Novell launches rival office suite in bid to capture legal market

Fennell Betson reports

In reply to Microsoft's attack on the legal marketplace, Novell UK has introduced PerfectOffice Legal Suite. This is a version of its PerfectOffice 3.0 package recently launched for the general business market.

The software group has joined with Laserform to provide its legal forms package and includes access to Link, the legal information network.

Novell says that with an estimated 70 per cent of UK practices using its software, this shows its commitment to advancing the use of IT in the legal market.

But Steven Brown of Novell comments: "We are not going to develop applications for vertical markets ourselves."

The legal package is offered in standard and professional versions. The standard package includes WordPerfect 6.1, the Quattro Pro spreadsheet, presentations and electronic communications packages. The professional version includes a relational database, plus a visual programming tool.

For current users of Novell products, the standard office package costs u248, and the professional version u348, a discount of u30 until the end of April off the "suggested prices" for other purchasers.

The Laserform package consists of 150 commonly used legal forms, which will be updated for one year. But there is a u95 charge per practice payable to the Law Society for use of its forms within the package. There are no charges to access Link.

Novell claims that since it arrived on the UK market, PerfectOffice has had a "strong impact on suite sales". "We are already outselling Lotus SmartSuite in many outlets putting us well on track to achieve our goal of second place in suite sales by summer 1995," says a Novell spokesperson.

Microsoft Office is the number one suite and its legal version appeared recently. Legal IT consultants have welcomed the arrival of the package.

At the David Andrews Partnership, Andrew Levison says: "With 70 per cent of the legal market using WordPerfect for word processing, Novell needed to do something to hold onto its client base." As firms change to Windows, a growing number are moving to Microsoft Word. But it is not so straightforward to convert existing WordPerfect files to Word as to the latest version of WordPerfect, he says.

Independent consultant Neil Cameron says it is good to see two of the world's leading software groups committing themselves to the legal market.