Tackling Something New, Again:
Kim Wismer, CIO, Ballard Spahr
By: Monica Bay
August 3, 2016
Kim Wismer is the Chief Information Officer at Ballard Spahr, based in Philadelphia. She has been with the firm for 18 years, starting as an Applications Manage, then Director of Information Services, then Chief Technology Officer—and in 2014, CIO.
The firm has 14 offices across the U.S. with 500+ lawyers addressing litigation, business and finance, real estate, intellectual property and public finance. Ballard Spahr ranks in the Am Law 200, and is fourth in nation for its percentage of women equity partners in 2015 and among the top 100 firms for Pro Bono (The American Lawyer).
In 1986, Wismer started her technology career as a computer programmer for a government contracting company in Pennsylvania. "I moved on from programming because there was not enough interaction with people," she recalled. "I took a risk and moved to North Jersey to do something I had never done, technical training for Fortune 100 companies, such as Bell Laboratories, AT&T and PSE&G."
"Once I mastered that, I tackled something new yet again—managing networks for both corporations and law firms. But that type of work, although extremely challenging, once again removed me from interactions with people, so I tried my hand at installing and supporting applications. With my diverse background, I moved into a management role in 2000, which eventually led me to my current role as CIO."
This Spring, Wismer was named 2016 CIO of the Year by ALM’s Legaltech News and The Recorder, which she considers her greatest accomplishment. "I have been extremely fortunate in my career."
What makes her tick? "One minute I am rolling up my sleeves, participating in the details of a project or to explaining a specific technology to a partner; I then switch gears just moments later to meet with firm leadership to discuss our project portfolio strategy or the strategic initiatives around information governance," she told Zach Warren, now the Editor-in-Chief of Legaltech News.
"And it's not only her work in the firm that is getting recognized," wrote Warren. "Wismer also spreads her knowledge to the community in the form of speaking on info gov and document management for industry organizations such as ARMA and ILTA, contributing op-ed articles for the CIO Review and acting as a board member on La Salle University's Computer Science Advisory Board."
Wismer’s relationship with the Payne Group kicked off in 2001, when the firm implemented the Payne Macro Suite. "We have maintained a very collaborative working relationship with Donna and her amazing team over the years."
Q: How would your colleagues describe your leadership style?
I think they would say that my leadership style is inclusive and collaborative. I am very much a team player and always solicit input and feedback from others. My style is all about building strong leadership within my team as well as supporting and encouraging my peers. They recognize that it is important to me that everyone be accountable for the success of the team.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
Every CIO could say security—Besides security it would be data quality. The firm depends on good quality, actionable data that users can access quickly to make sound business decisions. It's a struggle to ensure that data, coming in from every angle, is normalized and vetted and accessible in a timely manner.
Q: What’s on your "bucket list?"
Although I do a lot of travel for my job and have always tried to incorporate some personal travel destinations into the process, I visit mostly large cities where the people are always moving at such a fast pace. I would like to take a long, slow trip across the country and visit rural America. Diversity is what makes our country great, yet I think we have lost focus on just how that diversity drives our greatness. Spending time experiencing other perspectives of American life and culture would be an enlightening experience.
Q: Wisdom from the podium?
At a recent "TED Talk" style ILTA panel, I focused on three go-to points for becoming a successful CIO (aka leader): network, network, network. I told them to never be afraid to take (calculated) risks—and don't let an opportunity pass you by. I enjoy working with, speaking to and mentoring future leaders. I have participated in many panels, including one with my awesome friend Donna Payne. I also am on La Salle University's Computer Science Advisory Board and spend time mentoring students.
Q: What is your motto?
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." I have to remind myself of this at least once a day!
Q: What advice would you give to colleagues re: working with the PayneGroup?
If you're not already working with PayneGroup, you should be! If you are already a PayneGroup customer, invest the time to get to know them as individuals and as a team. They are a great group with great insights and experience; they are not "just another vendor."