Flagship High Street computer scheme needs massive cash boost

ONE of Law Society president Tony Girling's flagship projects – a Law Society computer kit for High Street firms – will be scrapped if he cannot secure an extra £770,00 for the scheme.

Girling will back the High Street Starter Kit's request for the money at this Thursday's Law Society council meeting, just weeks after a report into the society's Regis computer system highlighted chronic failures in its IT strategy.

He told The Lawyer that the society was adopting a “risk strategy” but he argued the starter kit, the society's planned new one-stop-shop software package for small practices, would offer a valuable service to the profession.

In July, Girling identified the starter kit as a key manifesto promise. Like Regis, however, the kit, which has so far cost around £150,000, is also running behind schedule. The full service was due to be available from February 1997 after a number of pilots had been run. This deadline will not be met. Only one firm is so far piloting the project.

Robin ap Cynan, chair of the society's practice development committee, who also chaired the inquiry into Regis, is expected to tell the council that the starter kit could not only recoup society expenditure but make a profit.

He said the lessons from Regis had been taken on board and promised not to bounce the council into taking decisions without the full facts.

“It will be a huge disappointment if the council does not have the faith to allow something of this nature to be developed and delivered,” he added.

But other Law Society members and staff have expressed concern about the project, claiming the society, with its dismal IT record, should not compete with other IT suppliers.

A technical report on the kit, prepared by consultants Oxford Law and Computing, is understood to conclude that, although the concept of the project is very good, substantial further work is needed before it is piloted further.

It is understood the current prototype does not even allow the user to comply with the Law Society's own accountancy rules.