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Elizabeth Davidson reports from the Northern Legal Office Exhibition, where a host of IT suppliers showcased new wares.
Software supplier Axxia Systems last week launched a web-based system which uses e-mail connections to give clients direct access to files kept on their case.
The launch was one of many at the Lawyer-sponsored Northern Legal Office Exhibition (Nolex) - the North's only legal technology exhibition - which was held at Manchester's G-Mex Centre last week.
The system, known as Axxia Advantage, can be used on any Internet site and uses in-built firewalls, passwords and encryption processes to protect information.
Axxia sales director Bill Kirby said: "This system will allow clients to check the progress of their cases without having to ask the lawyer first - although the lawyer controls what information the client has access to and can choose the format in which it is presented."
Kirby said the main benefit of the system was convenience, pointing out that it would be particularly useful for insurance companies wanting to check the progress of personal injury cases, since it would allow them to gauge risk assessment.
Axxia was one of 90 exhibitors taking part in the biggest Nolex exhibition ever staged. The event notched up a record attendance of 1,500 visitors last week and featured the launch of IT systems designed by lawyers, the latest Internet technology and software, document management systems and a special zone of 20 expert witnesses.
Gateshead criminal solicitor Mark Reeves, a partner at Halliday Reeves, used the show to promote his new software product, an updated version of the Microsoft-based legal aid accounts system, Crimetime 2.
The updated version of Crimetime was developed to handle the new Legal Aid Board rule that solicitors produce their own legal aid forms.
Reeves claimed that his product covered legal aid green form advice and assistance work on everything from murders to shoplifting and would bolster firms' applications for legal aid franchises.
Franklins, a five-partner high street firm in Northampton, also launched a new IT system which incorporates case management, time recording, practice management and office management functions.
Franklins IT manager Mark Hemmings said seven firms had already bought the product, which does not yet have a name. It was developed in association with computer specialists Pericom IT Services.
Hemmings said: "This is software written for solicitors by solicitors." He said the firm developed its system after helping software companies in the creation of other systems for lawyers.
Competition among the 20 expert witness firms was intense. Many of the firms sold heavily on speed of work.
The Manchester-based firm of engineering expert witnesses, Strange Strange & Gardner, has nine UK offices.
Its managing partner David Nichols, claimed Strange's engineers provided a service which usually took only four weeks from the initial instruction to the production of the final report.
Meanwhile, Sheffield-based web site designer Webtechnik displayed its Internet register of expert witnesses across the country, which can be found at http://www.greatbritain.co.uk/experts. The company has designed web sites for a large number of law firms, including four-partner Sheffield outfit The Law Partnership.
Office materials supplier the OyezStraker Group, which acquired information management supplier Legal Technologies in August, was among several general office technology suppliers exhibiting, due to high demand from the legal market.
Legal Technologies provides document management and litigation support such as image scanning and coding to several large firms, multinational corporations and government organisations.
The show also played host to international photocopying and scanning service UDO, which decided to attend Nolex because it has so many law firm clients.
UDO sales representative Jan Falconer-Poppleton said the company had offices across Europe, which meant documents could be delivered by e-mail or ISDN.