Jacksons Nets North East legal hotline

Elizabeth Davidson reports

TEESIDE firm Jacksons – whose attempted merger with Liverpool's Weightmans and London firm Kennedys fell through last month – is co-ordinating an Internet legal hotline for 12 North East firms.

Jacksons is currently in the process of an IT overhaul which has cost the firm more than £600,000 – and which also scuppered its merger talks with Weightmans.

Weightmans decided the "logistical and economic" cost of upgrading its software and establishing IT links with Jacksons alone were too high. It also wanted to wait until it could merge with a third firm based in the South.

Now Jacksons is heading a new IT initiative of the business promotion group, the Northern Business Forum, which last year set up an intranet system – Pronet North – involving 22 firms.

Last month 12 of the firms set up a web site with hotlink connections to the firms and to Pronet North. The site gives information about the practices and their specialities and invites queries from the public.

Jacksons' IT manager Carol Byrne has the task of referring inquiries from the public to the appropriate firm, and administering the system.

Alternatively, members of the public can visit the Web site and e-mail the firm with their legal problems.

Byrne said the firms planned to expand the service to include all law firms in the North East. She added that the aim of the service was to keep business in the region and not let it drift to Leeds or London.

Those taking part include Newcastle firms Dickinson Dees, Hay & Kilner, Eversheds and Crutes.