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Law course launched to support family businesses

By Giulia Cambieri

A new university course aimed at helping family businesses to deal with some of the most important legal issues they typically face, such as succession and disputes, has been launched.

Strathclyde University in Glasgow is offering the elective class, which is specifically designed to meet the needs of lawyers working with family businesses.

The course, the first of its kind in the UK, will be taught by academics at the university's law school, together with legal practitioners and members of the Scottish Family Business Association.

It is part of the university's postgraduate diploma in professional legal practice and students can complement it by taking a class on family business theory and practice at Strathclyde Business School.

The elective will focus on a wide number of topics, including how to start up and grow a business, how to plan succession and how to transfer the ownership of the business from one member of the family to another.

Resolution of disputes and mediation will also be covered.

According to Leo Martin, co-director of legal practice courses at Strathclyde Law School, family businesses often need particular assistance when it comes to succession planning and the integration of non-family members within the company.

He told CampdenFB: “These issues require careful consideration by lawyers before drafting the documentation or advising on their legal ramifications. Lawyers don't normally use genograms!”

In a statement, Martin also said family enterprises – both small-scale companies and bigger names in the food, motoring and transports industries – make an important contribution to the economy.

“However, having a family influence in a business can make it quite different to those which have mainly commercial and corporate considerations – this makes it essential for them to know about how the law can support their interests and about the legal pitfalls they could face,” he added.

According to the SFBA, family businesses account for 45% of the UK's GDP. In Scotland, they employ 50% of the private sector workforce.  

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