Henry Shields

Henry Shields



Henry is a born and bred Capetonian. He grew up on the beaches between Sea Point and Clifton, matriculated at Sea Point Boys High and after a period in the army he graduated from UCT with a BA in English, History, Philosophy, Economics, African Government & Law and Roman Law. During this time, Henry played double bass in jazz and blues bands and worked as a tour guide and a sometimes taxi driver. His law degree came much later as he was a night school lawyer through UNISA in his 30s.

After graduation, Henry had good years as a safari guide (Kruger National Park, KZN parks and Botswana / Okavango Delta etc). He also did stints as a tour manager for top tier international acts including The Supremes, who were the international chart toppers around that time.

The Soweto uprising brought the country and his grand lifestyle to a halt and he then opted for the security of a profession. He learned the craft of law from Sam Watkin, who was a legendary seasoned all-rounder with many "pearls of wisdom" to share. Henry still quotes him just about every day.

Sam Watkin entrusted Henry as an articled clerk with an international injury case - and he went on to break the glass ceiling in personal injury claims, to the extent that the marketplace steered him into specialised personal injury because of that success.

The client, Keith Papier, an amputee, produced a son who was coincidentally born on Henry's birthday and he named his son after Henry.

The Papier case brought Henry to the attention of attorney Gerald Mallinick who headed up Mallinicks which was the hottest firm in South Africa at the time. Some members were doing commercial work at stock exchange level and others were back and forth between Pollsmoor Prison and Robben Island, acting for the PAC and ANC.

Henry then joined Maurice Phillips who was a lawyer's lawyer and who named Supreme Court of Appeal judges and top advocates amongst his clients. Phillips's main client appointed him as managing director/CEO in which circumstances Henry suddenly acquired a great law firm which he then fine-tuned into what became Cape Town's largest fully specialised personal injury firm representing plaintiffs only without fear or favour and with no services offered to defendants at all.

Henry managed on the side to head up the Green Dolphin which was listed in the top 100 jazz venues in the world and for 15 years he was artistic director and producer of the Grahamstown Jazz Festival, where Smirnoff, Standard Bank & SAA sponsorships enabled him to nurture the then biggest jazz festival on the African continent.

As a consequence of legal and cultural interactions with the Canadian Government and its SA High Commission, Henry was appointed as Honorary Consul for Canada in Cape Town and at the same time he took a sabbatical from the legal profession to pursue his interests in the music industry.

Henry composed music for the iconic African Jazz Pioneers, which he produced for the Gallo record company and he fitted in a few Argus cycle tours. Henry's return to law was on the basis that instead of managing a large more corporate style firm, he chose to focus intensely on extreme injury and the motto of the firm might well be “less is more” as they seek excellence rather than mass production.

He now has the luxury of being able to handpick and nurture young attorneys who have similar philosophies as his own (curiosity about the world with wide and varied lifestyle activities) and in this way, he rejuvenates himself and modernises the practice whilst staying anchored to time-honoured values and traditions which perhaps gives the firm a unique character and flavour.

Some fun facts about Henry are that he delivered his own son, he sleeps on the right side of the bed when given any say in the matter, he wears denim whenever he can, and he is superstitious. He gave his beloved dog a proper funeral. He dined twice with Nelson Mandela. He has met Presidents Clinton and Biden, but they never dined. He is playing bass in 3 bands. He manages to swim in the ocean most days. He was the Cape Town Backgammon league champion for a season… And when it comes to food - fresh fish and green salads are his first choice.

Henry's age is classified. And in his words: “Anyway, old lawyers never die – they just lose their appeal!”