Linklaters takes NeXT step in IT

Linda Tsang reports

City firm Linklaters & Paines is in the process of rolling out a £15 million IT project which, it believes, will put it level with or even ahead of many of its clients.

The controversial system is intended to give all the firm's lawyers, both in its international offices and at client sites, 24 hours a day, seven days a week access to document management, email and expert systems facilities.

Andrew Taylor, head of information systems strategy at Linklaters, claims the system is radical in using tomorrow's technology today.

It is based on the NeXT object oriented operating system, created by founder of the Apple system Steve Job, and when fully operational at the end of the year it will be one of the largest NeXT systems in the world.

Systems consultants Openvision, which is advising Linklaters on the security of the project, is involved in the management issues of the installation and exploring the potential of the Internet for the firm.

Linklaters hopes the new project, which has suffered setbacks including NeXT ceasing to provide hardware, will be a deciding factor in business negotiation.

Taylor, who is the architect of the installation, said: "Lawyers are traditionally sceptical of information technology, but we have found they are captivated by new toys such as laptop PCs, Windows applications and the Internet. It's the worst scenario."

Martin Telfer, head of IT at City firm Masons, said: "The system being planned by Linklaters is unique in that it has all the technology under one roof.

"Most IT directors want that luxury, but unless IT is at the core of the firm's business the benefits are not worth the cost."