Name: John Banister

Firm: Wiggin

Role: CEO

Qualified: Non-lawyer (previously worked: Royal Navy, Merrill Lynch, Linklaters, KPMG (KLegal))

Read his Hot 100 profile

What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?

Being a non-lawyer there is no trainee anecdote; however, one of my early, most vivid memories of a work situation that played a key role in my personal development relates to my time in the Royal Navy. My first posting after Dartmouth College was being put in charge of the Senior Rates leadership training course – at 22 being told to provide leadership training to men and women who had been in the forces for as long as I had been born. If you forgive the pun it was a genuine “sink or swim moment”.

Fortunately it went well for me and taught me a number of life lessons, amongst them: leadership isn’t about telling people what to do, it is about showing and sharing, and about being able to take advice and use the knowledge and experience of the people around you; developing strong, positive, relationships with people helps a difficult task become achievable; work should be fun and rewarding; anything is possible!

What is the wisest thing anyone ever said to you (and who said it)?

I think two things – the first you may not wish to publish, and the second I aim to work on ever day:

  • Investment Banker on hearing I was going to work in a law firm – “It may be herding cats, but at least they are pussy cats!”
  • Numerous people – “Try not to take things too personally!”

Who (for better or worse) has been the most influential person in your career? Why?

Probably Eloise Reddy who was my boss at Merrill Lynch. Eloise supported my development from Armed Forces background into the world of professional services management. She was a “tough cookie” but absolutely focused on excellence of service delivery and taught me the importance of the need for professional managers in the professional services environment – among other things, not allowing strong personalities to dominate business decision making, ensuring that the quality of support delivered matches the client facing excellence and providing expertise in the business of being a business.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?

I think it probably boils down to just 3 things: Roll up the sleeves and get things done and demonstrate your value; apply common sense to business decision making but allow room for a little creativity; and build relationships with people at all levels of responsibility.

What’s your best friend from law school doing now?

Again, not law school, but from my MBA – best friend running an advertising agency  – so far removed from the world of law, but I guess demonstrates why I did an MBA – to learn from others with expertise and knowledge from a myriad of different sectors and industries.