In the latest in our series, My Life in Law, we speak to Associate Partner, Jonny Scholes, who has been with the firm since its inception on Valentine’s Day 2014, having worked at the previous incarnation of Pannone, joining as a paralegal in 2005. Having risen through the ranks to become a key member of the dispute resolution team, Jonny talks about his love affair with Pannone Corporate, the ‘speed date’ with partners which made him realise the firm was the one, his long-held ambition to be a professional rugby player, and his side-line in writing children’s picture books!

Tell us a little bit about when you joined Pannone Corporate?

I moved across as part of the management buy-out of the old Pannone LLP (with the remaining team joining Slater & Gordon). I started at the old Pannone as a paralegal for eight months or so in 2005. I’d been offered a training contract and arranged to do some work whilst I was waiting for it to begin. I started life in the travel team in personal injury, dealing with bulk claims involving sickness bugs abroad! I then had a few months off when I travelled across the West and East coasts of America with my brother, before starting my training contract in September 2006.

What did you do before joining?

My only other jobs before working at Pannone were working in my local pub – The Crown in Heaton Mersey – and working as a theatre porter at the Alexander Hospital in Cheadle. I enjoyed both jobs and they gave me some useful transferable skills, particularly in dealing with people, including some who could be a little nervous or wary and others who were a little more difficult! I also did a vacation scheme placement at the old Pannone too.

What’s your role at Pannone?

I’m currently an Associate Partner, having worked my way up through the ranks from my trainee days. I’m in the dispute resolution team and deal with general commercial litigation disputes, with a particular specialism in contentious trust and probate matters.

What drew you to Pannone?

I applied for a training contract with six Manchester firms. Pannone was one of them and stood out as being a full-service law firm, which was good for me as I didn’t know which area of law I wanted to specialise in at that time. In the end, it was the feel of the firm and the people that really attracted me. Pannone was the first of my second interviews for a training contract (a kind of ‘speed date the partners’ over lunch event, which sounds horrendous, but wasn’t too bad!) and I was offered a training contract.  I said I wanted to do a few more interviews before deciding, but after an assessment centre at a large Manchester firm, where it was clear to me the people weren’t as in tune with me as those at Pannone, I came outside, rang Pannone to accept their offer and cancelled my other interviews. I’m pleased to say it’s still the people that make the firm to this day.

What route did you go down, in terms of training and qualifications?

After my A-levels in English Literature, History and Politics, I didn’t want to do any of those as a degree on their own, so I opted for law, which encompassed elements of them all. However, I wasn’t actually planning on going into law as a profession at that time! I did my law degree at Oxford and then had a year out, where I was supposed to be playing rugby in France. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out due to a knee injury. In the end, I went back to Oxford and did a Masters in Criminology – in part to bide me some time to decide what I wanted to do for a career and also to try and get a rugby union blue (but an early season arm break put paid to that!). I applied for training contracts whilst doing my Masters and was offered one at Pannone just before I started my LPC back up in Manchester at Manchester Met. After that I did a stint as a paralegal at Pannone and then began my training contract.

Why did you choose this route?

I guess it was a case of finding my way as I went along. It just took me a bit of time to decide that being a solicitor was a decent fit for me. All in all, the slightly longer approach into the profession has probably made me more well-rounded. 

What’s the most satisfying aspect of your job?

I enjoy working with people and particularly the people at Pannone. It’s nice to see more junior fee earners progress and grow in confidence. In a more, pure work capacity, I’m lucky that my contentious probate cases often give me an opportunity to make a real tangible difference to people’s lives, often in very sad or distressing circumstances for them. That can be very rewarding.

What does a typical day look like?

A typical day can often be hectic and is often changeable! My ‘to do’ list alters three or four times a day, most days. I’ll try and get some smaller jobs out of the way first thing and may need to set some time aside for a chunkier piece of work such as drafting a long letter of claim, or preparing instructions to counsel. There’ll normally be an element of supervision in there too: reviewing work done by junior lawyers in the team. Some of my time will be spent on business development issues and no doubt I’ll have a few phone calls and multiple emails in the day as well. Perhaps less frequently I may have a client meeting, conference with counsel, a mediation or even a court hearing and, if I’m lucky, the odd client lunch as well!

What are your career ambitions?

I’ve always had the philosophy of just getting my head down, working hard, and trying to be a good employee to have in the firm! By doing that I’ve always trusted that I would be rewarded at the right time with progression. Thankfully that’s tended to be the case and I’ve progressed each time I’ve felt ready to. Where I’m at now is a good place to be and if I keep on progressing as I am, then one day I’d hope to join the partnership.

If you were managing partner for the day, what’s the first thing you would do? 

I’d look to set up some kind of fun team building event. Being from a sporting background (rugby), I think building team spirit is essential to a positive and productive environment and building relationships within the workplace only leads to a better culture and then better service delivery. I’d also allow everyone a Friday afternoon in the sun at Dukes (the pub) – also important for team building!

What would you be doing if you didn’t have a career in law? 

If you’d asked me this when I was younger I’d have said a professional rugby player, but now with three children of my own, it would probably be some form of teaching, or writing children’s books! As it is, I’m limited to coaching the ‘Tiny Tacklers’ at my local rugby club, Burnage, on Sunday mornings in the rugby season.

What can lawyers / the legal profession do to better support clients? Does anything need to change?

The one thing I’ve learned to improve on over time, which I know clients appreciate, is the provision of information. Clients just want to know where things are up to and to be kept informed and updated. Clearly there will be times when you’re busy and you take longer to return pieces of work to clients. I’ll regularly try to send a few short emails at the end of a day if my timescales have slipped to let the client know. They’re generally okay with that and are grateful to be kept informed rather than having to chase. I think this is an area of client service a lot of solicitors can improve on.

Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?

I lead a busy life with my wife Karen and our three children: Tessa (10), Tilly (7) and Toby (4). I love spending time with them and they’re a lot of fun, but it’s non-stop running around after them! Aside from that, spending time with our friends is also important to me, as is exercise. I’ve just finished playing rugby regularly with my club’s third team and am getting into CrossFit, cycling, and dabbling at golf! If you know anyone who could clone me to free up some more time to do all the above that’d be good!

Do you have any particular skills/talents that your work colleagues may not know about?

I read a good bedtime story… and have also written a few children’s picture book texts over the years as a bit of a hobby, some examples being: ‘Nacho Newt and his Parachute’, ‘Flamingo Joe’, ‘The Gnome that Left Home’ and ‘When a Fisherman Caught an Astronaut’! I’ve not written any for a while though, so maybe I need to get back into it! Then I just need to find a good illustrator to bring them to life!

Where do you live?

I live in Heaton Chapel in South Manchester near Stockport. There are quite a few from the office who live in the Heatons and it’s a great place to live – only 10 minutes on the train to Manchester, close to the airport, lots of bars and restaurants, the Savoy cinema, my rugby club and a great community spirit!

 

 

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Pannone Corporate has expanded its client base, after being appointed onto the legal framework for the Canal & River Trust. 

The North West law firm will provide construction and property litigation support, as part of a five-year agreement. Pannone is one of a number of law firms to be appointed by the Canal & River Trust.  

The Trust works with communities to transform their local canal or river, creating places and spaces for everyone. Together with volunteers and supporters, the Trust plays an important local role in addressing global issues, such as climate change and biodiversity decline. 

Paul Jonson, senior partner at Pannone Corporate, said: “We’re delighted to have been appointed onto the national legal framework for the Canal & River Trust, following a rigorous and competitive procurement process. 

“The charity plays a vital role in enhancing our waterways, transforming places and enriching lives. Our team will be working closely with the Trust to ensure that their purpose and vision is not compromised.”

Gemma Staples, associate partner in the property litigation team, added: “The Canal & River Trust is making a significant contribution to protect and nurture the natural environment that sits right on our doorstep. The events of the last two years have shown how important that environment is to our health and wellbeing andI, amongst thousands of others, have found solace in time spent in woodlands and by our local waterways. I’m thrilled to be able to work with such an organisation.”

The Canal & River Trust covers six English regions, including the North West, East and West Midlands, London and the South East, the South West, and Yorkshire and the North East, as well as Wales. Teams cover water management, sustainability, restoration, community engagement, design and planning, ecology andengineering. 

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In the first of our quarterly retail law updates, we look at the latest news and legal developments affecting the sector.

It covers the upcoming Children’s Code, which will come into force in September and will impact those online retailers that currently process personal data of under 18s. We also look at the new guidance on buy now, pay later, as well as key fashion cases setting the tone for the industry, including when drawing inspiration becomes infringement.

Read our quarterly update here https://discover.pannonecorporate.com/retail-update

If you would like to discuss these topics in more detail, or have any questions, contact partner, Melanie McGuirk on 07790 882567 or email melanie.mcguirk @pannonecorporate.com

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Sarah Bazaraa and Alexandria Winstanley, intellectual property and media lawyers at Pannone Corporate

Colin and Cuthbert the Caterpillars have hit the headlines and captured the attention of the nation as M&S issued High Court proceedings to challenge Aldi on its sale of an alleged copycat cake.

M&S is well-known for having a range of successful and hugely popular ‘character’ products such as Colin the Caterpillar and Percy Pig. Colin the Caterpillar is said to have hit the market in 1990 and to have had the same look since around 2004, securing its place as a firm favourite for birthdays and celebrations over the years. Such is this cake’s notoriety, he’s recognisable to many by his first name only.

It has been widely reported that M&S issued High Court proceedings on 14 April 2021 to challenge Aldi’s sales of Cuthbert the Caterpillar on the basis that Aldi’s product ‘rides on the coat tails’ of the success of Colin the Caterpillar. M&S may be concerned that Aldi’s lower priced cake will result in a diversion of sales and undermine the success of its own product.

What protection does M&S have?

M&S seeks to protect its intellectual property rights in relation to its products and brands, including by securing trade mark registrations. Trade mark protection offers brand owners the exclusive right to use the registered marks for the types of goods and services for which they are registered.

In circumstances where M&S can establish a goodwill in the ‘look and feel’ of its products, M&S can also challenge third parties who deal in confusingly similar goods where that conduct misrepresents a commercial connection between them and causes M&S damage.

This isn’t the first time Aldi has found itself in hot water over selling products with names and packaging which are intentionally similar to well-known and established brands. The retailer has taken a tongue-in-cheek, unashamed approach to offering ‘Like Brands, Only Cheaper’, which treads the very fine line between inspiration and intellectual property infringement.

High profile cases have included a successful claim by celebrity makeup artist and beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury in 2019, who won a legal battle against the supermarket for selling £6.99 copies of her Filmstar Bronze & Glow palette which she retails for £49. Other brands have taken a different view. Brewdog perhaps viewed the imitation as flattering when Aldi launched a copycat of their famous Punk IPA. The beer company responded with a spoof Aldi IPA which ended up being stocked in UK and German stores, as well as inspiring an initiative which means a tree is planted for every case sold.

What next for M&S?

If M&S succeeds in its claims, then the retailer may secure an injunction preventing Aldi from marketing or selling the Cuthbert the Caterpillar in future. Any such decision could also serve as a warning message to Aldi and the market more generally that M&S will not tolerate copycat products, which may act as a deterrent in future.  Certainly the dispute has already attracted a lot of high profile attention, meaning that M&S will be educating the public through the PR this case attracts that Aldi’s product is the copycat and M&S’s product the much loved original.

Notwithstanding  the media spotlight and social media memes in this case, there is a serious commercial issue at the core. Retailers and brands understandably want to protect their creative investments, ensure brand loyalty from customers, and maximise their ability to challenge a competitor who oversteps the mark. This high profile example acts as a reminder to retailers and brands to have the proper intellectual property protections in place in order to be able to do so effectively, as well as emphasising the value of an accompanying PR campaign to shine a spotlight on acts of alleged infringement.

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 The high-profile spat between Dolce and Gabbana and Diet Prada continues to create quite a stir among fashion circles – long after the now-infamous D&G ad campaign in 2018, which set this whole public affair in motion. The Italian brand has accused the self-professed ‘fashion watchdog’, Diet Prada, of fuelling a large-scale backlash to its misjudged ad, by unleashing a volley of social media content, as well as its contended “illegal publication of Stefano Gabbana’s private conversations” on Instagram.

 

Dolce and Gabbana alleges that by way of their heavily followed Instagram account, Diet Prada’s founders initiated a “smear campaign”, consisting of “serious and repeated defamatory conduct” aimed at harming the Italian brand to the value of €3 million in damages.

 

While the long-running legal battle is being played out in foreign courts, it poses some very pertinent questions that are as relevant to UK companies as they are to global brands – namely, the growing role social media is playing, not only in acting as a medium for defamatory comment, but being used as a tactic for applying pressure on the opposing side during legal proceedings.

 

Applying pressure in the hope of a settlement is nothing new; using such a public platform in which to do so is certainly a growing trend. Social media has popularised and accelerated many things in society – its vast reach, instant impact, and widespread adoption, makes it a perfect channel for engaging with untapped audiences and amplifying your message.

 

However, there’s a big disclaimer that comes with using this method to interact with people – whether you’re a business or an individual. Defamation occurs when someone causes substantial harm to the reputation of another by publicising a false statement – inappropriate or ill-considered written words, posting private correspondence in which allegations about someone else are made, sharing, forwarding or commenting on news or gossip, will all potentially be grounds for a libel case.

 

It’s so commonplace to use the likes of Instagram as a means of communicating with people, it becomes second nature to share material on the platform; it’s vital however that companies think twice about using social media channels as a pressure tactic in an ongoing legal case, or as a means of attacking competitors given the risk such behaviour could expose you to.

 

It’s essential to tread carefully when using social media and other media outlets for any form of publicity, whatever the motivation, and equally important to recognise when it’s happening to you as a business. When does a social media post cross the line? Where do the boundaries lie? Has something happened which harms your or your business’ reputation? Can you legitimately object and challenge the way in which a competitor has spoken about you on-line?  Once subject to targeted attack, the erosion of your reputation can be difficult to recover from.

 

As a business, it’s important to understand your rights when it comes to instances of defamation and the breach of privacy of your staff and directors, and to engage in PR and other business strategies appropriately through the right channels. Dolce and Gabbana’s bitter duel with Diet Prada has been played out in a very public way over a number of years. Businesses need to avoid airing their dirty (even if fashionable) laundry in public – it is ultimately and inherently unattractive, being publicity for all the wrong reasons. Instead, harnessing the power of social media positively to facilitate the creation or exchange of information in order to promote a business is much more likely to give that business greater longevity and credibility.

 

 

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Melanie McGuirk and Sarah Bazaraa comment on the judgment in the libel case of Johnny Depp v News Group Newspapers Limited.

 

Described as the biggest libel trial of the 21st century, staged over 16 days, across five courtrooms and with witnesses giving evidence both in-person and via video-link from LA, Chicago, the Bahamas and Australia; Johnny Depp’s libel claim against The Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers Limited and its journalist, Dan Wootton, drew to a close yesterday.   

The judgment held that the meaning of The Sun article published in April 2018 with the headline, “GONE POTTY How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?’ was substantially true.

Mr Depp has lost his defamation claim. The judge examined serious allegations concerning 14 incidents during which it was contended Mr Depp was controlling, verbally or physically abusive towards his former wife Amber Heard when under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Having done so, the judge found that The Sun had proved that it was more likely than not that Mr Depp had committed physical violence against Ms Heard; caused her to suffer significant injury; and on occasion caused Ms Heard to fear for her life.

Substantially true 

Although the published allegations against Mr Depp were of criminality, the libel claim was a civil case. This meant that the standard of proof which The Sun was required to meet was one of balance of probability (i.e. was it more likely than not that the conduct occurred). Due to the serious nature of the allegations at issue, the court required greater evidence to be satisfied that the truth defence was established on the balance of probabilities – not an easy threshold for The Sun to meet.

With that in mind, it is perhaps surprising that The Sun ran the single defence of truth rather than additional defences, such as that the article comprised the journalist’s honest opinion or was in the public interest. This suggests The Sun was very confident in its truth defence. At the heart of this confidence will have been The Sun’s reliance on the testimony of Ms Heard. While not a party to the litigation, the evidence of Ms Heard will have been crucial to The Sun’s defence.

It is worth noting that the case did not settle before trial (as many libel cases do), again suggesting that the newspaper believed it would win. A cynic might comment that a newspaper can sell even more newspapers about a case while court proceedings continue.

A matter of fact 

It was difficult to speculate on the outcome before the judgment was handed down, as the case came down to matters of fact. The majority of the 125-page judgment comprises a detailed review of the witness evidence presented to the court by the parties, including witnesses who were friends, relatives, former and current employees of the former couple.

After hearing all the evidence from the witnesses directly and seeing how they responded to questioning under cross examination, the judge had to consider whether it was more probable than not that the article was substantially true in its meaning. That is the view the judge had reached, finding in relation to 12 of the 14 incidents that there was evidence of assault by Mr Depp on Ms Heard, putting her in ‘fear of her life’ during three of them.

Early reports on the decision state that Mr Depp may appeal what his lawyers have called ‘a perverse and bewildering’ ruling. However, it is acknowledged that the trial judge has seen and heard the witnesses and his or her view as to where credibility lies is entitled to great weight. The appeal court may well be reluctant in this case to interfere with the judge’s findings of fact, which he has plainly gone to a great length to set out in detail in his judgment.

 

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The requirements for making a legally valid will are set out in a statute from 1837. One such requirement, that a will be witnessed “in the presence of” two witnesses, has caused significant practical difficulties during the Covid 19 pandemic. With many clients naturally wanting to make or update wills whilst self-isolating we have had to find inventive practical solutions that satisfy the legal requirements. Jersey has already passed a law to allow the witnessing of wills via Zoom or video link and this week the UK Government has announced that it too will implement this change.

This development is to be welcomed as it will bring outdated legislation in line with modern technology. The change in the law is to be backdated to 31 January 2020 so that anyone who has mistakenly witnessed a will via Zoom or video link will receive retrospective validation whilst the new rule is to remain in place until at least 2021. However the change is also likely to cause problems as scope for undue influence “off camera” and the danger of losing documents is likely to result in a rise of inheritance related disputes. We have to assume that as remote measures such as Zoom are likely to stay, the Government will look at making a permanent change and at the same time putting in place safeguards to prevent undue influence and duress. For more information please feel free to contact Jane Shaw or Fiona Bushell.

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