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(Elizabeth Davidson ) TWO computer companies have signed a deal to mount a joint rescue plan for 25 firms which were left stranded after practice management system supplier ACE quit the solicitor's market.
Practice management system suppliers Peapod Solutions and Tech Computer Office (TCO) have not merged, but agreed earlier this month to work together to target firms with ACE systems.
Among the firms they will be targeting is six-partner City firm Hardwick & Company, which bought the ACE Infinity system just months before the company's announcement last December that it was exiting the solicitor's market.
ACE left the marketplace to focus on its more successful chambers' practice management system.
Last month The Lawyer revealed that ACE had paid Hardwick an undisclosed sum after the firm threatened it with legal action.
Other firms with ACE systems include City firm Fenners, West End firm Seddons and Bath's Thrings & Long.
TCO and Peapod say they will offer former ACE clients a cut-price deal with a bulk licence purchase, which means the switch-over will be handled for about a third of its usual cost.
TCO sales and marketing manager Geoff Morris said the two companies were suited because Peapod sold a system called Osprey to high street firms of up to 40 users, whereas TCO aimed its systems at firms in the top 500.
Morris said his company had an insight into the needs of ACE users, since both he and legal systems consultant Jane Morris were former ACE employees.
Of the original 25 ACE users, practice management system supplier Axxia Systems has already signed two firms and TCO has signed another two users independently.
In addition, Solicitec and Solicitors Own Software (SOS) have together installed systems at Cardiff firm Dolmans and London's Kershaws, in addition to signing a third firm.
SOS sales director David McNamara said the company decided to integrate its system with Solicitec five years ago because Solicitec produced a case management system and SOS produced an accounting system.
ACE officially ceased supporting firms on 1 April, due to "slow uptake of sales".
The company has offered firms a further six months unofficial support and it says it may offer support beyond that in "extenuating circumstances".
Legal software suppliers predict a trend of computer companies either exiting the already crowded legal marketplace or alternatively joining forces with each other to increase their market share.
TCO's Morris said: "What we have done will be the way ahead for many companies in what is a busy market."