Interview with Michelle Eastwell, Partner of HopgoodGanim Lawyers

Michelle Eastwell is a partner of HopgoodGanim Lawyers, a top tier associate of QUT Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA) and one of Brisbane’s most respected law firms. HopGoodGanim’s role at CEA involves providing advice to members of the community and hosting masterclasses on subjects such as intellectual property, contract regulations, and legal frameworks.

Michelle is a regular attendant of CEA events, and was one of the audience members at our most recent Town Hall involving HotDesQ female founders. We caught up with her for a quick interview about her relationship with CEA and her thoughts on creative technology, startups and common legal pitfalls.

HopgoodGanim Lawyers provides an extensive range of legal services. What do you personally specialise in and why?

As a partner of the firm, my main area of expertise is the corporate and business space, which largely involves working with small businesses. Over the course of the eighteen years, I’ve been involved with HopgoodGanim, I can definitely say that the best part of my job is being able to see people grow and develop their ideas into successful companies. Being involved in that journey, if only a small role, is incredibly rewarding.

The HopgoodGanim team are regular attendants at CEA events.  What are your thoughts on the most recent, female founder panel?

I try to come to as many events as I can, and I’m glad I made it to this one as it’s rare to hear from a panel of female founders, especially ones in the creative technology industry. Events like this really highlight what a diverse array of talented people we are attracting to our shores and it’s wonderful that programs such as HotDesQ can provide these opportunities for Queensland.

What services does HopgoodGanim provide to CEA?

We often have members of the team visit the space to provide free legal advice via scheduled one on one sessions and regular events. Recently, we ran an employee versus contract masterclass where we spoke about the legal ramifications of incorrectly labelling an employee. Our next class will be on intellectual property, and will cover subjects such as brand reputation, increasing business value and the common pitfalls of trademarking a product.

Sharing knowledge and breaking down misconceptions are our major goals with these sorts of events, as we understand that legalities can be seen as too complicated, or overwhelming. We also like to regularly attend community events to hear people’s stories and keep up to date with the creative tech scene.

Why do you believe creative technology is relevant?

Creative technology is such an integral part of the Queensland economy and I think it’s wonderful that the importance of supporting innovation has been recognised. Ten years ago, businesses that fell under the umbrella of creative technology just weren’t getting the traction they deserved. Programs such as the ones CEA run give opportunities to businesses that previously weren’t available. It’s an exciting industry that will only continue to improve and prosper.

How long has HopgoodGanim been involved with startups?

Startups were originally referred to as small businesses, though it appears to be less fashionable now to call them the latter. HopgoodGanim has been involved with small businesses, since its inception in the 70’s, and it’s always been a principle of theirs to take a more hands-on approach with clients. I can confidently say that being involved with startups has been something that HopgoodGanim has always valued.

What do you believe are some common mistakes startups make when it comes to legal matters?

There are quite a few common mistakes I see startups make, especially in the early stages of business. Number one would simply be structure – a key example of this is ensuring a business is tax effective. It’s vital to have a clear plan put in place before money is involved.

Another big concern businesses face is differentiating employees from contractors. Once a business starts employing people it needs to be firmly lined out what that employee’s responsibilities are and the compensation they are owed. Often times, employers can surpass this only for it to bite them back later on down the track.

Terms and conditions is another major one as I often find people are simply copying from elsewhere instead of tailoring it specifically to their company. Particular focus should be paid to any parts pertaining to intellectual property. It can be as minor as getting ownership of the IP you think you’re paying for, which may potentially be owned by someone else, or protecting the IP that you are in the process of creating.

Why was CEA chosen as a partner?

I was excited by the range of businesses CEA hosted and the level of support provided. From fashion to journalism, videographers, and design – it truly is a vast assortment of industries. The work that Anna Rooke (CEO) and Mark Gustowski (Acting CEO) have put into elevating the industry is highly admirable and I believe they are really pioneering the way for creative technology. That amount of sheer effort and passion aligns very firmly with our company values, so the partnership proved an obvious fit.

Why does HopgoodGanim invest time, money and resources into the creative industries?

I believe creative technology will play a strong role in the future, so helping companies in that realm is beneficial for everyone. HopgoodGanim does their part by providing seminars, workshops, and masterclasses that share vital information. Hopefully, these sorts of events can break down the role lawyers play in small business and how they can actually help. I can understand why the prospect of bringing in a lawyer can be daunting, as people are unsure exactly what it involves. Our job is to show that legal help can greatly benefit a business, not hinder it.

Do you think every business needs a lawyer as opposed to just a legal framework?

I definitely think every business needs a trusted advisor of some sort, at different times in their journey. Lawyers are highly needed for those looking to set up a tailored legal framework, ensuring rewards can be reaped later on, and costly mistakes avoided.

As a top tier partner of CEA, you were present at this year’s Creative³. What were your personal highlights of the event?

I’ve been to Creative³ a few times now, and I can honestly say it never fails to exceed my expectations. There isn’t another event like it in Australia, to my knowledge. To have that many creative tech experts in one room is a feat on its own, but to have such an impressively structured event that manages to cover such a vast array of subjects – I was blown away! The topics were incredibly relevant, and the panellists more diverse and impressive as ever. There was certainly a lot of traction in terms of attendees, which I believe is proof of Creative³’s wonderful reputation. An event such as this will only continue to get bigger and better, if that’s even possible.

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