THE FIRST non-lawyer to be appointed to the top job at a big City law firm will take the helm of Simmons & Simmons in January next year.

Alan Morris, the firm's finance director, was elected by the Simmons & Simmons partnership after the election was widened for the first time to include directors rather than just partners.

Simmons & Simmons marketing director Anne Marie Stebbings said the move marked a sea-change in the way law firms were managing themselves.

She said: “Lawyers who become partners are always very good technically, but are they the best people to manage a business? Not always.”

Stebbings added that Morris was seen as the best person for the job because he had been very heavily involved in developing business and strategic planning as finance director since 1992, and before that, as deputy head of finance, from 1988.

Morris has an LLM and a Cambridge University history and law MA. He qualified as a chartered management accountant with Tate & Lyle in 1981. He will succeed managing partner Alasdair Neil, whose current term of office has been extended until 31 December.