Corporate

Mietkiewicz partners with clients for best results

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

Starting her own firm has given Burlington corporate lawyer Cathi Mietkiewicz a confidence boost.

Mietkiewicz, principal of Mietkiewicz Law, liked to think she had built some collegial relationships with clients in the health sector during almost a decade of legal practice at law firms both big and small, but she got a chance to put that to the test when she went out on her own in June.

“Once you've built something, there’s always a bit of trepidation where you wonder if people will come, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many clients have reached out, either to congratulate me or because they needed something done,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

In fact, the first calls started rolling in even earlier than she’d hoped.

“I didn’t even have my bank account in place yet when one of them asked me to do something urgently,” Mietkiewicz says. “It has been really reassuring to get the chance to continue looking after clients from before, or new ones referred to you by those people — that’s the highest compliment someone can pay you.”

But the transition to sole practice isn’t the first time she has made a successful career switch. Mietkiewicz actually came to the law relatively late, after building a career as an optician, including a six-year stint as the president of the College of Opticians of Ontario.

That role with the profession’s regulatory body gave Mietkiewicz a taste for governance and policy issues and helped convince her she would be well-suited to legal work. So she sat the LSAT and was accepted to Osgoode Hall Law School. The approval of her father was an added bonus.

“He always thought I should be a lawyer anyway, so it was better late than never for him,” she says.

Although initially attracted to the role of a litigator, Mietkiewicz found during articling that, in practice, her calling was corporate work.

She took up a position in the health law group of a major Bay Street firm after her call to the bar and later moved to a smaller firm before starting her own, where she advises regulators, associations and other not-for-profits on their governance, government relations, bylaws, policies, contracts and much more.

Mietkiewicz says her style is heavily influenced by her experience wearing the very same shoes as many of her clients back in her pre-law days.

“I’ve been on the receiving end of legal advice, so I know how frustrating it can be when you’re told ‘it depends,’ or ‘maybe,’” she says.

As a result, Mietkiewicz tries to keep her advice as practical and straightforward as possible.

“They don’t want a 15-page memo explaining all the jurisprudence that brought you to your conclusion,” she says. “Of course, it’s important to have done that background research, but I like to give them the bottom line, with some insight into the 'why.' If they want more detail, I can give it.”

To foster the feeling of partnership with a client, Mietkiewicz likes to present her advice as a set of options.

“Issues are rarely black and white. It tends to be more about risk management. You give them different options and spell out the risks and benefits associated with each, and they can take the path that they are most comfortable with,” she says. “I’m very respectful of my clients, and I like them to feel like we’re working together to solve their problems.”

Throughout her career, Mietkiewicz says she has felt supported by a raft of mentors and colleagues who are always willing to answer her queries about thorny legal issues.

“I remember hearing in law school how good lawyers are at helping one another. I’m not sure I believed it then, but it’s turned out to be true,” Mietkiewicz says. “The people I’ve worked with are always happy to have you bounce ideas off them, and I’m happy to do the same for them in return.”

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