Law may be a stuffy world for some, but at DWF 'closet entrepreneur' Richard Hopkinson is as big a fan of disruptive technology as any Silicon Roundabout startup. He has launched a programme to unpick 20 years of legal process and find ways to streamline volume litigation, a client-accessible extranet to prevent 'bill shock', and a cloud offensive to give on-the-move lawyers a productivity portal without the technical learning curve.

When did you start your current role?

What is your reporting line?

Do you meet with and discuss business strategy with the CEO every week?
As required and through the executive board.

Are you a member of the board of directors?

What other executive boards do you sit on?
Practice group heads, divisional CEOs, finance, HR, compliance.

Does your organisation have a CDO?

What different responsibilities does the CDO have?  
In law I would want a CDO to be focused on client engagement technology, joining web and extranet solutions with mobile apps to create a fully connected purposeful client service.

What non-technology responsibilities do you have in the organisation?
Operational change, facilities (premises, post, etc) and knowledge services.

How many employees does your organisation have?

Does your organisation carry out significant trade in the EU?

What number of users does your department supply services to?

How do you ensure that you have a good understanding of your business and how your customers use your business's products?
75% of my time is spent out of the departments and in the business or out of the business, meeting practitioners (woes and opportunities), clients and vendors. Rightly so, business and operational strategy along with effective evangelising is the role.

DWF technology strategy and agenda

Is your organisation being disrupted by the internet, mobility or technology-oriented start-ups?

Are you empowered by your organisation to disrupt from the inside?

Describe a disruptive measure you’ve led or played a major part in
Two exercises small and large that are notable are our Darwin programme and our extranet.

Darwin is a programme of work to unpick 20+ years of legal process and radically review it. Margins are getting weaker in law and we need to move, in parts of the business, to an 'easylaw' type model. The upside for the business is a £5m GM improvement.

A simpler example of disruption is the current build of an extranet service that will give clients live access to the time entries that ultimately convert to a bill. It will allow the client to control what is paid and when, and the client can put caps on lawyers running up unexpected bills, thus avoiding bill shock and offering the client more control.

What major transformation project has been recently completed or is under way at your organisation?
The aforementioned Darwin, which focuses on margin protection and 'what the customer wants'. Although we have some aspects of lean Six Sigma being applied to a non-manufacturing sector, some aspects of volume litigation lends itself to this type of thinking. The Darwin scheme is a fully fledged people process and technology event with board sponsorship.

In law, aside from reputation, service is a defining feature. I am proposing to create a separate vehicle, 'skunkworks' focused on the development of client-facing services. I can't say much more at this stage.

What impact will the above transformation have on your organisation?
• Margin preservation  simpler operations with fewer moving parts
• Absolute client delight – attraction and retention strategies

How has your leadership style contributed to the outcomes of the transformation project?
Like most CIO/CTOs, I get to see every dark corner of the business, have an inquisitive mind and am generally wired well for finding solutions to problems. The solutions invariably involve many other disciplines and so, like others, I need a high level of emotional intelligence and a collaborative nature, and can take an holistic but pragmatic view of the problem and the possible solutions. Allied to that is the ability to use each point of inflection as an opportunity to do something different and innovative. The CEO and I are closet entrepreneurs, so new methods are easy to find and welcome and are supported.

What key technologies do you consider enable transformation?
In law, artificial intelligence and low-grade robotics are different approaches to some of the volume legal work. Aside from that, other initiatives on the map are to make a break from the large quantities of mediocre legal-specific systems to other single-entity cloud solutions. It sounds obvious but in legal would be truly transformational for the fee earners. Cloud is big for DWF because we have many lawyers on the move needing to be productive without technical complication – we offer our lawyers loans for garden offices.

Are you increasing the number of cloud applications or infrastructure in use at your organisation?

What is your information and data analytics vision for the organisation?
DWF has already made a substantial investment in a BI tool (Qlikview) that has transformed the production speed and effort, and has brought some of the key operational metrics closer to the consumer  the lawyer in our case. Overall, a data strategy now needs urgent attention, hence the need to dispense with three tier-one solutions in favour of a single cloud document and workflow engine. Data quality, integrity and maintenance will create business issues if not addressed in 2015/16.

How is mobile and social networking impacting operations and customer experience?
Again, law and particularly the mix that DWF provides (we have very little private client business) lends itself to simple transactions over a sustained period. Most people avoid lawyers and it's generally a stress purchase. However, DWF has two strands of activity around mobile for which we have around 1,000 devices in the field: productivity tools for the lawyers (time recording, document management, CRM, expenses, etc) and thought leadership. A product exemplifying DWF thought leadership capability to clients is to be launched before March 2015 to ioS initially. Additionally, the new extranet services launching will have business sector news and other focused insights for the client. There are many more possibilities but in professional services, you need to think differently – we aren't selling fridges.

Describe your strategic vision towards shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives and employees around choice?
Some 75% of the role is away from the team. Apart from keeping people informed and canvassing opinion, it's about creating relationships. I feel strongly if you are a known entity, approachable and generally accommodating, the spectre of shadow IT diminishes.

As far as a vision goes, in a heavily regulated sector some disciplines and controls need to be inflicted and preserved, so there is little tolerance for shadow IT and the budget regime partially controls this. Apart from being a personality around the business, another counter-measure is to involve the partners in decision-making for new systems; naturally this flows through to high adoption levels. We operate a successful BYOD policy and have done since 2011.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom?
Many but a few notable ones are Logicalis for hosted HD VC services, Canon UK for print and scanning services, Intapp for time recording and new matter/client inception and automated conflict checking.

Who are your main suppliers?
Thomson Reuters, Lexis Nexis and Microsoft.

DWF IT security and budget

Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?

Has cyber-security risen up your management agenda?

Does your organisation understand the potential cyber-security threats it faces?

Has this led to an increase in your security budget?

What is the IT budget?

How much is the IT operational spend compared to the revenue as a percentage?

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
Having merged six times in 24 months and achieved a position of stability in 2014, 2105 is about moving the business on – to be different in legal services and not look like a 'me too' in the top 20 firms. We need to simplify the application mix, make more use of the cloud to lower costs, and have a dedicated function for client innovation.

Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?

Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?

Are you looking for recruits in the EU to fill the skills shortage you have?

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?

DWF technology department

How would you describe your leadership style?
Collaborative and informative. Keep everyone involved and valued. Clear directional intent helps people focus.

Explain how you’ve supported and developed your senior leadership team to support your overall objectives and vision
We use a series of internal coaching sessions as well as some externally facilitated. 360 feedback is used frequently among senior managers. Our daily performance management regime includes a cloud-based objective tool that keeps the operational focus. Mentoring with board members is also available and promoted for those in the SMT.

How many employees are in your IT team?

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?

Does your team include key skilled workers from the EU?