Slaughter and May‘s new senior partner is set to shake up the use of IT to aid fee-earner retention.
Senior corporate partner Tim Clark is taking over from Giles Henderson, who has been in the position for eight years. Clark says that he intends to improve the firm’s IT capability to cut down on non-billable work for the partners.
Clark, who will serve a five-year tenure, beat corporate finance head Michael Pescod to the job, and was voted in a week ago. “I want to look at what there is outside to help legal work,” he says. “The firm can see how that is accessible through people and technology. If someone is sitting at a desk at 7pm, they should be able to touch their screen and download all the documents they need.”
Referring to the firm’s “deal room”, which, according to Clark, was set up about two years ago, he says: “You can do [a deal] because we have effectively outsourced [the running of the site]. It has improved, but it hasn’t been as successful as we expected.”
At present, partners can use the internet for correspondence, documents and due diligence.
Clark says: “We thought that we could have done more, but there are confidentiality issues. So one of the challenges will be how much support technology we need.”
However, he adds: “There are things that I want to change, but this will not be a case of change for change’s sake.”
Clark is committed to the firm’s stance on non-merger with international law firms. “We’ve always done it this way, with lawyers in lots of different countries,” he says.
The firm suffered a recent spate of departures from the corporate department, which is split into five units. This was followed by Slaughters upping its salaries by up to 15 per cent in a bid to keep hold of assistants.
Clark reasons: “I think that pay is not the only answer. We have a significant turnover of assistants, but I think it’s much better than other [firms’].”
Clark says that he intends to keep the firm’s policy of not bringing in lateral hires firmly in place. “People are much more interested in lifestyle than they were 10 years ago,” he says. “We all have to do much more to recognise that change, and we’ll look to technology in terms of supporting lawyers to face up to that.”
But he also believes that “the best lawyers are the ones who put their busy lives in perspective, which is why we only take people with outside interests so that they have something to escape to”.
Clark’s victory in the election was announced last Tuesday (first revealed on www.thelawyer.co.uk, 23 January) after a secret ballot was completed on the previous day. Clark will take over the running of the firm on 1 May after Henderson steps down on 30 April.