Manchester-based DWF has had the explicit aim of becoming a UK top 30 firm and 2011-12 saw it achieve that goal.

The year 2012 was a fast 12 months for DWF, a national law firm with big aspirations. Three mergers complete and a near miss on a fourth all in support of the firm’s current stated mission – become a top 20 firm. DWF, under the current leadership, has changed gear to a pace that is near incomparable in the legal sector.

 Changes in regulation have been the catalyst to this shift in landscape with some business failures and many more firms merging to survive or, in the case of DWF, build a new position in the first division of legal services.

The rapid rise through the league table brings challenges for the business on a number of levels which are at least; operational maturity, harmonisation with the newly merged businesses and, importantly, building out new innovative ways of delivering legal services. DWF is entrepreneurially led, the continual quest for unique ways of distinguishing the business from others in the field goes on despite the increasing scale of the business.

Hodkinson wrote for CIO UK about the opportunities social technologies such as Yammer offer his organisation.  It was Hodkinson's rapid results from enterprise social tools and desire to use wider business tools than those best known to the legal sector that impressed the CIO 100 panel.

His collaborative nature and innovative strategy was widely applauded, especially within the "special nature" of the professional services sector, as Ade McCormack indicated.

IT leader: Richard Hodkinson, CTO.

In role since: March 2011.

Reporting line: CEO.

How often does the CIO meet with the CEO: Monthly.

Board level seat: Yes.

IT budget: £8 million, 4% of turnover.

IT estate and or number of log on accounts under the control of the IT leader: 2500 users.

Level of the workforce that relies on technology to carry out their tasks: 100%.

IT staff currently employed: 83.

Split between in-house/outsourced staff: Variable.

IT management team and reporting structure: Head of Facilities, Head of IT Operations, Head of Apps & Development, Head of Programme, Head of Knowledge.

Primary technology platforms at the organisation: Autonomy iManage, Thomson Reuters 3e, Lexis Nexis Visuafiles.

Primary technology suppliers: Autonomy, Thomson Reuters, Lexis Nexis, DELL, CISCO, NetApp, Virgin, BT, Canon.

Significant strategic technology deals struck in the last 12 months: Canon Managed Print, Logicalis hosted HD Video, PROACT Storage as a Service.

Percentage of your applications/infrastructure run from the cloud: 10%.

Major technology or transformation project recently completed and how did it transform operations, customer experience or the organisation: Logicalis HD video service - a hosted solution means we reduced the need for focused skills around the VC arena. The service is greatly enhanced, quality of the calls better and there’s an ability to bridge to clients. It works, it’s easy to use and adoption is high.

Did the above project reach its cost, timing and transformation objective: Yes.

Business transformation programme – beyond technology – that the CIO owns or is a major contributor to: New Business Intake – NBI. A project to centralise across the UK, all client and matter creations which drives efficiency, cost containment, high quality data capture but above all, a higher bar in compliance.

Strategic aim of the CIO and IT operation for the next financial year: Improve innovation and speed to market becoming different to other top 20 law firms, break from sector specific and restrictive products moving to enterprise class solutions but those that deliver high adoption, move the IT team to value adders rather that lights on – richer mix of outsourcing and as a result – get close to the business.

Strategy in the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and how social networking is impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation: Positively and will increasing move from gadget to business tool

Strategy for dealing with shadow IT and BYOD including influence and engagement with executives, to place the right controls around employee choice: Still maturing although all IT expense is now driven through the IT cost centre. We release information as to the costs of operation to educate the business and inform behaviour.

Technologies being considered to enable transformation: Cloud solutions and development platforms, mobile payment, collaborative tools extending to clients, e-billing and all online opportunities.

Transformational inspiration sources: Outside the business.