IT director goes it alone

Elizabeth Davidson reports

LAWRENCE Graham's IT director Peter Morris is leaving the firm to set up his own independent IT consultancy for law firms.

Morris will remain working at the firm on a contractual basis until the arrival of his replacement on 1 March.

Morris' consultancy, called PracticalITy, will officially open when he leaves the firm. It will advise firms on IT strategy and will oversee the installation of new systems.

Morris, who worked for Lawrence Graham for more than five years, is already negotiating several jobs: a series of speaking engagements for an IT training company; an assignment for a software company to investigate a new product range; and a commission to oversee the installation of a practice management system for a City law firm.

He is leaving Lawrence Graham at a busy time for the firm. This week it begins replacing its Windows 3.1 desktop system with Windows NT and Windows 95 Microsoft Office. The firm is also aiming to install a new practice management system from Resolution Systems in the autumn.

Morris' successor, Richards Butler's IT director Alan Bower, put his move to Lawrence Graham down to the fact that Richards Butler's IT systems now "more or less run themselves" and he wanted a new challenge. He has also been offered a salary increase.

Instead of replacing him, Richards Butler will use consultants on an ad hoc basis while partners will develop strategy. An operations manager running a team of between ten and 20 technical staff will handle the firm's day-to-day IT needs.

Chief executive Chris Schulten said the firm wished to adopt a "flexible" approach to IT, adding there was not enough change taking place to justify a full-time IT director, as the firm had installed Windows 95 Microsoft Office, a voice mail which linked into e-mail and a desktop-operated fax service last year, and was happy with its Tramps practice management system.

Managing consultant at re- cruitment specialist Longbridge, Craig Coverman, said: "It seems to me Richards Butler has reached a stage where it needs a caretaker rather than someone to develop the system."

But Quarry Dougall IT managing consultant Paul Young said he did not think it would become a trend among firms as they needed to establish their strategic direction.

City firm Masons has also made a decision not to replace its IT director Martin Telfer, who left for Sydney firm Malleson Stephens Jacques in November.

Masons has an IT strategy group chaired by IT consultant Richard Susskind and consisting of Peter Wood, UK managing partner, three other partners and four IT managers.