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Six Scottish law firms worked with IT supplier CB Business Systems to launch a new specialist software package for the profession.
For the past 18 months the group of firms, called the 'inner sanctum', has collaborated with CB in the development of the Signet 2000 package.
This is the first time a computer company has created a system in conjunction with its users in this way, claims Jim McGinty, managing director of CBBS, which vies with Ushers for pole position in the Scottish legal marketplace.
"Two years ago, we decided to approach our most progressive legal clients to get their ideas as to what they wanted from their computer systems," he says. This involved meeting each month with people from the firms and finding out their needs. "It required them signing non-disclosure documents about developments being considered by some major IT groups," says McGinty.
Fraser Jackson, name partner in Edinburgh firm Henderson Boyd Jackson, says: "We participated in the CB initiative to work with others to identify ways in which the CB system we were using could be improved." The exercise was worthwhile as the resulting system was open. "We need a system that is flexible to our changing needs."
John Clarke, a partner in Cupar-based Pagan Osborne, who is chair of the Society of Computers & Law in Scotland, says: "We were very positive about joining as it gave us a chance to influence the software to our needs.
"The software house was prepared to discuss their ideas and to have them criticised."
The resulting system is a Windows-based modular system developed from the earlier Signet package.
It covers the main practice areas and includes: debt recovery, an investment management suite, case management, legal aid work, a trust system and a marketing database.
The other firms in the 'inner sanctum' are Anderson Strathern of Edinburgh, Wilson Chalmers Hendry of Glasgow and Smiths & Co and Stronachs, both of Aberdeen.