Taking innovation to the regions. Rebecca Towers takes a look at the range of companies attending this year's Northern Legal Office Exhibition

Manchester's G-Mex centre is to play host to the Northern Legal Office Exhibition for the second year running from 21-22 October. The two-day legal showcase will be organised by Truemist Professional Exhibitions, which launched the first Solicitors' and Legal Office Exhibition in London 15 years ago.

The exhibition promises a wide range of products – from furniture makers Perfect Partnership, to printing bureau providers Positive Printing Services, legal software specialists Pilgrim Systems, to electronic publishers Butterworths, Sweet & Maxwell and FT Tax & Law.

Truemist managing director Keith Searby says that with over 3,000 practices and 15,000 solicitors in the North, “the northern legal market is a key growth area. Global alliances and the entrenchment of US law firms has placed greater importance on efficient communication”. Searby says that purchasers of legal software have become more sophisticated as a result and both IT and general suppliers have had to continue to develop and evolve to meet demands.

In a market where fast and accurate communications are key, HM Land Registry is at the forefront of developing technologies in the legal and public sectors. The National Land Information Service (NLIS) pilot was launched in July and will be demonstrating the effectiveness of its one-stop conveyancing service at the show.

David Brown of Alsters, one of the three firms of solicitors piloting NLIS, is confident that the electronic search system will improve efficiency. “By enabling all searches to be instigated from one visit to the computer, without the need for paper forms, cheques and letters, the new system will prevent delays. I would hope that in future the common cry of 'we're still awaiting searches' will be a thing of the past and no longer a valid reason for a transaction not to proceed.”

One of the leading attractions this year will be the expert witness feature. Supporting the feature is the University of Leeds' Innovations Expert Witness Service which offers a range of expertise from a database of more 2,000 consultants and technical staff. Despite the fact that only 4 per cent of cases actually go to court, all consultants are trained in cross-examination techniques, explains consultancy manager Malcolm Smith. Experts will be on hand at the event to offer solicitors and barristers advice on specialist litigation cases.

The Speech Centre will boast the main elements of speech recognition and “a range of commercial language translation software for which we have exclusive UK distribution rights”, explains director Andy Tippett. Dragon and IBM software and the language translation unit Systran will be on hand to demonstrate speech input from dictation machines.

Demonstrating solutions to document management, Solace will present its Millennium Legal Accounts System and the Amicus Attorney – a case management and fee earner support system. For Solace, the aim of the exhibition will be to inform law firms outside London of the latest legal technologies and systems, to introduce its new packages and to stimulate its prospect list, explains managing director, Allan Roberts. “We found the quality of attendees of northern exhibitions to be very high in terms of prospect status and we have always been successful in converting many of those into new clients,” says Roberts.

Solicitec, which has been providing software solutions for the legal profession since 1985, will launch SolCase 98 on the northern market this year. SolCase is already installed in over 170 sites. Marketing executive Kate Lindley says the programme's unique feature is that it gives clients direct access to their case management systems, allowing them to view the status of a case, update information, record new events and create new cases.

Catering for the smaller practice, Axxia's Eiion system will make its northern debut at G-Mex this year. Eiion is a Windows-based practice management programme designed specifically for smaller firms of up to 30 users.

Axxia's sales and marketing director Bill Kirby says that “unlocking fee earner productivity will be one of our key messages at G-Mex. Visitors will be able to see at first hand the modern 'must haves', such as electronic time recording, auto billing and automated case management”. Axxia is keen to develop its northern client base. Managing director Stuart Holden says: “We now take the capability to the people, not the people to the capability and the northern market is far from parochial.”

David Howell, customer services manager for Dodona agrees the event “is a good way of getting our products in front of solicitors in the North”. Dodona will target northern legal aid franchises – demonstrating its welfare benefit calculation packages covering child support maintainence, welfare benefit entitlement and a legal aid programme which determines eligibility for legal aid and client contributions.

Exhibiting a range of secretarial and compliance software, CoAct will be showing its company secretarial pack. The pack includes “producers' forms, minutes, resolutions, and insured compliance with the Company's Act,” explains sales manager Sue Lowden.

Offering the same expertise as London, the Northern Legal Office Exhibition can now provide a valuable regional focus for the profession – while delivering the latest legal services and IT technologies to the northern legal market.