The Lawyer Management: Morgan Cole
9 April 2012 | By Matt Byrne
Jeff Wright, partner responsible for information and technology
Jeff Wright is a partner and one of the Morgan Cole management team. He is also responsible for IT services, e-business and knowledge management, and since 2004 has been information and technology director.
Describe your role:
The delivery of IT, information and facilities services to the firm, including any services provided to clients under those banners. It also includes managing the premises and dealing with our landlords and tenants.
What have been the key ways in which you have improved the efficiency of your firm?
I haven’t made any efficiency improvements personally, but my IT and facilities teams are always engaged in projects that focus on making us more efficient and profitable. All of those projects also have involvement from our practice areas and/or other support functions so it would be wrong to claim sole credit. My own transition, from being a full-time fee-earning lawyer to a non-income-generating partner, was originally via projects to automate processes and document production in some of our volume business areas; since then we’ve done everything from case management to digital dictation. There has been work on supplier consolidation and outsourcing to get efficiency savings too.
My highlight would be our recent rollout of Matter Centre to the defendant personal injury lawyers in our insurance practice area; that has been a huge collaboration between our business analysts, IT, finance and insurance teams and required the harmonisation of processes and precedent documentation immediately following a merger.
What are the primary ways in which you source various suppliers to the business?
We do most supplier-sourcing ourselves or with the assistance of those organisations with which we have managed service or outsourcing contracts in place. Doing the right due diligence is crucial, as is having an awareness of which suppliers are relevant to our business. It’s important to have access to good networks - such as Litig and BCS on the technology front - so you can share knowledge and avoid closing yourself off to possibilities internally or within the legal industry sector.
What’s currently in your in-tray?
How many column inches have I got? Major IT items include a project to integrate our systems directly with those of a client, and making sure Matter Centre is rolled out to the rest of the business to assist with risk management and quality assurance. Elsewhere, I’m working hard to balance our premises requirements against some dynamic and difficult- to-anticipate growth following recent tender successes.
What arethe most significant external issues that currently have an impact on your role?
On the IT front, law firms have spent a lot of time and money stitching together ’best-of-breed systems’, all doing similar things in different ways. This is incompatible with the need to be able to respond quickly to the opportunities for change in the profession presented by the Legal Services Act. It requires a move away from that approach and a move towards more ’vanilla’ type systems and functionality. That means significant change in culture and compromise from lawyers and legal IT.
On the facilities and premises front, there is always a tension
between making sure that you have the right quality and amount of space for your business and ensuring the firm is operating healthily.
What impact, if any, are the structural changes to the UK legal market having on your firm and your role?
I don’t think we’re any different from any other of the mid-sized regional full-service law firms in the UK. Volume business requires size and constant investment to improve efficiency through technology (and other means), along with the ability to scale down and up as work levels fluctuate, without a reduction in quality. Non-volume areas require investment in people and in technology. Both need to have excellent client service at their core. We now have more options available to meet those requirements and we shouldn’t be shy about using them.
How many people do you have in your core team and who are they?
My direct reports consist of my senior facilities manager, projects manager, IT operations manager and our departmental administrator. There are also 19 in IT and 27 in facilities.
What’s the most important lesson your role has taught you?
You should never be too ignorant to know when you need help from other people or proud to seek it.