Simmons & Simmons poised to pick network

Top ten firm Simmons & Simmons is negotiating with several IT suppliers, including Wang, as part of its new networking strategy.

Wang is just one of a number of IT suppliers hoping to provide the firm's new system, which is part of a five-year IT plan. The winners of the system bid will be announced in the next few weeks.

The firm is upgrading to a PC network from an old Wang VS-based system, linked to overseas offices and direct to clients. It is one of the last of the top firms to ditch the old Wang VS.

Simmons is planning a complete technology overhaul and has set up project groups running local area networks (LANs) in its tax and litigation departments.

Simmons' IT head Malcolm Cameron says the decision to review its strategy was partly due to changes in Wang UK's US-based parent company. "It was nothing to do with Wang and Chapter 11, but it did help focus people's minds," he says.

The plan is to run word processing (the firm has opted for WordPerfect rather than Word for Windows) across Unix servers and Netware fileservers. The firm will also be using Softsolutions document management products.

"We have gone out to tender to a number of companies, Wang being one of those. Clearly, Wang still has to gain some credibility," he says, adding that contracts are still to be finalised. The firm is also keen to put as many PCs on desks as possible and is involved in a consultation exercise to ascertain users' needs.

The fact that Wang is being considered for the contract is an indication of how things have changed since the US parent company went into Chapter 11 and the legal IT market moved away from proprietary systems.

The company has been making valiant efforts to re-enter the market with a host of new products and an alliance with UK system supplier Dart.

Simmons & Simmons has already signed contracts with Edinburgh-based HG Usher & Co, to produce a document management system for the litigation department.

Usher systems consultant, John Gailey, says the system was installed after a six-week trial. "We didn't have to do anything special to link up with the network," he says. "It can co-exist quite happily."