People: Leonard Curtis Legal; Fluxx and magneticNorth; Pannone Corporate; VIP UK; Slater Heelis; Taylors Solicitors

Paula Smith
X The Business Desk

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Manchester-based law firm Leonard Curtis Legal has strengthened its corporate and commercial services team with the appointment of Paula Smith as director.

With more than 20 years top flight legal experience advising SMEs and entrepreneurs in a wide variety of sectors, Paula will play a key role in growing Leonard Curtis Legal’s corporate and commercial division amongst accountants and SME clients nationwide.

Paula’s key areas of expertise include acquisitions and disposals, corporate restructuring, governance and investment. She has particular expertise in advising partnerships and LLPs, having written the Limited Liability Partnerships Handbook and is a contributor to the Accountants’ Legal Service.

Outside her day-to-day work, Paula is chair of trustees for the food surplus charity The Bread and Butter Thing, which is growing rapidly and helping more people and families than ever, across the North West and North East of England, to get by.

She has also been a mentor on the Big Sister Programme for Girls Out Loud, the social enterprise that raises aspirations of teenage girls in the UK.

Andrew Gregory, director at Leonard Curtis Legal, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been able to attract a lawyer of Paula’s calibre to the firm. This is testament to the extremely high quality cases that we’re handling, the growth that we’ve experienced and the success that we’ve enjoyed in such a short space of time. Paula really is an excellent asset to the team.

“Not only is she a very experienced and respected lawyer – her expertise is already proving to be invaluable to many of our clients who require her most astute legal advice for their businesses – but she also adds real value to the team at Leonard Curtis Legal. Her experience is such that she’s a real sounding board to share ideas and to ask for her opinions and advice.”

Paula said: “I’m very happy to have joined the Leonard Curtis Legal team and am really excited to help build on the phenomenal success it’s enjoyed in less than five years since it launched. I had been working with the team on a consultancy basis for a while and, when the opportunity arose to join the team as director, I jumped at the chance. I think we’re a great fit.”


Fluxx and magneticNorth have appointed David Bailey as their new executive creative director.

Bailey cut his teeth with renowned agency The Designers Republic, before establishing his own studio, Kiosk in 2005. For the past seven years David has co-led the BBC’s UX&D team – spearheading the development of its design framework, GEL, and building a strong collaborative culture among its 200+ team spread across multiple locations in the UK.


David Bailey

Bailey will help turbocharge Fluxx & magneticNorth’s award winning design capability, helping organisations take on new challenges and opportunities as they drive economic recovery in a post-pandemic world.

The newly merged consultancies have seen a surge in demand for their services as organisations grapple with the realities of business recovery and rapidly changing consumer needs.

“We recognise that Manchester will be the UK’s innovation and design capital” says magneticNorth Founder, Lou Cordwell OBE.

“We’re passionate about the UK’s levelling up ambition and opportunity, Manchester is already home to some of the UK’s most exciting design, tech and innovation talent and will play a critical role in driving economic recovery.

“We’re delighted to welcome David into the magneticNorth and Fluxx family to help shape this next exciting chapter of the business.”


North West law firm, Pannone Corporate, has bolstered its debt recovery team with the appointment of Barry Sharples as associate partner.

Barry joins from Fieldfisher where he restructured and led the firm’s debt recovery practice. He brings considerable experience to the role, having previously worked at a boutique commercial litigation law firm in Liverpool for 13 years.

Barry was described by Legal 500 2021 as a lawyer who ‘fights hard for his clients and is not afraid to do so in even the most challenging cases’.

A specialist in bulk recovery work and outsourced debt recovery, Barry has acted for a wide variety of clients, such as large commercial landlords, high profile insurers, financial services providers, service sector companies and insolvency practitioners.

Paul Jonson, senior partner at Pannone, said: “Barry has an excellent reputation in the market for his forward thinking approach to debt recovery, gaining the trust and respect of household names – both on a retained and outsourced basis.

“Debt recovery is an area of the firm that we believe has significant growth potential and we’re delighted to welcome someone of Barry’s experience to help capitalise on the opportunities the next 12 months will undoubtedly bring.”

Barry Sharples

Barry will work alongside partner, Karl Williams, to help develop the Legal 500 Tier 1 team and its service offering, as well as building on the firm’s profile in key sectors, including financial and professional services.

He said: “I’m delighted to join Pannone Corporate. I was immediately drawn to the firm’s excellent team mentality, which is ingrained into every aspect of the practice, as well as its clear commitment to investing in the future of the debt recovery team.

“The sector has changed enormously over the last 18 months and with that has come considerable opportunity to adapt and diversify to meet the growing needs of businesses across key sectors.

“Moving forwards, there remains a lot of uncertainty, particularly for companies that have continued to generate debt and have an inability to pay it back.”


VIP UK, an independent distributor of PC components, gaming peripherals and IT products, has announced two boardroom appointments.

The Warrington-based business, which exceeded £200m turnover for the first time, has appointed Elliott Hodgeon as sales director and Elanza Butters as E-commerce & marketing director.

Elliott Hodgeon

As sales director Elliott will provide energetic and innovative leadership to VIP’s expanding sales team, having joined five years ago.

He said: “I appreciate the board’s confidence in me, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to lead such a great team. VIP is a fantastic company, with great people and it has been a pleasure to be a part of the huge success we have seen in recent years. I look forward to expanding this success in my new role whilst continuing to provide the excellent services and programmes our clients and vendors deserve.”

Elanza Butters

Elanza, who has been with VIP for the past four years, will continue to lead her department and support vendors and customers alike, while also driving forward investment in digital platforms and customer-led infrastructure. Elanza said: “I am very pleased to be joining the board and I look forward to playing a part in the continued development and growth of VIP UK, supporting our teams, our valued vendor partners and, most importantly, our customers.”

VIP chairman, Jatti Sahni, said: “Our leadership team and our wider VIP family have shown great resilience and resourcefulness over what has been a challenging 12+ months across the globe. As such, expanding the board is hugely significant as we plan for the next phase of our business’s growth.”

Alongside these new appointments, VIP has welcomed more than 20 new recruits to the business over the past 12 months.


North West law firm, Slater Heelis, has welcomed Louise Richardson as its consultant solicitor.

Bringing more than 30 years’ expertise in all aspects of family law, Louise’s experience further strengthens the family department at the growing practice, which has offices in Manchester, Timperley and Sale but services clients all over the country and the world.

Specialising in both complex financial and child arrangement cases, Louise will be part of Slater Heelis’s family team based in Sale.

Louise Richardson

Strong knowledge of the local courts and a significant network of professional advisers including barristers, pension experts, accountants and therapeutic experts, means that Louise is able to offer tailored and comprehensive support to each individual case.

Mark Heptinstall, partner and head of the family team at Slater Heelis, said: “Louise adopts a pragmatic approach with sensible advice that factors in the individual needs of each client.

“Her arrival will certainly enhance the team’s offering to our valued clients, not least the fact she is also a collaborative lawyer and so brings a breadth of experience to the firm. We are excited to have Louise on board.”

Louise said: “Slater Heelis’s family team has a great reputation and the firm’s efficient and sympathetic culture is a great match for my skills and experience. I’m looking forward to being part of the team and working together to bring desirable outcomes for our clients and to further consolidate the solid reputation which the practice is proud to uphold in a competitive sector.”


Commercial law firm Taylors Solicitors has further strengthened its disputes team in response to growing demand for its services arising from the pandemic and the fallout from Brexit.

The North West firm has seen a surge in instructions from companies involved in commercial wrangles encompassing a range of issues.

These include poor contractual performance and shareholder clashes at owner-managed and family-owned companies, many of which have come under pressure during the COVID-19 crisis. Year-on-year fee income for Taylors’ disputes team grew more than 30% in the first half of 2021.

Elaine Hurn, managing partner at Taylors, said the firm expects the trend to continue as COVID-19 restrictions ease and companies explore taking legal action as they assess the damage caused during the pandemic to supply chains, relationships and business opportunities.

Taylors, which recently recruited Stuart Farr from Knights as a commercial disputes partner, has now bolstered its team with the arrival of senior associate Alison Rowley.

Alison has nearly 15 years’ experience on a range of legal issues, including minority shareholder petitions, supply chain disagreements and commercial landlord and tenant disputes.

Alison Rowley

Elaine said: “Due to the fallout from the pandemic, we have seen a marked increase in demand from clients for support on commercial disputes of various types, and we expect this to rise further as government support schemes come to an end.

“Lockdowns, combined with Brexit, have interrupted many trading agreements, leading to fragmented supply chains and breaches of contractual obligations. As profits have reduced and cash has tightened, companies can no longer afford to carry underperforming family members, and acrimonious shareholder disputes have ensued. Some companies have delayed acting until the pandemic has passed its peak to assess the full extent of their losses.

“Many are struggling to balance the books, with full responsibility for pre-pandemic sized workforces returning from furlough, reduced revenues and the obligation to pay instalments on CBILS loans.

“Also, a large number of companies in long term supply agreements are looking to renegotiate minimum purchase obligations or face large penalties for delays in deliveries without the benefit of force majeure clauses.”

Elaine added: “Alison’s range and depth of knowledge and expertise will further strengthen our offering to our corporate clients. She is a determined and pragmatic lawyer who fits our culture perfectly, with her commercial, no-nonsense approach. We’re delighted that she has chosen to progress her career with us.”

Alison said: “I was struck with how Taylors has developed strong key relationships with its clients over the years, some of whom have been with the firm since it was formed 30 years ago, and I felt that the values of the practice fitted perfectly with my own. I look forward to delivering on, and exceeding, clients’ expectations.”