The partner in the real estate department at legal and professional services firm Knights on how he got started in property, his top podcast and book recommendations and his number-one travel destination.

Jonathan Wright

Jonathan Wright

How did you join the property industry?

I studied law at university and found property to be the most boring topic. Every time I did work experience in law firms, I ended up in the property department and I was determined not to pursue it.

Then, I was put into the property department when training with my first firm, Eversheds, and discovered it was all about building relationships and was actually a lot of fun. That was mostly down to my colleagues and the quality of the work, but

I also had one of those old-school supervisors who dropped me in at the deep end to see how I did. I thrived on the responsibility.

What does your job entail?

I am responsible for the real estate team in Birmingham, encompassing all areas of property, with an emphasis on commercial and residential property development. We act for developers of logistics sheds, care homes, residential property and mixed-use sites on some really interesting projects and also work on renewable energy schemes.

What do you like most about the property industry?

The collaborative nature and how if you work with the right people – colleagues and clients – there is a shared creative goal in improving something that exists. Lawyers play a key role in the problem-solving aspect; every development has a unique set of challenges.

And what do you dislike most about it?

It is becoming increasingly regulated, like a lot of industries. That is good when it is regarding something such as health and safety on building sites, but some regulations can add to a project workload and you do wonder what the purpose is.

There is also a misunderstanding of risk, placing too much emphasis on things that are not of great concern but then missing those things that are important.

What would you change about the property industry?

I would improve access for people who would not traditionally consider a career in the property industry. I am a big fan of the apprenticeship route to open up opportunities within the sector and it is something that we at Knights are looking at.

What barriers or challenges have you overcome?

Learning how to develop my own ‘mini-business’ within a large firm. Lawyers might have the technical training but not necessarily the business skills they need to develop.

It is important when starting out to have access to people who have been there, built up a business and are willing to share their time and experience in mentoring people. That is something that I have tried to do myself.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Seeing the people whom I have mentored doing well in their careers. One of the people I mentored was at school-leaving age and looking at law as an option; they are now a fully qualified lawyer. Another person who joined my team as a newly qualified solicitor is now a partner in one of the big firms in Birmingham.

What do you value in people?

Enthusiasm, intellectual curiosity and a willingness to learn are the kind of attributes you need to succeed – both in business and in life.

What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?

Focus on trying to get as much experience as possible in all areas of your chosen field. Learn as much as you can and if you come across a good mentor, as I did, stick to them like glue.

Top recommendations

Favourite podcast?:

I am a big supporter of Liverpool FC and subscribe to a podcast called The Anfield Wrap. It was started by supporters and is professionally produced with an excellent standard of journalism. The insights it provides act as a bridge between the club and the supporters in a way that the mainstream media just cannot get close to.

Favourite book?

I recently enjoyed A Waiter in Paris by Edward Chisholm. It is the fascinating story of an English guy who went to Paris in his early twenties and worked as a waiter. He is an outsider who ultimately gains acceptance in the industry. The book is gritty and heartwarming, and also a great metaphor for being thrown into a career situation and having to do your best.

Favourite destination:

It has to be Morocco. I have a family of teenagers and we thoroughly enjoyed visiting last summer. It has beaches, mountains, incredible cities and such a rich culture. The concept of hospitality pervades everything and we were amazed by how welcomed we were. I’d highly recommend it.

Most ridiculous fact:

Few people know that the reason West Ham United play in claret and blue is because they played a friendly against Aston Villa in the 19th century and liked the way they played so much that they decided to copy their club colours.