The Lawyer Africa Elite 2014 features an in-depth look at 46 leading independent firms’ strategies in 15 key sub-Saharan jurisdictions, as well as the views of in-house counsel from some of Africa’s largest companies... Read more
This year, The Lawyer’s annual ranking of the largest UK law firms by turnover is available as an interactive, digital benchmarking tool. For the first time this will allow you to manipulate each data set against the metrics of your choice.
My job title is finance and operations director. I was chief information officer, then finance and IT director, so my responsibilities are for finance, business and IT, but we thought that was too long for a job title.
Jason Haines, finance and operations director
What’s your role?
The reality is that I have two senior staff heading two of those divisions: Gareth Ash, IT, and Edward Mackaness, business services.
What does your role involve?
I spend most of my time on finance. My primary focus is the commercial interests of the firm. That involves tracking and monitoring the performance of the firm across offices, sectors and practice areas.
I have a particular focus on cashflow-related issues and working capital management.
My role also involves being a non-lawyer adviser to the business and trusted adviser to the board.
Which boards do you sit on?
I’m not a member of the main board because I’m not a member of the LLP, but I attend all the meetings. I sit on the audit committee, a sub-committee of the main board focused on finance issues and the IT board.
Who do you report to?
Wim Dejonghe. The HR director also reports to Wim, as do the business development and marketing director, as well as all of the managing partners of the offices.
What’s in your in-tray?
A lot of things related to Belfast and support services - recruitment and the bedding in of transitioning processes. Also lots of questions relating to the euro crisis and what impact that might have on the business and opportunities.
What was the biggest single issue you’ve had to deal with over the past 12 months?
I’d say Belfast. It’s had a huge impact on all of the areas I’m responsible for (see box, below).
What technology do you use?
We use the Elite 3E practice management system. We’ve had it for around two and a half years. It tells you the profitability of matters, offices, clients and so on. You can slice and dice it any way you want. So a part of my role is running that team and analysing that data. A system like that can last a minimum of five years and ideally 15. It takes many months to implement and they’re expensive.
We also use the Omnia bespoke document management system. We’ve had that for a very long time, around eight or nine years. We’re constantly updating and renewing it.
What problem would you most like technology to solve?
The ’semantic web’, which is when you can ask natural language questions of a search engine and it can not only find it, but ask you relevant questions. So if you ask, ’what’s a good restaurant in EC1?’, it will ask you, ’what kind of food and how far will you travel?’ and so on. It’s where artificial intelligence meets the web. I think it’s still a long way off, but maybe my children will get to use it.
What have been the key ways in which you’ve improved the efficiency of the firm?
Belfast and increasing the emphasis and focus on working capital management, billings and collections. We’re now dealing with it head-on.