How I Made Practice Group Chair: ‘Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Your Clients Questions. Asking Questions Is Not a Sign of a Weakness,’ Says Marcia Ellis of Morrison & Foerster

Hong-Kong based Marcia Ellis is a partner and global chair of Morrison & Foerster’s private equity group. 

“The firm needed a consistent voice for our global PE group and someone with the market reputation, technical knowledge, leadership skills, global mindset, and commercial sense to make consistent contributions in promoting the practice externally,” Ellis said about her current role.

Advocating for everyone at the firm to develop a more global mindset was also a key factor “that resulted in the firm electing me to the global chair role,” she said. 

In terms of successful business development, Ellis advises, “Be an active listener and know your clients well, including their business goals, core values, pain points, and immediate legal and commercial needs. Don’t be afraid to ask your clients questions. Asking questions is not a sign of a weakness.”

She credits Jeanette Chan, general counsel and chief compliance officer at Airwallex, to be a mentor that helped guide her career. Chan taught her how to manage clients and create solutions even when there were “insurmountable regulatory issues.”

For those attorneys who aim to someday lead their own practice group, Ellis advises to keep the bigger picture in mind. “How does the work you are doing relate to the work your partners are doing around the world? Are there opportunities to cross-sell your partners in other jurisdictions or other practice groups?” 

Are you interested in more career insights from Marcia Ellis? Read more in this article.

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