10 Things you didn't know about: Andrew Pannell, Senior Associate at MJ Hudson
Posted by Daniel Reilly
Andrew joined MJ Hudson as a lawyer within the venture capital practice in 2017. He has extensive experience advising venture capital, private equity and corporate clients on venture and growth capital transactions. What made you want to become a lawyer? Honestly … growing up reading the likes of John Grisham and watching various low-grade legal dramas such as Perry Mason and Kavanagh QC - seeing them strut their stuff in the Courtroom! Suffice to say that the reality of life as a corporate lawyer is somewhat different… On a more serious note, I have always had an interest in law and feel it plays such a significant role in our day-to-day lives. I always hoped that the work as a lawyer would be interesting, intellectually stimulating and challenging and I haven’t been disappointed in that regard. What does MJ Hudson do well? A dedicated focus on the asset management community, providing a multi-faceted, complimentary package of legal and non-legal services to our fund management and investor client base – this specialist focus on the asset management sector has been, and will continue to be, a key differentiator for us. Within MJ Hudson’s legal services, venture capital is one of our core areas, being the practice in which I operate. We typically act on both the investor and investee side. Central to our strategy is to support our VC clients throughout their entire fund cycle – from fund formation/structuring to the downstream investment work, through to exit. Clients benefit from the continuity of the same team throughout this journey. What’s your favourite thing about working for MJ Hudson? MJ Hudson has a clear identity and stands for something genuinely different from the rest of the legal market. It is also a young, dynamic and energetic place to work, entrepreneurial and free of bureaucracy and no egos. What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago on how to shape your career? Ask as many (preferably intelligent) questions as you can from the start and do not be afraid by what you don’t know. Stretch yourself and continually strive to push yourself out of your comfort zone. When is the right time to start building your network and how is best to achieve this? From day one. Of course, as a junior lawyer, your primary focus should be on development of your technical skills (something we should all keep developing irrespective of seniority) but there is no reason why, in the meantime, you shouldn’t also be developing your network – whether that is existing or new contacts that you may encounter e.g. on a transaction that you are working on. That way, as you progress through the ranks and are looking to build your own business, you will not be starting from scratch. Who has had the greatest influence on your career? While having role models that you can learn from is clearly valuable, it is also important to determine your own identity and a style that best suits you. So, by all means, learn as much as you can from others but at the same time have the conviction to be your own person. One person who does stand out, however, is Andrew Harrison – at the time, a Partner at what was then Wragge & Co. Aside from being one of the best technical, but at the same time commercially savvy, lawyers that I have worked for, I remember him setting me a drafting exercise as a trainee to prepare the rules of knots and crosses - an elementary task you might think and one which he started out by complimenting me for a job well done … and then proceeded to unpick my drafting with a significant amount of red ink – a good learning experience I suppose! What qualities do you look for in potential candidates hoping to join your team? Speaking with my VC hat on for a moment (rather than for the wider MJ Hudson platform), an interest in working in the VC/start-up environment is certainly important. Other qualities include: · A positive, can-do attitude and a willingness to learn and stretch yourself · An ability and willingness, even at a comparatively junior level, to take the responsibility of running with a deal (with an appropriate level of supervision of course) · Attention to detail and accuracy and getting the basics right · Speed of delivery/turnaround to clients (without sacrificing on quality), plus an ability to multi-task several deals at any given time · An ability to combine strong technical skills with pragmatic and commercial advice as one gets more senior · Being a good egg What do you think will be some of the major changes to the legal profession in the future? There has been a clear trend (which I suspect will continue) of law firms adopting an expansionist strategy (whether that be through merger or organic growth) to turn themselves into full service, global players or, at the other end of the spectrum, keeping themselves more boutique and focused on what they excel at. I think there is a place for both strategies in the market, however, for those firms who occupy the space somewhere in the middle, this may prove challenging unless they have a clear identity, value-add that they can market to clients. At MJ Hudson, we are clearly positioned at the boutique/focused end of the spectrum, albeit with ambitious growth plans, which is an exciting place to be. How will flexible and agile working impact law firms in the future? This is an increasingly important dynamic and a key part of balancing the demands of work with home life. Being someone who lives outside London and commutes into the City daily, having the flexibility of working from home from time to time makes a huge difference to my life at home with the family. As far as I am concerned it is irrelevant where people work from and what hours they keep, provided that we, as a firm/team, are able to keep our clients happy and excel at what we do. The more we can treat people as grown-ups (as we all are) and put trust in them to work productively in the manner that they see fit – whether that is in the office or remotely – all the better. How can lawyers and firms ensure they are at the forefront of progress and innovation in the legal market? As a profession, we have probably been a bit slow in embracing technology within law and there is no doubt that we need to do more to adapt to the developments in technology that will undoubtedly have (and is already having) a significant impact on the legal market and how our services are provided to clients. Within the venture sector, a number of our VC clients are interested in, and already investing in, businesses with a focus on AI in law so there is no doubt that technology is going to play a significant role in future innovation in the legal market – one therefore for us all to embrace and see as an opportunity (not a threat).