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Osborne Clarke has appointed Chris Bull as its new chief executive to run the firm alongside its managing partner, Leslie Perrin.
The dual structure will give Bull greater control over the firm's finances and computer systems.
Bull was promoted to his new post this month. He is a qualified accountant who worked at Ernst & Young Management Consultancy Services before joining Osborne Clarke as finance director in 1996. He was later made operations director.
Perrin says: "We felt the need to appoint a chief executive because Chris' presence has been expanding since he arrived.
"He is ideal for the projects we have got because of his financial and consultancy background. He has a strong grasp of what we do and how we do it."
Insiders say the firm has had chief executives in the past, but none have had a role as extensive as that of Bull.
Bull says: "We are trying to recognise that there is a need for a larger core management presence. We see it as a two-man act. I am going to be developing the firm's financial strategy. The legal market is so competitive that finances need to be managed properly to give us a competitive advantage."
He adds that his promotion is part of the firm's attempt to compete in an international market. He says: "We want to be bigger and have more of a global presence."
Appointing non-lawyers to key positions in law firms is a growing trend. Nick Thomas, senior partner of Kennedys, says: "Osborne Clarke is going beyond where we would go. We have non-lawyers in management roles, including a financial director who is an accountant.
"But for overall strategy of a law firm you need a lawyer. A law firm provides too personal a service to be driven solely by systems, which accountants like."