Santiago Gómez Sancha has been head of IT at Slaughter and May’s Spanish best friend, Uría Menéndez, since 2003.
What’s been your biggest career challenge?
To manage my team and the stakeholders affected when a disaster recovery situation happened. Something in between a complete disaster and my worst nightmare happened while I was on a weekend trip with my family. The situation prevented more than 500 lawyers and support personnel to enter our main building. We managed to put everything on remote (coordinating my team from my car while driving back home) within three hours and had all these people working remotely and in temporary premises for more than three weeks without any client noticing and without impact in the daily operations.
What would be your career advice to a graduate wanting to go into this field?
First, get to know your client (lawyers and support) very well. Learn to think like them, adopt their mindset. Then look for the best of piece of technology and common sense that suits their needs. Always in this sequence. No exception to this.
If you weren’t doing this, what else would you be doing?
Teaching. I was an assistant professor while at university and I enjoyed it very much. Also doing ironman races.
What’s in your in-tray?
A technology strategy plan, which is a document in which you outline your IT strategy, for the next years. As we haven’t found crystal balls from any supplier we have to build our own.
Why is a technology strategy plan important?
As a firm you need to design very carefully what will your IT be in 2018. You have to guess how the lawyers are going to work, what will our clients demand and build your infrastructure and applications accordingly.
Do you think continental European firms are, generally, putting as much effort into operational efficiency as US/UK-headquartered firms?
Absolutely, yes. They are investing heavily in infrastructure, software and user training. Even though technology is no longer a key differentiator, it is a real stopper. No firm can compete unless it has an IT armour to wear in the tough legal battlefield. Today the differences between law firms on both sides of the Channel are no longer significant.
How has your role changed during your time at the firm?
From a kind of an internal on-demand solutions provider to a counsel and active member of the management team of the firm. Some years ago I just reported to my boss, a partner, and I had to grab and catch information about where the firm was going informally. Now as every initiative has an IT side, myself and my team are part of the decision processes.
What are the key elements of your role?
Basically knowledge of the firm, knowledge of the law business and techno-insight to select what technologies can fit into our firm and improve its efficiency in the long term.
What was the most pressing item you faced on the operational side of the firm last year?
Finishing our CRM implementation.
What have been the key ways in which you have improved the efficiency of the firm?
In developing a trusted relationship between IT and the firm. Making the IT team understand that the lawyers and the rest of the support people are no longer clients they have to service but their colleagues in a joint effort to deliver the best legal services to our clients.
What problem would you most like technology to solve?
What is the most important lesson your role has taught you?
Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. My conclusion: Keep on working hard every day. That’s the only way.
What’s your favourite part of the day?
Breakfast and going to school with my daughter early in the morning, escaping to the gym at lunch time and chatting with my wife in front of a glass of Spanish wine by night. Some days I hit the three of them. Perfect day, then.
IT systems used:
Document management: Filesite