Two top 20 law firms restructure technology capabilities to reflect changing demands

Both Eversheds Sutherland and Clifford Chance have recently restructured their legal technology teams, separating client-facing innovation from back office IT.

Eversheds Sutherland IT director Andrew McManus now focuses exclusively on client-facing technology and also spearheads the firm’s innovation push.

“A separate team looks after the platform of technology that sits behind the scenes, making sure we are billing correctly, storing our documents in the right place, that our emails are working and our data is secure,” McManus told Legal IT Insider as part of our new series of profiles of the top 200 firms’ legal technology operations.

Will Jenkins, also IT director, heads up this delivery and operational IT team.  Jenkins joined Eversheds Sutherland from Hogan Lovells in September last year.

“When I joined four and a half years ago, I was IT director of both areas,” McManus explains. “But four and a half years ago, were our clients and our lawyers demanding so much technology?  Was technology affecting the legal sector as much as it is now?  Clearly not.  And we are keen to make sure that do we don’t spread ourselves too thinly.”

McManus describes this as the two canoe challenge. “If you stand in two canoes long enough they are going to drift apart,” he says.  “We have one canoe that is keeping the platform working well, making sure you can log in anywhere in the world and that our clients’ data is being looked after.  Then there is the opportunity that technology offers in terms of disrupting the legal sector.  That focus on the future and innovation is the other canoe.  Trying to do both at the same time – not just me, but the team as well – is a real conflict of priorities.”

Clifford Chance has also taken the decision to separate its legal technology operations from its legal technology solutions – the division which focuses on the more innovative and emerging tech.

According to Clifford Chance CIO Paul Greenwood, the decision to restructure was based on the differing speed at which the two teams operate.

“The reason behind splitting legal technology operations from legal technology solutions was to reflect the different pace at which the two work,” Greenwood said in our profile of Clifford Chance’s legal tech team.

Clifford Chance’s global technology operations are headed up by Mike Brown, while the legal technology solutions division is headed up by Anthony Vigneron.  Alongside department heads for cyber security, technology services and programme management, both report to Greenwood.

This article was first published in the Legal IT Insider (319) January 2019 issue – download here