Alison Laferia reports

THE LAW Society is on the verge of signing a deal with a leading computer company for the installation of its new IT package for small firms.

The systems integration house, which the Law Society is not naming until the deal is finalised, will take charge of installing the society's High Street Starter Kit in firms up and down the country as well as training lawyers how to use the package.

This month sole practitioners and high street solicitors have been queuing up to try a prototype of the package at a series of introductory sessions.

The aim of the kit is to provide solicitors working in small practices, which lack the resources of the larger firms, with a one-stop IT service.

The scheme should be up and running by the beginning of next year when solicitors will be offered a hardware and software package along with advice and training.

The Law Society promises to use its bulk purchasing power to secure a good deal for the high street practitioner.

The initiative was approved by the society last summer and a progress report to last Thursday's council meeting stated: "It is clear that smaller firms are not well catered for by the current legal technology suppliers.

"They feel the cost of sale to smaller firms is too high."

The report said that of the 1,600 IT enquiries this year, 60 per cent were "ideal candidates" for the starter kit.

The society has already appointed an outside firm, Branksome Media Company, to manage and market the scheme. Managing partner Nick Thurlow said research had shown that lawyers in small firms wanted expert guidance from start to finish.

He said the package was likely to cost between £3,000 and £4,000, but the price would be less for firms which already had hardware. He added: "Training will be an essential element of the package."

John Limbury, chair of the Sole Practitioners Group, who has tested the package, said: "I think it's a wonderful idea."