Features - Entrepreneurial Alumni
Posted 01 January 2017
New York Program
September 2000 Intake
Philip Hannay (New York, September 2000) incorporated Cloch Solicitors Limited in April 2011 and started trading after regulatory approval in January 2012; it is actually his fifth business venture (first fulltime and service business) since completing the Mountbatten programme. Philip founded the company after a decade in legal practice working for a large, mid-size and a niche commercial law firm, and after being crowned ‘IP Lawyer of the Year’ in consecutive years by the Law Awards of Scotland. Cloch® typically acts for inventors, artists, engineers, software developers, scientists, entrepreneurs, high growth start-ups, and R&D divisions of mature trading companies which seek personable legal support in generating money from ideas and technology. Cloch has improved profitability and won a good number of UK legal awards year-on-year helping it in turn climb from a debut ranking of ‘Upper Quartile’ after its outstanding maiden performance to ‘top 100’ across the whole Scottish legal profession. Read on to find out how Philip got his inspiration for setting up his company, and what other ventures he is involved in.
My day-to-day work covers practice management and advising clients on a full suite of contentious and non-contentious commercial legal matters. In addition, I lecture and tutor ‘Company Law’ and ‘IP & Commercial Contracts’ at the University of Glasgow and the University of Strathclyde, and am asked to guest speak at many other Scottish universities, colleagues and schools, even some international. Finally, I judge a number of start-up and investment competitions and sit on Tier1 graduate entrepreneurship VISA panels.
How did you get into this line of business?
I entered the Mountbatten programme with a law degree and the mandatory (Scottish) legal diploma and so, in a sense, I was geared up for a life in law. However my Mountbatten experience (Goldman Sachs) was very inspirational and ensured that my future career would focus on, or include, business investment and executive immigration in one form or another. The Mountbatten modular studies (social, political and economic history), entrepreneurial business plan, and innovative work improvement project, were all key in seeding or nurturing my current interests and the idea of self-employment. Also, as the (unofficial) Mountbatten DJ (2000-2001), I spent almost every Saturday record shopping in the East and West Villages of Manhattan: observing long and short-term music trends, unearthing classics, and searching for the rare and unique sound of tomorrow. This turned out to be helpful preparation, as I encounter the same challenges now in a business context. There is the classic ‘bread and butter’ work, the seasonal market trends to ride, and the need to spot emerging legal issues (containing the greatest service value).
How did you go about setting it up and getting established?
By 2011 I had generated a good reputation, industry contacts and client-following in the areas of law that I was most passionate about. I had a restless portfolio of interesting ideas I required freedom to explore outside the confines of a restrictive and risk-adverse partnership. Therefore the point of departure really only required a step of faith and being able to endure a short period of impecuniosity. Neither of which was easy. I was a partner at a reputable firm and I had got married only a couple of months earlier and my wife was between jobs. The decision was not without its risks. But in some sense, the Mountbatten programme prepared me for that moment too. Leaving a small town on the west coast of Scotland and heading to New York at age 20 required a step of faith. I am not sure I could do that now. But such gregariousness is part of the beauty of youth; and a big reason why I enjoy close affiliation with campus © Cloch, PAH, 2017 enterprise where some bold students are working on the best business ideas (albeit cash-starved and needing a little word of encouragement).
What else is in the pipeline?
I have some personal goals I would like to focus on this year. Beyond that, in additional to my university teaching posts and student mentoring commitments, I have agreed to add Australasian Aquacelerator to the current pro bono advice lines I service. I also hold a number of board positions which continue to keep me busy, namely Honorary Secretary of Friends of Glasgow School of Art, Council Member of The Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow, Co-Chair of the Creative Industry Skills Forum, and a forthcoming appointment to the Scottish Government Creative Industry Advisory Group. I am due to deliver a paralegal qualification course in Intellectual Property for Central Law Training (Wilmington Group plc) later this year. From an entrepreneurial point of view, I continue to work on Independent Ventures®, a technology R&D business which creates software products for the legal and financial sectors; and I am slowing maturing the Lawyers Heritage Trail®, a prospective social enterprise which will showcase and encourage the exploration of legal history. The material for the latter venture was boosted in 2013 by my firm’s acquisition of the law library of the late Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
What has been the proudest moment in your working life thus far?
Receiving my first set of accounts for Cloch® which validated both my original gut feeling about the business concept and the sacrificial step of faith it took to go and pursue it, was definitely gratifying. Employing and rewarding staff has provided many enriching moments. Attending a client’s launch in the Palace of Westminster was a good experience. Returning to New York in 2012 and 2013 on trade missions and organising a conference for British and American creative businesses to equip them to undertake transatlantic business was great. But the most memorable and proudest moments have come (as they did during my Mountbatten experience) through volunteering with people who cannot afford or access legal advice or solutions. At the last count, I have completed over 600 cases within the last 5 years, which included working with an English police force and using copyright/moral rights to combat child exploitation, and, most notably, assisting a disabled client with the return of his registered design from an unscrupulous medical device company, later to be told that my work saved the client from committing suicide.
What has been your biggest mistake/learning experience?
Not an easy question. I think life as an entrepreneur will mean from time to time making the odd rash decision or miscalculating cost somewhat, but as long as such errors of judgement do not stem from a character trait then they are just experience that one learns a lesson from. It is all part of the process. However, I do think (being a youngest child) I may have paid too much deference to others in business when I really should not have. Moreover, the question tends to presuppose there is a correct or right way of doing things in business. I do not necessarily agree. The more experience I gain in business, the more I learn that while there is the conventional way, there may be an original way. One is not right and the other wrong. One is not good and the other better. One may lead to greater financial success, the other a more enriched life. The important point is consciously choosing a way and walking it.
Any words of advice/wisdom would you impart to others thinking of setting up their own business?
I like Ronald Regan's, 'Trust, but verify'. It may be from my litigation experience, but be it your clients, your suppliers, your business model, yes, even yourself; have the necessary skills and materials both available and accessible in order to record and verify actions and decisions, even if you do not actually have to prove the point at that point in time. Also, 'know your market'. In 2004 I established a novelty product business I had been working on for a number of years (part time). It did reasonably well for a number of years but then I wound down the main trade (a traffic cone hat) after years of opposition from.