Bhavisha Mistry explains why the personal touch is so effective in building and influencing client relationships.

So, I’m five and a half months into my new general counsel role. I’ve moved from fashion (at Missguided) to pharmaceuticals (Mawdsleys). A big change, some might say. Not quite – the principles I’ve learnt and used at Missguided equally apply in my new job. The only thing that has really changed is that I’m selling drugs, not clothes!

What I’ve learnt the most in my previous role, and what I intend to build upon in this new position, is the fundamental importance of building relationships.

As advisers with an abundance of knowledge, we lawyers want to see our advice being implemented. When it isn’t, we might ask ourselves whether our advice was poor or inaccurate, or we simply get frustrated.

There are many reasons why our clients may not follow our advice, and it isn’t always that they don’t believe we are right – it may just be that we don’t know enough about their circumstances, things have changed in a deal, or the risk the client was contemplating was worth taking because of the high margins involved.

When we don’t know the reasons, however, we can be left feeling insecure, unwanted and exasperated. So, what can we do about it?

We need to know more about our clients and how we can influence them. By this I don’t mean manipulate. I mean that we need to understand our clients and their needs, so that our advice is more tailored, and therefore more likely to be followed.

I was so passionate about knowing the ins and outs of every legal situation I encountered, that building relationships was a low priority. 

The first thing I did when I joined Mawdsleys was to set up meetings with all of my potential internal clients. I got to know them, both personally and professionally, what it is they do for the company, what was going well, what wasn’t, what they enjoyed doing outside of work etc. I developed an interest in what they did.

When I started doing work for them, I kept a mental log of the different styles of working for each individual client. As lawyers, we need to work around our clients, not the other way around – so if they want comments within the Word document and not as a list in a separate document, for example, or need a detailed explanation of what an indemnity is, we give it to them. We need to keep them happy. I wanted my clients to know they were important to me.

I also worked hard to keep myself positive and upbeat. Even when things get stressful, I keep positive. Why? It helps people warm to you and feel confident in your abilities. They are more likely to come to you than if you look stressed out and moan all the time.

These are all basic things, I know, but they really work. If you show interest, appreciation and positivity, people are more likely to come to you for advice. By learning more about what your clients do and developing a better understanding of them, your advice stays relevant and will be more likely to be followed.

I must admit I haven’t always been the best at doing this. For years, I was so passionate about knowing the ins and outs of every legal situation I encountered, that building relationships was a low priority. This didn’t reflect me or my personality, and outside of work I am completely different – I love meeting people and learning about their lives. I found that at Missguided, when I brought more of my outside-of-work personality inside of work, people warmed to me more, and it made my job and role even more enjoyable, especially when I saw my advice being implemented.

I’m grateful for all the people I was fortunate to get to know in my role as general counsel for Missguided. I’m looking forward to getting to know more people at Mawdsleys. Not only does it make my job fun, but it also enables me to be a lawyer whose lead is followed!