Firms face exorbitant IT millennial contract fees

IT consultants will charge law firms up to u4,000 a day for working over the millennium, The Lawyer can reveal.

City firms unprepared for this period are likely to fall prey to the exorbitant fees. Many are still formulating their strategy for coping with the potential millennium bug and IT staff problems over the holiday period.

While some firms are recruiting IT staff now to cope with the problem, others have still to get off the mark.

A spokesman for Core Consultancy, which has many commercial law firms on its books, says: “I have worked for firms like Freshfields. Just ask them what they think when they charge their clients hundreds of pounds per hour on a normal day. Then ask your average solicitor or barrister what he will charge over the millennium.

“You will find it is a huge amount. They are going to be well in the money.

“Why shouldn't IT specialists also be paid a lot over the millennium? We would rather be out celebrating or with our families as well.”

According to Chris Eldridge of Harvey Nash IT consultants, which provides technicians for Freshfields and Ashurst Morris Crisp, contractors are normally paid twice their hourly rates over the holiday period.

But he says: “This year, contractors are asking for five times their rates, a bonus of between u1,000 and u4,000, as well as a fee for being on call, which comes to about u5,000. When you think that contractors usually earn up to u60 per hour, you realise that this is a lot of money.”

But head of IT recruitment at Ashursts Khris Grabarczyk says: “We are not prepared to pay what consultants are demanding. We are advertising for jobs now so that when the millennium comes we will have recruited enough staff.”

Although he says he is taking measures now to save money, he admits that he will still have to recruit external consultants because there is bound to be a shortfall in staff over the holiday period.

Many law firms contacted by The Lawyer had not considered how they were going to cope with IT personnel problems over the millennium.

Grabarczyk says those firms are the ones which are going to be seriously caught out. And, while firms like Baker & McKenzie claim that it's early days yet, contractors disagree. They have already made plans to charge as much as possible over the millennium period.