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A head for business

Byron Connolly | May 26, 2014
Corrs Chambers Westgarth’s Jon Kenton talks about his elevation up the c-suite, how technology is transforming legal firms, and why CIOs think the way they do.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth's COO Jon Kenton
Corrs Chambers Westgarth's COO Jon Kenton

"I've always seen myself as a business person who happens to specialise in technology," says Jon Kenton, COO at Corrs Chambers Westgarth.

Unlike many in IT, Kenton was interested in the transformative power of technology in business at the beginning of his career.

"For me, it was never how powerful is that chip or how many processors can you find on that piece of silicon," he says. "My technology roles have always been business-facing; I've never been one for the infrastructure side of things - not that there's anything wrong with that - but it isn't what makes me tick."

Today, Kenton is part of legal sector undergoing massive change, driven largely by technological innovation. He describes it as a "fascinating time".

"The technology challenges for legal firms are quite profound and the rate of change is just phenomenal," he says. Technology is disrupting existing processes and providing greater efficiencies by allowing legal staff to access and share information online.

Law firms are becoming globalised and lawyers are working more intelligently using e-discovery tools that enable them to quickly scan, analyse and create data maps to find key correlations between information for litigation, compliance and internal investigations.

"Rather than processing hundreds of thousands of pages, they can use [these tools] to work out which pages are actually interesting to read. That will continue as machines get smarter and faster," Kenton says.

"Then you look at systems where you can really build your IP. For example, writing a system to a client where it [calculates] 80 to 90 per cent of what they need. We've seen these appearing and they will continue to roll out across the industry.

"The flipside is that with the use of technologies like email and instant messaging, the amount of data you have to process is so much bigger too."

Kenton clearly understands what technology can do for business but has always had a thirst to expand his skills beyond IT. While a graduate at Lloyds of London, he made the initial decision to pursue a career as a business analyst rather than infrastructure specialist.

As COO at Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Kenton is responsible for all human resources, legal support, marketing and technology functions.

He also oversees the firm's five-year strategy and change program - Corrs2015 - which aims to drive growth in targeted areas of the business, attract the best people to the firm and invest more to build technical and commercial expertise, and deliver better advice than competitors.

Kenton says a major driver of the program was the global financial crisis, which altered the business environment permanently.


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