London firm "guts' its IT infrastructure

LONDON practice Matthew Arnold & Baldwin has "gutted" and revamped its IT infrastructure at a cost of £350,000.

The 15-partner commercial law and private client firm is replacing its AIM Charter II practice management system with a Videss Legal Office practice management system, and its outdated computer processing package with Microsoft Office Suite.

The changes are being overseen by the firm's newly appointed IT manager, Kieran Larkin, who took up the post in January. Up until that time the firm relied soley on outside consultants.

A key aim of the project which is expected to be completed in June is to transfer work from secretaries to fee earners, giving greater control to fee earners and allowing secretaries to occupy a more assistant-based position.

Larkin said the firm had chosen Microsoft Office Suite, which is largely used in the corporate world, over Word Perfect, the most commonly used word processing package in the profession, because the firm wanted to "keep in step" with its corporate law clients, "not other lawyers".

He added that the firm had begun actively building its own Intranet, based around LotusNotes software and Microsoft Internet Information Server, had already installed internal and external e-mail facilities and was currently developing a Web site.

LotusNotes is also used by UK national law firm support group LawNet, of which Matthew Arnold & Baldwin is a member.

The firm is at the "brainstorming stage" of considering selling legal services such as wills and personal injury assessments via the Internet, both for its private client work and its commercial law practice.