Paul Jonson – managing partner at Pannone Corporate...

Paul, the last year has been an interesting one for you. Can you give us a bit of background to the journey you’ve been on and how Pannone Corporate came into being?
We have had a very busy 12 months! The well publicised acquisition by Slater & Gordon of the majority of Pannone LLP, including all of the consumer facing part of that business, gave me and my partners in the commercial part of Pannone a unique opportunity to complete what was effectively an MBO of most of the non- consumer aspects of the business.

Why did you decide to form Pannone Corporate?
We believed the time was right. From speaking to clients, contacts and referrers, we considered the market was ready for a high quality boutique corporate/commercial law firm in Manchester & the North West.

What have been your key learnings over the past year or so and how have they changed the way you work as a lawyer?
The two biggest learning points have been: listen to your clients and trust your partners’ instincts. Listening to our clients has brought into sharp focus what we are offering.

Where will the firm’s focus be in terms of clients, sectors and areas?
While we have clients across the UK and beyond (partly through our international association of law firms), our heartland and our focus is the North West. We have a proud history in terms of our roots and connections in the Manchester community and we will continue to act for a wide range of North West businesses, charities and public sector organisations. We are interested in advising growing and successful businesses. In terms of sectors, we cover a range including; retail, manufacturing, public sector, transport, media and technology. However, for us, it is more about the chemistry with the client rather than the sector in which the client operates.

What can clients expect from you and the team?
Put simply, it’s an unrelenting focus on what we do best. We achieve that by delivering commercial and practical advice to our clients via outstanding service by people who are genuinely passionate and committed to their work. We chose our team on the basis of their technical expertise and their cultural fit but also due to their ability to generate and sustain long-term client relationships.

And on the flip side... what can the market expect from the firm?
An entrepreneurial & ambitious firm. One that will attract like minded people, both as clients & lawyers.

What do you think commercial clients want from their lawyers in 2014?
A lot is said by firms about “adding value”. Few firms have really engaged with what that actually means. Some firms talk about secondments or training and perhaps making precedents available to clients; all that is fine, if a little pedestrian. What we are seeing from our clients is more fundamental. Our clients want to receive high quality commercial legal advice, delivered in a clear, unambiguous way, through a sensible and realistic cost structure that allows for input by experienced partners. Our clients value the client/partner relationship & they want a fee structure that encourages that level of senior input.

What are your plans and aspirations for Pannone Corporate over the next five years?
We will be the leading alternative to the national brands in Manchester and we’ll achieve that by listening to clients and adding to our services based on what our clients need and demand.

How do you see the North West legal market place unfolding?
In my view, the North West legal market will continue to experience some turbulence and there will be more consolidation and mergers. I also predict at least two further City firms (in addition to BLP) will “northshore” some of their services to Manchester in the next 18 months. For firms that really understand what their clients want, and invest in the right people (at all levels), there will be exciting opportunities.

Finally, can you sum up your vision for the firm in five words or less?
Compelling alternative to national firms.