The Lawyer Management: Neil Sherlock

Neil Sherlock is the chief financial officer (CFO) of Cayman Islands based offshore law firm Walkers.

How has your role changed during your time at the firm?

My previous role was as CFO for an international investment bank. This meant that my first year or so was spent familiarising myself with the business of law and the management and governance of private partnerships, which are radically different from those of a regulated publicly quoted investment bank.

My role comprises of three main elements. I provide informational support and counsel to our firm’s management committee which can be used to shape the strategic direction of the firm as well as overseeing improvements to our technology base and leveraging from our infrastructure.

What’s in your in-tray?

Right now it’s multiple project management meetings where I act as project sponsor, half-year presentations to our management committee and partners, preparations for next year’s budgeting and financial planning process and digesting the proposed changes to the taxation of UK partnerships.

What have been the key ways in which you have improved the efficiency of the firm?

We have invested in enhanced technology developments in our space to deliver improvements in automation, centralised workflow and the implementation of individual real-time online dashboards for all fee earners and senior management.

Do you think offshore firms are, generally, putting as much effort into operational efficiency as US/UK-headquartered firms?

Most offshore firms that I know see this as a big focus area and a priority particularly with the global expansion that most of the bigger players have experienced over the last five to seven years.

What problem would you most like technology to solve?

Avoidance of security checks at airports.

Who do you report to?

Our management committee and Cayman office managing partner.

What is the most important lesson your role has taught you?

People management on a global, multicultural, multi time-zone basis will remain the most challenging and rewarding part of my role. No matter how many books or courses you attend, the only real way to succeed in this area is to experience it and deal with it for real.

What’s your favourite part of the day?

That one-hour window when it appears that all of our global offices are either not officially open or closed and when there is a chance to catch up. Good in theory of course.

What was the most pressing item you faced on the operational side of the firm last year?

Moving offices.

IT systems used: Aderant Expert, Exari,  Filesite, Interaction