Law firms cannot function without intelligent, reliable technology systems.
We’ve talked about this before, whether it’s within the context of strategic consulting, backup and disaster recovery, or just plain outsourcing IT. Firms must be up and running at all times, and cannot lose (or lose track of) any data whatsoever. That’s just the way it is.
This, by extension, means that law firms in particular would benefit from executive-level, strategic oversight of their technology systems as a whole. While many firms—typically on the smaller side—will do well with outsourcing, maintaining an internal team, or some combination of both, larger firms often have a very acute need for a CIO to keep their IT aligned with their overall trajectory.
Once your firm has decided that you’re in need of a CIO’s particular skillset, the question that follows is often what bringing this type of person in will cost you. This question has a complex answer, but we’ll do our best to break it down into more digestible pieces.
Below we’ll work through a list of both the direct costs, as well as the opportunity costs that you need to consider when it comes to bringing in a CIO for your firm.
What costs to expect when hiring your firms’s CIO
Here are the main elements that combine to form your overall investment:
1. The time it takes to formulate the position.
What exactly is this person going to do on a day-to-day basis? What kind of budget are you going to commit to them so that they’re able to accomplish these things? If you’ve had a CIO before, why are you changing? (Did they leave? Why? Did you fire them? Why?)
Figuring out this position will require extensive planning time on the part of your leadership, and possibly some restructuring within your firm. And time, as they say, is money.
2. The cost of head-hunting.
You can expect to invest 20-25% of this person’s first-year salary in actually finding them. This is no Monster.com-type candidate search—in order to find the level of professional that you need to fill this role (with the appropriate business acumen and experience in the legal sector), you really need to use a search firm.
Not only that, but it will likely take 3-5 months to locate the right person. During this period you’ll have to invest more of your firm’s time in writing the job description, holding interviews, coordinating with your search firm, and so forth.
3. The cost of any interim help.
As we mentioned, the hiring stage will take about 3-5 months. On top of this, your CIO is going to need time to dig their teeth into your situation after you bring them on board. This can be another 2-4 months where your CIO is unable to focus their attention on solving the problems you hired them to address.
The question is this: Are these problems negatively impacting your firm to the point where you’ll need an interim resource to help you work through it while you progress through the hiring process?
We, for example, are currently filling this very role for a global organization whose recent acquisitions left them with disparate, mismatched systems. Though they were actively searching for a CIO, the technology conflict was so disruptive that they engaged us to help assess their overall state and begin mapping next steps. Now that this person has been hired, we are facilitating throughout the ramp-up period.
This level of consulting will run your firm between $250 and $350 per hour on average.
4. The person’s salary.
This is the obvious one. According to PayScale metrics, a CIO for a 75-attorney (150-person) law firm in the DC Metro area will cost you, at minimum, $200,000 in salary. In fact, this a pretty standard trend across the country; while the size of your firm will impact your CIO’s salary, your geographical location won’t.
Clearly, bringing a CIO on board is no small feat. Not only is your financial investment going to be hefty, but the investment of your time and energy is going to be just as high.
But here’s the kicker: if your firm really is in a place where the complexity of and dependence on your systems has you questioning the need for a CIO, the cost of not bringing in the right person to oversee your systems can be much, much higher.
Consider what an inadequate or poorly-designed DMS would do to your operations. Or, imagine what would happen if a server crashed, and you didn’t have a proper business continuity plan in place. Or if your remote access strategy was cobbled together without sufficient security considerations.
You can see where we’re going with this—while it’s critical to take the time to consider all possible alternatives* before you commit to hiring a CIO, don’t be so intimidated by the price tag that your firm ends up suffering in a big way.
Remember: with the proper marriage between your technology and your business objectives, your IT will be transformed from a tool into a truly powerful catalyst.
And that might just be creeping up on “priceless.”
*Here’s an excellent book on the subject of expanding your decision matrix in the workplace.