Axxia targets small-firm market with new product

LEGAL IT market leader Axxia Systems is to target small law firms with the launch of a new practice management system, in a move likely to upset small system suppliers.

Axxia is due to launch its new Microsoft Windows-based system, EIION, at the Solicitors and Legal Office Exhibition at the Barbican this week (see bottom right).

It is aimed at the thousand firms with between five and 30 fee earners in the UK and is bound to worry many of the smaller IT companies, some of whom have recently merged or pulled out of the market.

Axxia – which currently provides the Arista system to medium and large law firms – will now be competing with IT suppliers such as Quill Computer Systems, Solicitors Own Software and Management Support Systems.

BDO Stoy Hayward IT consultant John Irving said he hoped the new system would "make the sophistication of large firm software available to smaller firms".

Irving added that IT companies supplying to small firms were likely to be "upset" and "worried" by the move.

Axxia managing director Stuart Holden said the company had spent two years developing the EIION product at a cost of almost £500,000.

Holden said he decided to develop a new product "from scratch, tailored exclusively for this particular market", because Axxia's Arista system had not sold very well to small firms.

He said that he expected the launch would "cause quite a reaction" among the "hundreds" of companies supplying the small firm end of the market.

Axxia aims to take orders for the system from September onwards and to begin installing the systems from the end of 1998.

Commentators' claims that many suppliers will be forced to leave the legal IT marketplace due to overcrowding have been backed up by a recent spate of mergers and departures. These include computer company ACE's decision in March to scrap the solicitor's version of its Infinity practice management system and concentrate on its successful barrister version, and the decision of computer companies Peapod Solutions and Tech Computer Office in April to join forces for certain future projects.

Another legal IT supplier, Mercury Computing, ceased business last year.

Axxia is also currently looking at whether a Windows-based Arista system for larger firms is viable.