Hi Ian, tell us a little bit about yourself…
I am the Managing Director of multi-award winning Ian Henery Solicitors. We have 3 offices, two of which are in Southside in Hurst Street and Bromsgrove Street. We are the UK members of Winteam500 Law Group based in Beijing with over 100 branches worldwide. We also run an estate agency and have been in Southside for 9 years. My firm is an ABS with 3 Chinese Malaysian directors. We work as a team; there is no “i” in the word “team”. I am very lucky to be blessed with such talented co-directors. The secret of my success was to recruit Chinese Malaysian lawyers.
Describe your job in three words.
Client service satisfaction.
How did you first get into your career/ what’s your background?
I was formerly a teacher and freelance journalist. I wanted a challenge, so I converted my Joint Bachelor of Arts with Honours into a law degree and took the Law Society Finals Exams. I had been a member of the Cambridge University Officer Training Corps and decided that the Army was not for me, and I was offered a training contract in Singapore with a multi-national law firm but the call of Birmingham was strong.
I was extremely fortunate that my Chinese Malaysian wife agreed to plant the seeds of our family and business with me in Birmingham. I would have been lost without her. When I count my blessings I count her 3 times. I am a lucky man and I know it.
Can you tell us something about yourself that we might not know?
I spent 11 years volunteering as a scout leader, and I was also Assistant District Commissioner for Development in Sutton Coldfield before being offered a commission in the Royal Air Force Air Cadets – I am currently on probation and go before the Royal Air Force Commissioning Board in November.
What does your average day involve?
My day starts at 6am when I check emails that have come through during the night. Then, I feed my free range chickens and dog before serving my wife a cup of coffee in bed. I then go to court or client meetings.
I do business administration and post articles on Best of UK (I run 4 digital platforms for Best of UK which is the fastest-growing franchise in the UK), and I usually work through lunch to see clients, peruse documents, return telephone calls, supervise staff, check up on the activities of all 3 offices and answer any queries that have arisen during the day – and promptly deal with them – before returning to court.
Upon returning to the office, I’ll check all mail, return all phone calls and emails, supervise staff and see clients. I leave office for 6pm to spend some time with children before working from home, attending business networking meetings, marketing events or activities with the Royal Air Force Air Cadets. On average, 12 hours a day is devoted to fee earning and client care.
What do you think are the most important things to successfully running your own business?
Attention to detail, attention to detail, attention to detail – I cannot overstate this enough. There is no point having a great product or service if you ignore the small print.
What has been a personal career highlight?
Winning Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award for my pro bono work for women seeking to exit the sex industry, drug addiction and also vulnerable families who had survived domestic abuse. As a lawyer I wanted to put something back into the community. I won another award in this area by Birmingham Law Society for Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year.
What advice would you give to somebody just starting out in law?
Get work experience in a firm that specialises in the area you want to go into and develop networking skills.
Alongside your legal career you have a passion for poetry, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
I am a former Walsall Poet Laureate (2012 – 2015) and Sutton Coldfield Community Games Poet Laureate (2016). I have performed at four festivals this year including the Wolverhampton Literature Festival and the Nottingham Poetry Festival with Poets Against Racism. I have been sponsored by Red Moon Brewery at the Rock the Beacon Festival in Birmingham (3 – 4th August) where I am appearing on both days with Poets Against Racism and events in the Autumn with West Midlands` TUC Stand Up To Racism. I am also currently commissioned to deliver poetry workshops for vulnerable families recovering from addiction in Wolverhampton.
What do you think Birmingham and the Southside area offers visitors from further afield?
Gay Village, Theatre Land and Chinatown – diversity and inclusivity on display. A bit of a winning combo, wouldn’t you say?
What made you want to work in Birmingham?
I have always been linked to Birmingham’s legal scene. When I was working as a paralegal I ran Birmingham’s biggest immigration and nationality department for two years. The skyline has changed and I have witnessed massive Chinese investment into Birmingham. Our clients want a boutique law firm where they can instruct Chinese-speaking lawyers who understand their culture.
What are your favourite things about working in Southside?
The food – I’m vegan and love the choice of Chinese vegan food that is available in Southside.
Where are your favourite local Southside hotspots to spend time?
Birmingham Hippodrome – great café, great exhibitions, great people.
Favourite place to tuck into something nice to eat or enjoy a drink?
Café Soya in Hurst Street because it’s vegan and right next to my office in the Arcadian Centre.
What excites you about the future of Southside?
I am really pleased that Julia (our BID Manager) has come back to Southside – without Julia, Southside would be like a glass of coke but without the bubbles.