circumstance but it is possible to use template documents. Lucy Legal provides a template store to allow people to get template legal documents for an affordable price but there are risks with template documents as unless you personalise them then they will not protect you or your clients or properly reflect the way you do business.
RISE: Another topic that constantly arises because of the nature of what we do is GDPR and many people feel this affected their business. Is there truth in this?
Data protection is a legal requirement across the law. As a business owner you need to make it clear how you collect, manage and store people’s personal data. It doesn’t need to be over complicated it just needs to be protected carefully and you need to know what to do if it does go wrong.
RISE: If you could offer one piece of advice to anyone reading this. What would it be?
Incorporating legal tasks into your business once a month, or even once a quarter, will make it much more manageable and much less scary. Instead of legal being a cloud over your business try and think of it in a way which will empower your business decisions. Knowing the legal difference between a deposit or a booking fee will mean that you know which money you will potentially need to refund and that means you know how much you can pay yourself each month. That piece of information alone will make your customers clear from the outset what their position is and happy customers is the key to any business.
RISE: What is next for you Lucy, how do you see your own business in 5 years’ time?
It’s been a huge period of growth so far. The templates business has taken off in such a huge way and I am so grateful for all of the support I’ve received. They work really well because they are so accessible to download, personalise and then start using right away. I also offer 1:1 bespoke drafting services now which have been hugely popular for busy entrepreneurs who just don’t have the time or inclination to look at legal documents. I would love for Lucy Legal to become the ‘go-to’ legal provider across at least three main industries so that I can make as many business owners’ lives as easy as possible.