NEC ’99: Emerging Trends

June 30, 1999

David Riggall is Principal Consultant with R & B Associates,independent IT advisers based in York. He may be contacted at

Spring was in the air at the National Legal Office & Legal ServicesExhibition at the NEC in March. Three of the top five suppliers were missing,although all five Law Society software solutions for smaller firms supplierswere there.

The continuing trend towards total systems and/or complementary marketingrelationships was evident, eg Amicus Attorney being jointly exhibited withSolace. Avenue Legal Systems seemed to be one of the first out of the trap witha case management model to adopt the Woolf reforms. Cognito, like most of thefirms present, were showing off their latest Windows 32-bit version, as well asCustodiens, their system designed to automate the production of Trust &Estate accounts.

Corel UK were previewing WordPerfect Office 2000 (due June 1999), whichincludes Web-enabled publishing as well as word processing, spreadsheets anddatabase packages and compatibility with previous versions of WordPerfect.Franklins Walker’s Epitome OMS, which is a generic document and casemanagement system based on Microsoft Office 97, was being demonstrated andpromoted, together with Legato’s Paragon 32-bit accounts system, by PericomPlc, a complementary networking, hardware and software solutions provider.

The central area of the exhibition also featured Lexology, another relativelynew kid on the block, and DPS (authored by MCS). Linetime, whose chairman JohnBurrill is this year’s chairman of the Legal Software Suppliers Association,were demonstrating their long-awaited Billing Wizard, whilst MSS were showingtheir newly announced Euro compliant AlphaLAW-esprit product. OyezStraker’slegal and professional division featured a number of offerings, not least ofwhich is their range of electronic forms, which now include new and amendedcivil procedure forms. Pracctice and Quill, both also software solutions forsmaller firms suppliers, featured their new 32-bit system offerings, ie OspreyPMS & Quillennium respectively, again with Amicus Attorney.

In addition to those already listed there were still more specialist ITsuppliers keen to promote their latest products and services, includingSanderson Systems, with Galaxy (Legal Mind, recently acquired, and beingintegrated with QNIX case management ) and Solicitec and SOS ( the fifthsoftware solutions for smaller firms supplier ) who both continue to work inclose harmony. Many or most systems on offer are now deployed with NT serverrather than UNIX or Novell and again most use Windows 95/98 for client services,although some are now proposing NT client as the preferred user operatingplatform.

The stimuli for the trends are principally:

  • the pressures of increased competition amongst suppliers
  • technical developments in IT
  • the evolving demands of the profession
  • changes in the economy in general.

These will no doubt continue to drive and emphasise the growing importance totoday’s firms of solicitors of the successful application of the ‘best ofbreed’ IT systems. Future influences and development in computers andcommunications will predictably include: the direct integration of telephonywithin computer applications, eg caller identification processing and autodialling, and the use of Internet, intranet and extranet technologies.