The Lawyer Management: Goodman Derrick
4 March 2013 | By Lucy Burton
John Raimbach is the director of finance at Goodman Derrick. He was previously the business and finance manager for international capital markets at Allen & Overy and, before that, chief finance officer at Baker & McKenzie
Tell us a bit about your background?
I have been around the block a few times and have scars on my back. I spent a decade in practice in a provincial firm of chartered accountants, where I became a partner. There were only so many “business networking” lunches I could stand in a week so I moved into law firm finance in 1995. I was then at Lovells during the earlier phase of its international expansion, and then Baker & McKenzie, working initially with the late, great Russell Lewin. I was a business manager at Allen & Overy for a year, a role that did not suit me, before settling at Goodman Derrick as finance director in 2010.
How has your role changed during your time at the firm?
The role has changed for the better along with the firm. I had in mind a therapeutic finance and largely compliance role but that didn’t last long. As the firm has taken off I’ve been involved, one way or another, in the firm’s strategic planning, the stately dance of merger contemplation, expansion through lateral hires, a complete overhaul of our IT systems, and an office move. I have tried to work out what a COFA [compliance officer for finance and administration (and COLP [compliance officer for legal practice) need to do, with some success, and I have recently been involved in shaping the strategic direction of the business development (BD) function, a process that led to the recruitment of senior BD professional James Caulfield.
Has there ever been a problem at work that’s surprised you?
I’m always surprised if others seem surprised that a client will not pay a bill that has not yet been issued to them.
What’s your favourite part of the day?
It’s normally at about 9pm, at home with Mrs R, after dinner and with a glass of wine, fire roaring, feet up and drifting off in front of some rubbish on the telly.
If you weren’t a finance director, what would you be?
Possibly an advanced motorcycling instructor? Wouldn’t pay well but what a great way to spend a life.
What problem would you most like technology to solve?
The curious phenomenon whereby a matter that it has not been possible to bill all year suddenly becomes billable just before year-end. It’s been that way wherever I’ve worked.
What’s the most important lesson your role has taught you?
Legal partnerships are powerful organisations, full of bright people. To get things done one needs to build trust and a consensus, after which there might be a bit of drama over detail but one can at least move forward.
How do you foresee your role changing in future?
It’s hard to tell what’s around the corner. If I were a betting man I would think IT systems that enable better service and smarter interaction with clients will be a large part of it. With our new IT platforms we’re in good shape for that.
What’s on your to-do list?
Quite a lot. I have a long list on my desk and it feels good striking things off from time to time. I would recite some for you but then I would be inundated with calls from helpful consultants offering me “solutions”.
Lift of laughs
Raimbach said he would most like to get stuck in a lift with “Britain’s favourite Irishman” Dara O’Briain. “I saw him last year in Dublin. He is a very bright guy but seems quite unassuming. He is quick witted and funny; I don’t know where he gets his ideas but it’s a joy to watch him work an audience. An hour in a lift would fly by, though I’m not sure he would chose to be stuck in a lift with me.”
Raimbach says the firm has been successful in attracting new partners recently and puts this down to its inclusive and non-political management structure and profit margins that are the envy of many larger firms.
IT Systems: Lawsoft