Programme pilots integrated computer systems for law firms

The Coolfin Partnership, the manufacturer of an integrated computer and telecommunications system, is looking for law firms prepared to take part in a pilot programme.

The Pan-European Legal Telematics Programme, which was announced in September after three years of research, aims to build common standards for integrating computer and telecommunications services in the legal profession

Gavin Maxwell, the project co-ordinator said: “Many of the firms analysed during the study expressed dissatisfaction with existing legal technology suppliers, mainly because of cost or the restrictive nature of supply and support agreements, all of which severely reduce the opportunity to change or upgrade installed systems.”

Since its launch the programme has evaluated a wide range of hardware and software suppliers to meet a strict open systems criteria. Suppliers to the programme include Kolvox, MIcrosoft, IBM, Admiral, Apricot and Microtouch.

Legal Telematics is now ready to implement selected software in a Telematics workstation and test it out in various pilot sites.

Approximately 25 sites will be selected in three European regions. The selection criteria will not be limited to large City firms as the study has revealed that small practices face just as many problems integrating IT and telecommunications as their larger counterparts.

However, Stuart Holden, director of Axxia Systems, is critical of any attempt to standardise legal technology: “Standardisation would take away the competitive advantages that firms gain from their technology,” he said.

“At the moment the definition of 'open' is geared by who is selling the most. By putting something else on top of that competition would be stifled. The Coolfin Partnership's concept is indicative of what 'European' values bring.”

Neil Cameron, co-chair of the Society for Computers and Law, said: “I would welcome any initiative for greater collaboration between different IT suppliers and for law firms to integrate systems, but at the moment it is difficult to understand exactly what the project is all about.

“The list of intended suppliers in this programme is idiosyncratic – some of them have no history of supply to the legal market. I wait with interest to see what the results of the pilot projects are.”