Liverpool and Birmingham-based insurance litigation specialist Weightmans has hired Professor Martin Read as its first chief executive.

Management specialist Read, formerly a managing partner at Leeds firm Read Hind Stewart, joined Weightmans from Central Law Training where he was chief executive to the management division.

The 33-partner firm, which has experienced rapid growth, wanted to appoint an outside chief executive to co-ordinate strategic and operational matters between the two offices rather than requiring one of its partners to give up their fee earning duties.

Partner Michael Ball said that hiring Read as a salaried executive fits in well with his and the firm's aspirations.

“I think that someone with his reputation wants to seek out the new challenge of turning a mid-sized firm that has the potential into something bigger and better,” he explained.

“We are looking to expand this year, taking on new partners, lawyers and perhaps opening some more offices; having Professor Read gives us a keen competitive edge.”

Linda Packard, head of legal consulting at management consultants Grant Thornton, said that the jury was still out on chief executives. “It is unusual for a mid-sized firm but it is part of an increasing trend as it seems to filter down from the top end. A lot of firms tried it a few years ago but it has fallen out of favour a little.”