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Herbert Smith LLP  Baker & McKenzie LLP

Lawyer of the Month - APRIL 2006  

  

Our lawyer of the Month is Mirza Ahmad. Mirza graduated from Keele University in 1983 where he read Law and Politics. He was called to the Bar (Gray’s Inn) in 1984. In 1992 he obtained an MBA from Manchester Metropolitan University and in 1992 obtained a Masters in Law (LLM) from Leicester University.

 Mirza is the Chief Legal & Monitoring Officer for Birmingham City Council, one of Europe’s largest, the UK’s largest local authority and the largest and the most populated city in the UK outside London. He manages the Legal & Democratic Services Department of Birmingham City Council which has over 300 staff and an annual trading budget in excess of £60 million per annum. 

 Mirza was named one of the Top 5 Lawyers in Local government in 2005. He has been the Chairman of the Bar Association for Local Government & the Public Service (BALGPS) since 1998. He is a member of the General Council of the Bar for England & Wales since 1998 and since October 2004 he has been the Lead Officer on Ethical Governance issues for the Association for Council Secretaries & Solicitors (ACSeS). He is also a Co-opted Member of the Council of the Birmingham Law Society.

 In 2000 he was the first local government manager to obtain a ‘3 star – excellent rating’ under the Government’s Best Value regime. Under his leadership his department won the Local Government Chronicle’s “Legal Team of the Year 2005” and in February 2006 his team was "commended for Innovative Policies" by the Birmingham & Solihull Best Business Awards for the Development of Work-life Balance 2005 under the category of employers with more than 250 staff. Top performance is, therefore, matched with excellence in ensuring an effective work-life balance.

Mirza is a contributing author of Butterworth Tolley’s ‘Knights Guide to Best Value and Public Procurement - Law & Practice’ and is a member of the Editorial Board for Butterworth’s Local Government Direct website. He is a regular speaker on Freedom of Information, Ethical Governance and Human Rights for local government.

Below is our interview with Mirza.

BLD: What was your route into the legal profession?

MA:  I did my Bar Finals straight after graduating from Keele University. After being Called, I spent some time in a London Bank, a Manchester Law Centre and entered Local Government (Ipswich Borough Council) in 1985.   In 1989, I was promoted to Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council and joined Birmingham City Council in June 2000.

BLD: If you were to choose a profession other than law, what would it be and why?

MA: Medicine – maintaining a balance of public and private careers is easier to transact in comparison to a legal career which is riddled with Code of Conduct restrictions and the rewards in medicine can be great in terms of serving the public good.  As a lawyer, you seldom have a day when you can really say “you saved a life”.

BLD: What was the best career advice you were given?

MA: Learn from the past and always look to develop skills for the next job.

BLD: What is the best career advice you will give to other lawyers?

MA: I will repeat my last comments, plus if you have the commitment to succeed: you will!

BLD: Who is the person you most admire (dead or alive)?

MA: All the prophets of Islam (which include Adam, Moses, Jesus and Muhammed) because wisdom to change the world for the better can only be achieved if man is guided by God.

BLD: Your professional high point(s) and why?

MA: Still to come as I continuously strive for excellence!

BLD: What was your most famous/interesting case(s) handled to date.

MA: A House of Lords case won on appeal (in 1987) brought by Ipswich Borough Council – and other local authorities - that laid to rest the “motor accessories defence” to the breaking of Sunday Trading Laws under the Shops Act 1950.

Another case that I found personally satisfying was the electoral petition brought against the Returning Officers at the Birmingham Electoral Court by some unsuccessful candidates in the 2004 local elections. I was a Deputy Returning Officer during that election and some of the unsuccessful candidates made serious allegations of improper electoral procedures against the Returning Officer and her staff.

The petition was dismissed and in his judgment Mr Justice Mawrey QC described me [quoting from the judgment], "...it is hard to imagine a more impressive witness. He is not only a well respected local authority lawyer, he is a member of the General Council of the Bar and the lead officer for the Association for Council Secretaries & Solicitors, which is a national body, representing Chief Legal Officers. I would take his integrity as being beyond question...on the essential questions, I unhesitatingly accept his evidence".    

BLD: What are you most passionate/happiest about?

MA: Improving local government and continuous self-improvement.

BLD: What are your dislikes?

MA: Inefficient and ineffective systems, processes and people.

BLD: Any professional regrets?

MA: Employed barristers should not be disadvantaged if they wish to become QCs just because they chose to practice in employed, as opposed to independent, practice.

BLD: If you could rule the world for a day what would you change/do?

MA: If only life was so simple!

BLD: It is a little known fact that you were one of those whose views were solicited by the DCA during its consultation about the new appointment of QCs. What were your views to the DCA?

MA: Put simply: employed barristers should not be disadvantaged if they wish to become QC’s.  The Bar Association for Local Government and the Public Service (BALGPS) opposed the introduction of the application fee for employed barristers as, unlike barristers in independent practice, employers were unlikely to pay the fee and neither would we be able to write the excessive fee off against our tax returns.   Combine this with the “inherent” bias in the system towards barristers in independent practice, I am not at all surprised that employed barristers do not apply to or become QC’s! 

BLD: Do tell us more about yourself and your family.

MA: I enjoy computers, motor biking and cycling for pleasure. I am married with 3 children (a boy and two girls) and, as such, I like being creative with the “odd” DIY job around the house.

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