Financial software disappoints

Law firms say their "back office computers", which deal with accounts and information analysis, are not doing the job.

A survey of just under firms each with an average of 95 fee earners, that was carried out by Deloitte & Touche for the The Lawyer, has uncovered widespread dissatisfaction. Many firms complained that computer packages fail to provide the information they need.

While firms appear happy with the combination of PCs and Microsoft programmes that comprise their front office systems, the so-called back room computers, which analyse information about the firm's performance, are failing to live up to expectations.

"There's a huge discrepancy between what is needed and what is out there," said Gary Simon, a partner in Deloitte's management advisory services.

"I think you can say finance directors do not have what they need to do the job.

"You are seeing firms working with really old tools and not being able to provide the major information they need. The packages haven't kept pace."

And he warned that a "wait and see" approach to changing technology would be the "kiss of death".

"In the last eight to 10 years, all the spending has gone into the front office. Firms have neglected the back office, but in a more competitive legal environment you have to know what is going on."

He said firms would have to be more selective when choosing computer packages. He added that this meant taking an interest in IT developments and being prepared to make a substantial investment to get back room systems up to date.