A Dentons partner talks staying solutions-focussed, close client involvement and the value of commercial acumen
Elise Ivory is keenly aware of how quickly the law can change. As a partner in law firm Dentons, she specialises in banking, finance and regulatory compliance – a field which has seen significant change since the Banking Royal Commission. Dentons was recently recognised as a finalist in the Client Choice Awards, an accolade voted exclusively by clients and sponsored by the College of Law’s Master of Legal Business program.
Insights spoke to Elise about the challenges of translating complex and swiftly evolving law to clients, how she works in partnership with clients to find solutions, and why taking a collaborative, business-led approach to providing legal advice has made all the difference in her client relationships.
Banking and finance regulation is presently undergoing seismic change.
“There is always a new piece of legislation, regulation or regulatory guidance,” observed Elise. “I enjoy helping our clients to work through the huge volume of information, breaking it down into manageable pieces and providing them with a practical guide to implementation. Given our intimate understanding of our industry, we are well known for our practical application of the law.”
Elise understands her clients are not lawyers, and aims to keep her advice clear and practical.
“My clients are usually looking for practical advice that they can use and understand, especially as many of the clients I am dealing with may not be lawyers themselves and rather are developing or running a business,” said Elise. “They are looking for answers to their legal and regulatory questions. I therefore aim to always be solutions focussed. While obviously the legal reasoning for a piece of advice is important and any advice must be well considered from that perspective, the client wants to know what is achievable. And if my advice is that they cannot achieve the outcome they want due to legal constraints, we will do our best to provide an alternative. We aim to be providers of legal solutions.”
Getting closely involved in a client’s business
Gaining an intimate understanding of every client’s business is, to Elise, essential to resolving their legal issues.
“I genuinely like dealing with my clients and solving their problems,” said Elise. “We deal with many innovative people and are privileged to be able to guide them through the development and growth of their products and services. It is particularly exciting when a client comes to us with a new idea that we have not seen before. Given my expertise is banking and finance regulation, and the law many times does not keep up with the ideas and technology, we are always trying to solve problems. It is satisfying when we find a solution and can be involved so closely with our clients’ business.”
Indeed, it was the problem solving and analysis involved in legal reasoning that first attracted Elise to the profession.
“Once I became a lawyer, I realised that I also enjoyed the people side of things – actually dealing with the clients every day,” said Elise. “I now strive to put both of these together and provide advice to my clients that is legally sound, well considered but which will help them advance their business.”
Commercial acumen essential to providing practical, collaborative solutions
Elise credits her collaborative, solutions-led approach to providing practical client advice with her firm’s finalist status.
“We strive to work collaboratively with our clients and become trusted advisors – not merely third party service providers,” explained Elise. “This means we have to have a thorough understanding of our clients’ business and their goals and objectives. We are proactive in our relationship with clients – that is, we will come to them with information or ideas and do not wait passively for them to approach us for advice. This proactivity and collaboration are vital to the lawyer/client relationship.”
Indeed, Elise believes this approach is the best way forward, particularly in advisory work.
“I believe that commercial acumen, practical solutions and collaboration with clients to help them sustain and grow their business is vital. These are the qualities that will mean repeat work – particularly in areas of law that are advisory. Gaining your clients’ trust and having them view you as part of their team is my number one piece of advice.”
Interested in developing your commercial acumen to improve client relationships and provide practical advice your clients appreciate? Master the business of law with our Master of Legal Business, Graduate Diploma and Graduate Certificate. Start with a single subject, or enrol in electives as part of our LLM (Applied Law).