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The need for a ‘commercial lens over your legal advice’

To be a successful business, firms should focus on having client-led commercial objectives in mind, according to this firm owner and director.

user iconLauren Croft 24 August 2023 SME Law
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Christos Tsonis is the director at CXT Legal. Speaking on a recent episode of the Boutique Lawyers Show, he reflected on building his boutique practice into a national player and the importance of having a business mindset from day one.

Before starting CXT Legal, Mr Tsonis worked closely with a managing partner for a decade, who he said inspired him to learn about not only technical legal skills but also the skills required to build a business.

“It’s not something that you can pick up in an MBA textbook. It was a live education. And I think one of the things that he liked about my personality type is I was interested in business at a very early age and I used to ask him a lot of questions,” he said.


“And when you have people that have similar interests to you, friendships develop, but they’re more inclined to bring you into the tent when it comes to their own thoughts about building a business. So, my 10 years were wonderful. Ten years working with an extremely excellent practice. It’s got a great reputation in the market and they still do. But I was personally, I suppose, given a great education in business building.”

This experience, Mr Tsonis added, conditioned his thought process around client matters and led to an increased understanding of clients’ commercial objectives, which he was then able to translate into building his own business.

“The correlation between a commercial objective or what the client wants and what the lawyer understands is, I think, very, very important. And when it’s drilled into you every day on every file, that’s the way you start to think. So not that you’ve got a commercial lens over your legal advice, but you make sure that your legal advice actually delivers some value so that someone that is paying for your service can pick it up and say, okay, well, here is one of the elements that I need to consider in making an important decision,” he added.

“And I’ve considered the legal perspective, but the legal perspective also appreciates my own personal thoughts on this. I’m now informed about making the decision. Now, the decision might be to go completely against the advice, and that’s fine, but there needs to be a connection to it. And that’s exactly what I was taught.”

The end goal of CXT Legal is that clients receive advice that is commercially relevant, which Mr Tsonis achieved in a number of ways.

“This will feed into a litany of things, but if that’s what you want to achieve from the client-facing perspective, you need to build an entire division internally that understands that and systems and processes that underpin what’s happening,” he explained.

“So that’s an entirely different approach. I suppose I had the opportunity of working with clients and working against lawyers in other organisations that probably didn’t have that approach. And I found that difficult because I always thought that in a utopian world, those things were understood by everyone. And that’s ultimately how you can at least get particular parties to an outcome.”

Mr Tsonis started thinking about these key considerations for his business “straight away” when first setting up his firm, including a specific vision for how it might operate.

“I think a lot of the lessons, the really positive lessons that I took out of my previous employment really helped underpin some of the foundations that I had going forward. And I think ultimately, I hope that they’re very proud of what I’ve been able to achieve because in some respects, that’s part of their legacy, that they’ve been able to create lawyers that can do these things. So that’s the first point. Second point is, it is of course, important that you always have your own objectives and prosecute your own thoughts,” he added.

“And the easiest way to do that is by yourself. Now, the hardest thing is to make sure that you can bring clients and lawyers and other employees along with a ride for you. So, long story short, I had to make sure that I clearly understood what it was. I needed to have conviction in all those points, and I needed to make sure that I simply put it down on a piece of paper, which was called a strategic plan.

“I needed to also make sure that I had a business plan and then I needed to convince myself that I could achieve all of those things and then I just needed to jump out of the plane and as they say jump without the proverbial parachute. And because I had so much conviction on day one I felt the rest has almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy in the nicest way.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Christos Tsonis, click below: