HFW overhaul continues with appointment of first innovation partner

We speak to HFW’s managing partner, Jeremy Shebson, about the changes at the UK top 30 firm
HFW’s new managing partner Jeremy Shebson has appointed London litigation lawyer Brian Perrott as its first ever innovation partner. The firm has also formed an innovation committee, which is tasked with identifying potential business and services improvements to be submitted to the management board.
Business development, IT, knowledge management, marketing and risk and compliance, in addition to client-facing lawyers, will all be represented on the committee. “We have always been a very creative and entrepreneurial firm, with lots of exciting ideas,” Shebson told Legal IT Insider. “This is simply about creating a structure to harness that creativity from across the entire firm and help put the best ideas into practice.”
Shebson added that Perrott was selected because he is extremely entrepreneurial and because his energy and enthusiasm are infectious. “Brian is also very connected to our clients, which we see as being vital to this process. We aren’t interested in meaningless buzzwords or shiny new technology that looks great on paper but doesn’t actually do much for clients. For us, innovation has to make a meaningful difference to the service that we can provide to our clients and to us as a business.”
HFW’s innovation committee is currently in the process of collecting and reviewing ideas. The intention is for the group to submit at least three projects to the management board for consideration within the next six months.
The appointment of an innovation partner is the latest example of HFW’s attempts to modernise its technology and processes. While Perrott’s appointment was made by Shebson, this overhaul really began with the appointment of Chris White as CIO in September last year.
White, who joined from Clyde & Co as a catalyst for change, has started from the bottom up, establishing a governance structure, process and culture capable of supporting growth.
“HFW is a firm that has grown very quickly and plans to grow a lot further,” White told Legal IT Insider three months into the role.  “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’ve 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.”
White also highlighted innovation as an area for improvement on arrival at the firm, prioritising putting a mechanism in place to coordinate and formalise activity that was already ongoing. Nonetheless, Shebson is clear that the firm views innovation and IT independently.
“We were very deliberate in not having the responsibility for innovation sitting within any one individual department. Nobody has a monopoly on ideas at HFW. We want this to be a demographic process to which anyone can contribute,” he said.
“It was very important to us that our innovation committee has broad representation from across the firm, including lawyers and business services. Through Brian as innovation partner, it reports directly to our global management board. The most exciting thing for me is how many from across our global network have already embraced the opportunity to contribute views and ideas.”