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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The Covid-19 crisis has resulted in an increased demand for wills as part of contingency planning. Whilst understandably clients are keen to make wills quickly it is important that specialist advice is given to ensure that your will meets your objectives in a tax efficient manner and also is drafted to avoid any costly disputes or challenges in the future.

We have many years experience in drafting wills for people in business and we often achieve this via telephone, Skype, Zoom, Facetime and other methods no matter how complicated your affairs or circumstances may be.

Before drafting your will we discuss your circumstances and objectives with you, advise on any tax or family issues and prepare drafts together with an explanatory memorandum setting out the terms and their effect in practice.

Given the practical consequences of the pandemic, the signing and execution of wills has presented some challenging obstacles. Clients who wish to make a will in the current climate should not be put off from doing so as we have identified workable solutions to the challenges in relation to both advising and signing. We will ensure you receive the appropriate level of advice and that the wills are validly executed.

In order for a will to be valid it must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses. These must witnesses must be:
 Over the age of 18;
 Not benefit from your will in any way;
 Not be the husbands, wives or civil partners of anyone who benefits under your will;
 Not to be the Executors or Trustees of your will.

The witnesses must sign their usual signatures and print their names and addresses. The witnesses must witness the will in the presence of you and each other. It is this requirement that has presented difficulties in the “lockdown” period as three people need to be present at the same time.

If you choose to sign a will during the lockdown we have advised that clients should do the following:-
 Keep a distance of 2 metres between you and your witnesses;
 Use separate pens to reduce the risk of cross contamination;
 Consider standing on your/your witnesses doorstep or in the open air when signing;
 Wear gloves;
 Wipe your will after signing.

We have found that asking a neighbour to meet in the garden or dealing with the matter over a garden fence or on a car bonnet/windscreen will suffice. All that is required is that the witnesses must be able to see you signing the will and must both be in your presence at the
same time. There is a concern that presence simply through a window may not meet the legal requirements.

In terms of preparing the will we have advised clients to print it out double sided, staple the pages together and then use a hole punch to produce two holes down the left hand side and tie them together with a piece of string. This should provide a way of binding the will in a similar form to that which we would usually produce in the office.

We have also asked clients and witnesses to initial each page of the will (other than the page upon which the execution clause appears) and take a picture of the pages of the will on a phone sending it to us by WhatsApp so we can confirm it has been correctly executed and store a soft copy.

Any clients wishing to make wills in the current climate should be reassured that we can advise and deal with wills as normal.

If you would like to discuss your existing will or to make a new will please contact Jane Shaw:

 

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E-commerce has become a standard means by which business is being done in the modern world. As a result, new technologies and legal regimes have been developed to support this shift in how businesses and consumers alike are transacting.

But, if you sign up to a contract electronically, how can you be sure that the terms you have agreed are legally binding? In this blog, we consider the legality of electronic signatures.

The legal regime

Despite the use of e-signatures only becoming more common in recent times, a regulatory regime has been in place since 2000. However, there was limited uptake, and the European Commission perceived that this was due to a lack of confidence in the technology and the law. As such, the Commission developed a consistent European framework for the use of electronic signatures and online authentication, in the form of the Electronic Identification Regulation (the Regulation), which came into force in 2014 and has had direct effect in EU member states since 2016.

What is an E-signature?

Put simply, an electronic signature, or e-signature, is a means by which a document may be signed online without the need to put pen to paper.

The Regulation governs the use of many forms of e-signature, including electronic seals (used by corporate entities), electronic time stamps, and electronic registered delivery services. Under the Regulation, each type of authentication is broadly treated in the same way as e-signatures.

Categories of E-signature

The Regulation sets out three categories of electronic signature: simple; advanced and qualified. Each is an effective way of executing a document online, and the Regulation confirms that e-signatures are legally binding.

Examples of ‘simple’ e-signatures include typewritten names (such as at the end of an email), scanned copies of handwritten signatures and ticking a box on an electronic document stating “I agree”.

However, in order to qualify as an ‘advanced’ electronic signature, the signature must be: (i) uniquely linked to the signatory; (ii) capable of identifying the signatory; (iii) created using electronic signature creation data that the signatory can (with a high level of confidence) use under his sole control; and (iv) linked to the data signed therewith in such a way that any subsequent change is detectable. This definition softened the previous legal stance, which placed on absolute obligation on the signatory to retain ‘sole control’ of the data which implied physical control of the data, and potentially excluded cloud-based signature creation devices. And, as we all know, computers can be hacked. The new definition clarifies that the use of appropriate security measures will suffice, and acknowledges that, practically speaking, absolute control may be difficult to achieve.

A ‘qualified’ e-signature has the most onerous requirements. It is essentially an advanced e-signature, which is created by a qualified electronic signature device, based on a qualified certificate for e-signatures. A qualified electronic signature device is signature generation device certified and approved for use to create qualified e-signatures. A qualified certificate for e-signatures is a certificate issued by a Qualified Trust Services Provider (more on Trust services Providers below).

It is worth pointing out that there is a slight distinction between the use of e-signatures by natural persons (i.e. individuals) and legal persons (i.e. corporate entities). Electronic signatures can only be used by individuals and not corporate entities, but e-signatures can still be used by individuals to bind corporate entities in the same way that a written signature. However, if an agreement is to be executed by a corporate entity itself (as opposed to by an individual on a corporate entity’s behalf), a corporate seal should be used.

Trust factors

Verifying authenticity was historically one of the major challenges to the perceived trustworthiness of e-signatures. However, the establishment of ‘Trust Service Providers’, namely companies that provide services that can verify or validate e-signatures and other forms of electronic authentication, has gone some way to boost confidence around the validity of e-signatures. Examples of trust services include the creation, verification and validation of e-signatures, seals, time stamps and certificates for website authentication. Trust Service Providers are also regulated by the Information Commissioner’s Office (the ICO).

It is also vitally important to ensure that when signing documents online, you do so through a secure site. As such, website authentication is important. A website that benefits from website authentication is simply a website that has a digital certificate linking it to the business or person that you are dealing with. Ideally, we would recommend avoiding the execution of any type of online e-signature through a site that does not have this, as there is no guarantee it is secure.

 

Would you like to know more about electronic signatures from a legal standpoint? Please get in touch with our team here at Pannone Corporate. You can do so by either calling the team on 0800 131 3355 or by filling out our contact form.

 

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Most people know that probate is stressful and time-consuming.  Difficulties can be made worse in an estate where shares in a company are involved.  Owner managed companies or family businesses are often the main sources of income for surviving family members which makes it even more important to ensure that the business can continue to run and your family can extract value from the business in the event of a death.

A well drafted Will creating a trust can make sure that the shares in your business pass to the person or people best able to make decisions in relation to the business.   This may not always be the people you want to receive the benefit (for example where children are your main beneficiaries). Choosing the right executor and trustee is vital where businesses are involved.  You can appoint whoever you would want to make shareholder decisions as Trustees so that they can maximise the value of the shares for the benefit of your family. It is also important to consider how Trustees will interact with the Board of a company and whether there is a way of ensuring Board Representation for the Trustees so that they can make commercial decisions on behalf of the company.

It is vital where businesses are concerned to ensure that disputes do not arise when a person dies.  Disputes can cause huge stress and legal costs and often result in family members being unable to access a value from a business.   Where family companies are involved it is vital to ensure that trustees or executors also have a role on the board as it is the directors of the company who will remain responsible for declaring dividends and deciding when value leaves the company.

Trusts are often useful where clients want to appoint one person (or a professional) to be legally responsible for running the business with a value being passed to family members.   Where there are a number of different family members who are intended to benefit from the shares it is often preferable to have one or two family members as trustees (the ones with the greatest knowledge of the business) so that they can make commercial decisions for the benefit of the family as a whole and if the business is sold participate in the sale process. Where the shares are split between a large number of shareholders difficulties can arise in relation to the sale of the business.  Appointing the correct trustees can enable them to make decisions in relation to extracting value from the business or engaging in a sale process without referring to or seeking the agreement of each family member. It is obviously important to appoint trustees whom you trust to carry out your wishes and look after your family in the way you would wish.

Shareholder agreements are also useful in respect of family businesses as they can enable the family of a deceased shareholder to sell their shares to other shareholders.  This works well where there are, for example, two families running and operating one business. Shareholder agreements are often accompanied by life insurance policies which enable a lump sum to be available so that the surviving shareholder can buy out the deceased shareholder’s family.   This can enable the family of a deceased shareholder to extract their value from the business without needing to remain involved in the business.

We specialise in tax efficient wills for clients with owner managed businesses and shareholder protection agreements and trusts.

 

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