Sometimes we like to paint lawyers grey, don’t we?
But behind every lawyer, there is a story, if you take the time to sit down and talk about it.
Kian Golestani is a lawyer and a human with a rich story. It was a privilege to be able to sit down and talk to him about it.
The problem? Not enough time!
Kian is the kind of chap you want to grab a pot of coffee with and talk about everything from world politics, history, climate change, exotic pet choices….we certainly put the world to rights during our hour!
So grab your own virtual pot of coffee now and settle down to find out a bit more about Kian, the lawyer and the not so grey human.
Kian, let’s start off with an obvious question! Did you always want to be a lawyer?
My real passion was languages, French and German, and I grew up in Tehran speaking Farsi. But in 1979, something happened over which I had no control. It had an irreversible influence on my future. This was the Iranian Revolution.
I lived in Tehran until I was 9. My father was a civil servant, and our life was not extravagant, but comfortable. I came to the UK with my parents and older brother in 1972. The plan was for me and my brother to have an English education and then return to Iran and build a better life for us all.
That is not quite how things turned out. In the words of Robert Burns, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” and in our case along with millions of other Iranians, that’s what transpired.
My father had taken early retirement to enable us to move the UK, so we lived on his government pension. My parent has kept our family home in Tehran and also bought land to build a home for their retirement and homes for my brother and our families. This was my father’s vision for our future.
My family and I are members of the Bahá’í Faith. The Bahá’í community in Iran has been persecuted since its inception in the 19th Century, although the situation improved during the time of the Shah and his father. But everything changed with the advent of the Iranian Revolution. When the Islamic clergy came to power, the Iranian Bahá’í community found itself in existential danger. We lost family members to execution and murder. Our property, assets and pension were confiscated. We were left in the UK with nothing, cut off from the life we had known.
I can’t imagine how such a trauma informs the future. How has such a formative experience had an impact on you?
We went from being comfortable to starting all over again. At the age of 63 and with limited English, my father found it overwhelming. As grave events continued to affect family members back home in Iran, he became depressed. So my mother, who had been a high end couturière back in Tehran, started a dress-making business here. My brother and I did whatever jobs we could, from unloading lorries and doing paper rounds in the early hours before college to manual labour in lumber yards, all whilst studying. We did anything needed to get the money in and lived modestly.
These experiences have changed my attitude towards life and created hard-baked professional behaviours. When you have lost everything and had to “rebound”, it means you do whatever is needed to get the job in hand over the line. When there is no safety net, failure is not an option. And back then there was definitely no safety net for us.
How does this influence the work you do as a lawyer?
What my clients need, I make sure I give. I take working for my clients personally. Maybe it’s not fashionable to say this, but I am driven by my conscience and by thinking “What would I expect if a solicitor was doing this for me?”
What’s been your journey as a lawyer, from training to partner to Carbon as a legal consultant?
I worked at a reputable firm in Cardiff for my Articles. But – my face didn’t fit. One of the junior partners pulled me aside one day and told me I would not be kept on after my Articles. He said he did not know why, as he could see how hard I had worked – but the powers that be decided I would not stay.
So I joined a small commercial practice with some friends from law school, people I am in touch with to this day. I was able to work my way up from trainee (or Articled Clerk as was the term back then) to equity partner.
I hope these days we have got so much better at letting all kinds of faces fit in our firms. There is still a corporate mould to be broken.
What’s the best advice you received when you were working your way up through your legal career?
My principal, who I am still good friends with to this day, said “Kian, never restrict yourself to just one area of law. If you know two to three related areas of law, you will never be out of a job.” This advice led me to specialise in both corporate as well commercial property work. And this has served me well through multiple recessions. I have also done work in the third sector, establishing charities and dealing with charity land and buildings.
How did you move from the more traditional law firm model to legal consultancy and being a partner at Carbon?
When Carbon approached me, I had been treading water for some time professionally, so I thought I would take the leap. I can safely say it was the best career move I have ever made. The model suits me at my stage in life as a senior lawyer with other life responsibilities Financially, I am doing far better than previous years. I have taken advantage of the stakeholder model, so that my colleagues and I can collaborate as a community and work towards our collective success. I trust and like the management, who I believe want the best for the people who work at Carbon.
I am proud to have created some great client relationships. Some of my clients have been with me for nearly 30 years. My clients see me as someone who always provides solutions. I may not always be able to advise on the exact thing they need help with, but I will always know someone who can and stay involved, so they get the client service I would provide if advising myself.
What kind of legal matters are you working on right now?
Everything from the sale and purchase of industrial businesses to the purchase and disposal of a dental practice as well as a variety of commercial property work. I carry out an in-house counsel role for a company called Select Lifestyles Limited. Select has 30 homes for adults with learning difficulties. Working with the team there is particularly rewarding as I really do feel as if I am one of the family!
I am also a trustee of a grant-making charity and help my wife, who is an endodontist with the legal aspects of managing her practice. It’s a fair trade-off, as she gets free legal advice and I get free root canal surgery! What more could I ask for?
Perfect – if painful root canal is your thing, I guess! So two final questions, knowing you are a keen historian and commentator on world events, what are two books you think everyone should read?
Given world events right now, I recommend “The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe America” by Timothy Snyder, a historian and Russian speaker form Yale. I also recommend “Twilight of Democracy – The Failure of Politics and the Parting of Friends” by Anne Applebaum, an English journalist married to a Polish politician. To balance those, I would recommend “The Alchemy of Peace – 6 Essential Shifts in Mindsets and Habits to Achieve World Peace” by Sovaida Ma’ani Ewing. She is Iranian by birth and a dual qualified Barrister and US attorney at law who now lives with her American husband.
I believe in the essential need for people to actively inform themselves of what is happening around them. Too many simply don’t. And this is why history repeats itself.
Lastly – when you are not lawyering, what are you doing?
I love to go to the Salzkammergut in Austria, which is the Austrian equivalent of the Lake District. My family, friends and I love to go there for swimming in lakes, hiking and cycling in the Spring and Summer, and of course skiing in the nearby mountains during the Winter. It gives me a chance to go back to my original love of languages and practice my German!
So Danke sehr Kian – as they say Austria – for taking the time to tell us your story. A reminder that we never know the hardships that people have gone through to find their success and to make more time to find out.
If you would like to work with Kian on corporate or property work or connect with him over his story, you can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org or LinkedIn.