Forget law. Elliot Moss, Director of Business Development at Mishcon de Reya, has done something that is rather unusual for business full stop. His personality has become synonymous with the brand he represents. When you mention Mishcon in conversations, it’s not uncommon for people to say admiringly, ‘Ah, that’s the place where Elliot Moss works’.
If Mishcon de Reya has a reputation for being progressive, forward thinking, and even a bit revolutionary for a law firm (work whatever hours you like anyone?), then it’s in no small part because of Moss himself, a business leader in law who likes to challenge the status quo. He has won numerous awards in his own right, including the FT’s legal innovator of the year in 2012.
He is charm personified in conversation, engaging and engaged in equal measure. But he’s equally forthright, unafraid and self-assured. ‘I have an inner confidence,’ he admits. ‘I don’t care what other people think.’ When he describes sometimes irritating the partners in his firm (not always consulting everyone, being too honest or impatient), you can sense his success stems from a genuine willingness to rock the boat. ‘Law firm marketing & BD shouldn’t be safe and settled,’ he says. ‘It’s about building something new.’ Sometimes making people uncomfortable goes with the territory.
But at the same time, you can see how he has won over partners, all of whom he says he loves. He met the firm’s Managing Partner Kevin Gold , who he describes as ‘visionary’, via a mutual contact. The next thing he was doing a presentation on brand at the partner conference, and a positioning exercise requiring interviews across the partnership. From there came the offer to join the firm full-time, by which point, he was already fairly well embedded with the team. And he had learnt that this was a firm he could work with – ‘It had the right leadership and a great sense of what it was and what it wanted to be,’ he says.
His broad and non-legal background helped. Much as law firms often seek out business talent from within the sector, Moss thinks his background in advertising (with Leagas Delaney and before that Leo Burnett) gave him invaluable experience in working with myriad major clients across the world including Kelloggs, Mercedes, Scottish Widows and Timberland.
‘I had the advantage of knowing I could work seamlessly and wherever with pretty much everyone,’ he says. ‘I had become utterly adaptable to all kinds of companies, with hugely different cultures. I would be an expert on cereals one week, on cars or water dynamics the next. You become bulletproof.’ His advertising taught him how to get under the skin of business. He had the skills to know how to bring a law firm to life – or as he puts it, how to give Mishcons a voice.
As Managing Director and shareholder in an agency going from strength to strength, there was surely an element of risk in moving to law. By this point he’d been in advertising for 16 years. But he says that Gold made provisions to make the transition as smooth as possible. And Moss had his own motivation for making the shift.
‘I had thought about going into law from the age of 16. Law and I had a history and I was always predisposed to it,’ he says. ‘You have to be interested in your subject matter and I was hugely interested in law and the business of law.’
He agrees there was a learning curve on joining law – understanding the nuances of partnerships, for example, and the fact that lawyers can be very risk adverse. But Mishcon de Reya was clearly the right firm for Moss. ‘It is a firm with an enlightened Managing Partner who gave me the authority to do what I needed to do. He’s very forward thinking – he appointed a COO, for example, who is a finance genius who joined the Board very early on. The firm was well run before I was around.’
For others thinking of joining law, he has the following advice. ‘Law is one of the most stimulating business environments, full of incredible bright people. You have to ask yourself if it is right for you. Will I have fun here? Will I be stimulated by law? Will I like the intellectual environment? Then, and only then, will I be paid well?’
Mishcon de Reya has a reputation for innovative thinking that extends well beyond the frontiers of law. Its willingness to think differently has enabled it to bring in talent that has changed perception and driven profitability. For Elliot Moss it has also been the chance to lead ground-breaking change in a profession ready for transformation. This is a role model for what is possible when great business and legal talent come together.