Eight secrets behind Mishcon’s 100% growth

Elliot Moss is director of business development at London law firm Mishcon de Reya. In 2013 he was shortlisted for the Law Firm Management Individual of the Year in the Lawyer Management Awards, and in 2012 he was the first non-lawyer to be included in the FT’s 10 most innovative individuals in the legal sector.

Elliot is an expert on branding, business development and marketing. Before joining Mishcon he spent 12 years with ad agency Leo Burnett and was managing director of Leagas Delaney London, where he helped the business to grow by 40% in four years. He has also worked in broadcasting and currently hosts Jazz Shapers on Jazz FM.

Since he joined Mishcon in 2009, revenue and profit at the law firm have both grown by more than 100 per cent.

Article by Elliot Moss…

When I joined Mishcon in 2009, managing partner Kevin Gold told me: “I don’t care what your job title is, just come and help us convert Mishcon from a famous name into a famous brand.” Here are some of the lessons I’ve learnt since.

1) Logical analysis first, creativity second

The business development team must come up with a view based on logical analysis. Once you’ve formed an evidence-based position, the lawyers or accountants will be satisfied intellectually and frankly won’t care what the creative results look like.

Everything springs from rigorous factual analysis. After you’ve done that, getting things right creatively becomes far simpler.

For example, if we conclude – after studying the evidence – that Mishcon de Reya is a law firm for business people, one creative response might be to make lots of big posters saying something awful like: “We’re in the world of business. Come and join us.” Not good.

Alternatively – and this is what we’ve done – we could record a radio programme where we interview successful entrepreneurs and put it on a station where 42% of the audience listens to BBC Radio Four. We’ll also put it on iTunes and British Airways High Life. Suddenly you’ve got a property using the right platforms to spread the right message. And it’s all predicated on a serious fact: 90% of our revenue comes from the business world. How I bring that truth to life is down to me but the lawyers are happy because the argument is sound.

Most law firms focus on what lawyers think should be said about the business when they might not be the best-placed people to do that.

2) Creativity has three ingredients

I talk about three things when it comes to the creative process:

– You need clarity about what you want to do – that’s all about analysis.
– You need a fusion of talents to bring ideas to life – lots of skills are needed from different people.
– You need the boldness to actually do it.

In the professional services world, most people are neither clear, nor able to fuse talents, nor bold.

In my opinion, most law firms focus on what lawyers think should be said about the business when they might not be the best-placed people to do that.

The machine we’ve created has delivered more than 100 per cent revenue and profit growth in five years

3) Get your pitch right in three distinct areas

At Mishcon we’re trying to create an army of advocates. The most important question for any company is: what makes you different? Mishcon’s points of difference are something every lawyer – and there are almost 400 here – needs to be able to articulate in three different contexts:


– For themselves.
– For their practice area.
– For the firm.

These distinctions are important. You need a personal narrative, a practice-wide narrative and a firm-wide narrative. At many law firms there isn’t a strong umbrella position for the firm and there certainly isn’t one for each individual.

4) Go beyond simply sales

To win new business, I want people to go out and confidently communicate with potential clients and work with interesting organisations. However, I’ve almost banned the “sales” word. We don’t make target calls. But we do work hard to be in interesting places with interesting people, whether that’s through events we create, events we speak at, or brand properties we develop.

To attract attention I also want a fascinating web presence and a Twitter handle that invokes intrigue rather than sleep.

Stuff spewed out by most law and accountancy firms lacks engagement. Where’s the heart? Where’s the soul? Where’s the passion?

5) Polish the gems but recognise not everyone can be brilliant at sales

Some people are natural business developers. Out of our 94 partners, 10-15 per cent are naturals who would grow the business regardless of anything my team and I could do. The question is: how do you get the next 20 people to be brilliant business developers? And how far do you drill down into the associates and assistants? It’s about spotting the gems and polishing them up but there has to be a reality check that recognises not everyone can be a fantastic sales person. I want those less salesy people to do a couple of things:

– Really know your firm – know your fellow lawyers and what they do. There are no excuses on this. Being “too big” is not good enough.
– Know your clients; really understand what they’re about.

If you make the time to do those things you’ll have a firm of sales people and advocates. It’s not complicated but it takes a lot of thought, structure and implementation to create the machine.

The machine we’ve created has delivered over 100 per cent revenue and profit growth in five years.

6) He or she who cares, wins

There are a number of things business owners want from their professional advisers. People talk about thought leadership, but more often than not, what a business owner really needs is a kindred spirit. Beyond the obvious technical know-how, they want someone who is clearly on their side, who cares, and who bleeds with them.

I encourage all our lawyers to show they care and develop that personal connection. That’s what sorts excellent professional advisers from good ones. Most lawyers can do most legal tasks. The reason why Mishcon is flying is because our lawyers are fully invested in our clients.

7) Produce engaging content and use the ‘boredom test’

Yes, clients want insights. But truthfully, do any of us read a 48-page summary of X, Y or Z? We need a bit of that to say we’re thinking about things and we’re smart. But be punchy. It might be 140 characters on Twitter, it might be two pages in a review, and it might be a really interesting meeting at Mishcon with 100 other people who are all in the same boat. If you do a variety of punchy things and encourage engagement then you give that client the sense you really are in their world.

That’s why we have created something called Lawfully Chic. It’s a blog focused on the fashion, luxury and travel world. Lawyers do not write it and it’s not about law but the message is we’re interested in the things you’re interested in.

That’s the mantra. Everything we do has to be of value of our clients. And ‘of value’ means: would I like it? Would I bother watching that video, reading that report, taking that call? Most people don’t apply that basic criteria and therefore the stuff that’s spewed out by most law firms and accountancy firms lacks engagement. It has the right intentions but lacks oomph. Where’s the heart? Where’s the soul? Where’s the passion that recognises what we all enjoy as human beings?

There are a lot of good business development people in professional services but they’re not putting their cases forward in the best possible way

8) Business development teams must step up to the plate

Competition is fierce and coming from all corners including online providers and ABS (alternative business structures). We’ve never had so much information and technology at our fingertips. And business is tough – growth is small. In that environment, if you don’t respond to that competition and if you’re not super-clear on who you are, you’ve got a problem.

But the specific problem for business development directors surrounds their own personal credibility. Yes, you need to earn credibility but you also must be given the opportunity to earn it. There are a lot of good business development and marketing people in professional services but they may not be being listened to, and maybe they’re not putting their cases forward to their firms in the best possible way.