New HFW CIO restructures team to “modernise” IT at the firm

Chris White brings Sarah Chipping and John Court over from former firm Clyde & Co as he professionalises HFW’s tech function

Chris White, who joined HFW as CIO from Clyde & Co in September last year, is in the process of restructuring his 45-strong team in order to “help modernise IT”.

“HFW is a firm that has grown very quickly and plans to grow a lot further,” White told Legal IT Insider as part of our profile of the firm’s IT function, which will be published in the Orange Rag out on 30 January. “It is fair to say that a lot of the technology currently in place is not fit for purpose for a firm with those ambitions.

“I have been brought in to change that. It is not just about making sure we have the right applications and hardware, it’s about getting the right IT governance across the business, the right processes and the right culture.”

Indeed, a key priority for White is creating a governance structure that ensures that the firm is making decisions at the right level of seniority.

“IT is a critical part of our business. We spend a great deal of money on IT every year, and it’s very important that we take IT decisions for the right business reasons,” says White. “So, I am putting in place a change board at a senior level across the business, a top-level governance group which will set the direction of IT and make sure it is consistent with the strategic objectives of the firm.”

As part of the restructuring, White has also brought several former colleagues over from Clyde & Co. He has recruited John Court as head of programme management and Sarah Chipping as head of IT service transformation.

Court will be responsible for introducing a formal project management capability to HFW – not just in IT – to allow the firm to make the changes it needs to make.

Chipping’s role, meanwhile, is threefold. She will be responsible for ensuring the firm has the right support structures in place; she will be focusing on internal IT processes such as best practice around change problem management escalation and she will also be looking at engagement.

“In the past, the IT team has operated in isolation. Sarah’s job is to increase that engagement, raise the profile of IT in the business, and more to the point, make sure we intimately understand the challenges facing our lawyers so that we can make sure we have the right technology to service their clients in the best possible way,” White explains.

White will also be formalising HFW’s innovation agenda, putting a mechanism in place to coordinate the activity that already goes on.

“We really need to understand what we mean by innovation and then promote that within the firm. Our practice is focused on six core sectors: aerospace, commodities, construction, energy, insurance and shipping. We should be driving the agenda in those spaces, not following,” White says.

By Amy Carroll

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