Claire Smith meets the new global head of communications at Landwell, Alan Morris, who, as a non-lawyer, had run out of career options at Simmons & Simmons.
The appointment to global head of operations at Landwell is a big challenge for the former managing director of Simmons & Simmons, Alan Morris.
He will be charged with integrating the global network of law firms associated with accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to provide a more seamless service – and he is enthusiastic about the prospect.
"I like being part of a team with creative, interesting, exciting people and I like challenging visions. I am looking to change the market and find new ways to do business in a new environment," he says.
Morris left Simmons last spring, just three years after becoming the first non-lawyer to take the helm of a top 10 City law firm.
He refused to stand for re-election at the end of his term, during which the firm had restructured, with the introduction of performance-related incentives for partners and new project management schemes.
In the final 13 months of his controversial leadership 15 partners left Simmons. These included corporate rainmaker William Charnley, who set up a London office for US firm McDermott Will & Emery.
"The main change at Simmons while I was there was that it had decided on a strategy to move itself up the league of law firms and that required a very strong focus," says Morris.
"Under the existing partnership structure it had been quite difficult to do lateral hires at the level that we wanted to do them so we introduced a more performance-related concept. I don't think it's any secret that profits per partner at Simmons were low, and that needed to be changed."
On why he left Simmons, Morris says: "I had been there 10 years and I was feeling that was long enough. One of the problems with being in my position was that there was nowhere in the firm for me to go as a non-lawyer."
Since his departure the partners have continued to leave, with nine moving firms last year. A source close to the firm says: "Alan brought a lot to the firm and we did learn a lot from the experience. Clearly it wasn't entirely a success, though."
Another is sceptical about his move: "Landwell is a big organisation and I don't know whether I would have chosen him for the job. I had questions over his performance."
But Bill Knight, senior partner at Simmons throughout Morris' management, says: "One good thing he did was make us more focused on project management. We felt it would be good to have the discipline of business brought to bear on us."
Morris had worked previously as financial controller at insurance giant The MI Group and at Royal Bank of Canada.
Landwell chairman Gerard Nicolay says: "Morris' experience and technical knowledge will be immensely valuable to us as we continue with our push to become a top provider of legal services."
A source close to Morris says: "I think he will fare very well at Landwell. He may have found the right job."