High Flyers: From European Cup winner to a career in law for Jan
In the High Flyers spotlight this week is Jan Cunningham, director at Millar McCall Wylie, a multi-specialism law firm based in Belfast, with a broad range of commercial and private clients
What was your first job?
Working in a petrol station in my home town of Bangor - not great pay, I must admit!
What qualifications do you have?
A law degree from Trinity College Dublin and admission to the Roll of Solicitors in Northern Ireland after completing the course at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies.
What do you attribute your success to?
My parents instilled a strong work ethic into my two brothers and myself. You can have all the opportunity, but if you’re not prepared to put the hard work in, you won’t achieve much.
How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?
Open, approachable with a positive energy.
Who do you look up to in business?
My dad, Lowry Cunningham. His career was primarily in banking when it was truly relationship based. Long after his retirement, people remember working with him fondly. That has inspired me in my legal career. I also have huge respect for Millar McCall Wylie’s founding partners David Millar, Peter McCall and Conor Wylie. I have them to thank for bringing me into the firm and setting our ambitious vision.
How do you get the best out of people who work for you?
Communication and respect. Being clear and honest is key; and if you don’t treat someone with respect, expect none in return.
If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?
We need a functioning government immediately. Beyond that, this part of the world is so small. That can be helpful or play against you at times in business! That’s just the nature of where we live.
What website or app could you not do without?
Workwise, Practical Law is a fantastic resource for employment lawyers. I use WhatsApp daily and have an addiction to the BBC Sport website!
What was the last book you read?
The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks – a beautiful story set in rural Cumbria. I’ve always loved reading, which helps as a lawyer!
What car do you drive?
I currently drive an Audi A7 but my fondest car memory was my first one, a Fiat Punto which my friends affectionately nicknamed ‘The Shopping Trolley’. It was metallic terracotta – I don’t think I saw another one that colour on the road, for fairly obvious reasons!
Tell us something interesting about yourself?
I was lucky enough to play for Ulster in the European Rugby Cup Final alongside my brother Bryn in 1999, which we won. It’s rare for two brothers to experience that. Unfortunately, I sustained a concussion and a nasty facial injury so I don’t have much recall of the match itself. I spent the next week in hospital when the rest of the team were out celebrating the win! Four years later, I moved into law, taking incredible memories and lessons with me.
What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?
Rugby! I currently help out with coaching Academy RFC under 14s. It’s great giving young people, who don’t have the opportunity to play rugby at school, exposure to the game via the club system. I also sit on the Ulster Committee of the IRFU Charitable Trust. This is a fantastic charity which provides support to ex rugby players who have suffered spinal injuries.