Law Firm’s Global CIO Raises the Bar for ITBy Peter High | Posted 05-28-2015
Hogan Lovells is a global legal practice that helps corporations, financial institutions and government entities with their critical business and legal issues both globally and locally. It is among the top 10 largest law firms in the world, with more than 2,500 attorneys operating out of more than 40 offices in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and the United States.
Yet until three years ago, the firm had never had a global CIO. Mike Lucas was elevated to that role from the position of CTO, and in the process has helped drive tremendous change through better use of technology for purposes of collaboration, knowledge sharing and management, among other initiatives. Here, he describes his journey to CIO Insight contributor, Peter High.
CIO Insight: You are the first ever Global CIO of Hogan Lovells. What spurred the need to develop this role?
Mike Lucas: It started with the need for a global strategy. A natural outflow from developing that strategy was recognizing the need for a global realignment of the technology function. That work required a global leader; hence the global CIO role was born. The primary mission at the time was to streamline decision-making and unify the technology function globally.
CIO Insight: When you were named Global CIO, you needed to pull together a very diverse team that resides across multiple countries. What steps did you to take to be sure the right people were in the right roles, and ensure they were motivated to stay?
Lucas: It was most important to strive for balance in team composition, to recognize previous accomplishments, and to form a diverse team with global scope and responsibility. Reinforcing an already present focus on 'customer first' service, and establishing good IT governance were key drivers.
We place a great deal of emphasis on proper governance and transparency to the business. The next step was to permeate this approach down the organizational stack so that everyone understood and aligned with our global mission to deliver the very best service to our lawyers.
CIO Insight: Given the fact that you operate in a business that is all about people and intellectual capital, what has been your approach to collaboration and knowledge management?
Lucas: First, you are correct in saying it starts with people, then process, then technology. I think organizations sometimes get that order wrong. It's necessary to be sure to provide the right tools to our people across the enterprise so they can effectively harness the vast amount of knowledge and information we possess. Mobile applications, unified communications and remote working are three areas that come to mind to enable a collaborative workforce. Having a sound document and data classification scheme, accompanied by a robust search capability are key factors in providing agile information access.
CIO Insight: What are some of the other key pillars of your IT strategy?
Lucas: First, our strategy is completely aligned with every aspect of our business. There is no other way to develop a technology strategy. Frankly, the two were almost co-developed. There are six pillars of our strategy.
*Extend operational capabilities of IT to enable systems innovation and service efficiency
*Anticipate, influence and meet the strategic needs of the business
*Develop an enterprise content management system that enables easy access to information. Enhance systems to enable collaboration and help grow lawyer-client engagement
*Develop and promote IT as a transparent, value generating, high-functioning and forward-thinking organization. Enhance the IT culture to promote greater engagement with users
*Provide the right technology to enable the firm to meet objectives regarding working practices and diversity. Ensure that we have the right skills and the right career structures in our own team to improve job satisfaction in the technology function
*Lead technology aspects of process improvement in support of business performance objectives and superior security
Lucas: We also have a few tag lines that represent our identity as a forward-thinking technology function.
*We aim to be an essential partner to our business
*We will become a source of process harmonization and efficiency
*We must expose information in a seamless yet secure way
*We will be completely transparent in how we add value to our business
*We must remove barriers to allow information workers the freedom to operate efficiently. There are times when we are so eager to push ‘our way’ when it's more about getting out of the way. That requires letting go of old habits.
CIO Insight: How do you think about your responsibilities in managing information security in such an information-based business?
Lucas: The backdrop to all of this opportunity is the absolute requirement to protect client data. Mobility, collaboration, and data mining are all subject to proper governance, whether that is compliance, privacy or policy. A measured approach to digital disruption should therefore include:
*Data classification: where is it and are you protecting it? Classify your most sensitive data and protect it accordingly.
*Education: a major part of our due diligence is making all of our people aware of the risks, and educating and training them.
*Board Awareness and Governance: security is a board-level responsibility. Having the right professionals on staff and the right governance model is essential.
CIO Insight: You recently went through a redesign of your Washington, D.C., headquarters, providing some new tools to facilitate better collaboration. Can you talk about what steps you undertook?
Lucas: This has been a really exciting effort, and one I am very proud of, but also one that I don't wish to take too much credit for. There are a lot of people in the firm, many from my team who have worked extraordinarily hard to get our new space right. It is the ultimate in collaborative space. From open floor plans to state-of-the-art AV systems and Wi-Fi to social meeting places, the space is really a sea change from traditional law firm space. We are in the early stages of occupying a pilot (test) floor and reception has been overwhelmingly positive.
CIO Insight: You are also in an interesting position where the majority of your colleagues share a degree (a JD or its equivalent abroad) that your IT team does not have. How have you and your team been able to overcome the knowledge gap?
Lucas: One principal I have always held is that every team has a core competency. Lawyers are really good at being lawyers, and IT people are really good at IT. We are professionals with many years of experience in our field, too. I think our lawyers get that. At the same time, we have a principal among all of our IT people across the globe-that is to learn the business. My team gets the need to truly understand what our lawyers do every day and what they need in order to be uber-successful. Our service delivery to accommodate our lawyers is exceptional and a trademark of my organization.
CIO Insight: What other trends particularly excite you?
Lucas: It's all about data and information management these days. We have moved beyond table stakes and operations and are now in a position to get closer to providing customer solutions. That's a really neat place to be, to be innovative and potentially impact the top line of the business. This raises the stakes of the game for us, gets our hearts pumping a bit more.
Of course, the next trend is right around the corner. That's what I like about the field of technology, it's the polar opposite of boring.
Peter High is President of Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. His latest book, Implementing World Class IT Strategy, has just been released by Wiley Press/Jossey-Bass. He is also the author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs. Peter moderates the Forum on World Class IT podcast series. Follow him on Twitter @WorldClassIT.