A&O watchdog to probe client business processes

Allen & Overy (A&O) has put organic business improvement at the centre of its strategy as it looks to improve profitability and efficiency in what it sees as a low-growth era for legal services.

Wim Dejonghe
Wim Dejonghe

The firm has set up a four-person internal watchdog, headed by former New York chief operating officer (COO) Gill Smith, which has been tasked with looking at every aspect of the business. This includes HR, IT and risk, but has a particular focus on client-related issues.

It will report to the board at the end of this month with a set of proposals.

Managing partner Wim Dejonghe said the intention was to move away from a broad-brush approach to cost-cutting in favour of more forensic analysis.

Dejonghe said: “Management of law firms used to be about dealing with the growth of capacity. Those days are over, but we believe that to remain competitive we have to improve all business processes for efficiency. There’s always a balance to be struck between not being disruptive to the business and making sure the ­business evolves. This cuts across all areas. We want it to be a priority at director level.”

Smith, who trained as an accountant, was formerly COO of the firm’s corporate ­practice prior to her stint in New York.