She may have failed Private Law 1 twice while trying to finish a BA Law degree at Stellenbosch University (SU), but what she does know, says alumna and Trade Mark Attorney Jenny Pienaar, is that you can turn a dream into reality by just being a “good accident waiting to happen”.
“You are going to have to have a plan, because life is going to chuck you in different directions all the time and that is when you are going to have to believe in yourself and what you want, to move forward,” she says.
“I was struggling to get through Private Law 1 and I managed to fail it twice in two years. When I told my lecturer that I wanted to go into law, he told me outright ‘you will never a become a lawyer’.
“I knew then that I had to find another way to get into law, so I did a BA degree in Classical Culture and Political Philosophy, got my BA degree and then went to the University of Cape Town and did my LLB over three years,” says Jenny who graduated with an LLB degree from UCT in 1991.
Today she is a qualified Trade Mark Attorney, a Partner and Co-Chair of the Trade Marks Department, and acting as the Chair of the Trade Mark Litigation Department at the well-known law firm, Adams & Adams, a local firm that practices globally due to its client base. It represents 240 of the 500 Fortune 500 companies in the United States as well as other countries, with a wide variety of clients from the FMCG (Fast-moving Consumer Goods) to the banking sector, local and foreign wine and tobacco, and pharmaceutical industries.
She practices in trademark litigation, domain name registration, securing domains from unlawful proprietors, litigation related to copyright, passing-off, unlawful competition, and company name objections. She also has experience in advertising law and regulatory compliance.
After graduating in 1991, Jenny struggled to find a law firm where she could do her articles, mainly because she was focused on remaining in Cape Town.
“My dad looked at me one day and said: ‘Jenny they are not looking for a social success, they are looking for someone who is going to work hard for them’,” and that, says Jenny, made her realise she had to be willing to spread her wings.
A few months later, she was working at a small law firm in Rosebank in Johannesburg, where she did her articles for just under two years.
“I had the most dreadful principal that anyone could ask for, but he did teach me a lot. He taught me how not to be a leader and manage people. Today, I focus on treating my team as professionals and with respect.”
In 1993 Jenny got married and a year later she ceded her articles to a firm in Pretoria, where she worked until April 1995. Two months later, her husband, Johann, was transferred to France and Jenny gave up practicing for more than two years while living abroad. Unable to work on a visitor’s visa, Jenny learned to speak French, “beefed up her cooking skills” and tried “to just soak up the experience”.
She did manage to learn a new skill, she says – she signed up for a course on short story writing at the London School of Journalism.
When they returned to South Africa in 1997, Jenny fell pregnant. Her son, Alex, was born in January 1998. Once her maternity leave was over, she joined another law firm, working with them until the end of 2000.
“I reached a point where I just did not want to practice anymore,” says Jenny. “I hated the work, I hated practicing in general litigation.”
She took up a lecturing post at a paralegal training school and did that on a part-time basis for about four months. That’s until she secured a position at Adams & Adams as an Associate. She’s been with the firm for 17 years.
“I love my work. When I came here at the age of 33, I started at the bottom after leaving my previous firm as a partner. I was being trained by attorneys younger than me, some in their twenties, but you have to be willing to explore the curves along your career path. It was worth it in the end.”
Outside the office, Jenny has also been hard at work, contributing towards a number of international publications such as the World Trade Mark Review: Pharmaceutical Trademarks 2014/2015; the Global Advertising Lawyers Alliance’s book, Advertising Law: A Global Legal Perspective (2015); the Life Sciences Multi-Jurisdictional Guide (2014 and 2015, 2016 – 2018) and the Life Sciences Global Guide (2018 -2019), as well as the Global Advertising Lawyers Alliance’s book Social Media in Advertising: A Global Perspective (2018).
- By Lynne Rippenaar-Moses -