One stop solution

Fennell Betson reports

Law firms could handle all their computing under one operating system on a single server – that was the claim made at a demonstration to 100 law firms at a recent London seminar.

Unusually, the seminar involved three suppliers: Microsoft, Pilgrim Systems and Sequent Computers, combining to show that the operating software, hardware and application software was available to provide such a solution.

Microsoft business development manager Charles Emes spoke of the group's aim of achieving greater penetration of the legal marketplace with Word for Windows. He described how Microsoft's front-end and back-end office systems can be integrated using the existing PC network. "The aim is to improve productivity by providing desktop applications that are easy to use and integrate," he said.

The Microsoft back-end office suite combines the Windows NT operating system, SQLServer database and SNAServer for linking with IBM environments. SQL Servers running under NT provided a database engine to handle very large database requirements, he said.

Sequent, which makes high capacity Intel-based servers, gave a demonstration of one of its servers running a simulation of its ability to run a database application with up to 1,000 users.

Pilgrim's Ronnie Paton said its LawSoft client/server Windows software was an "integrated suite designed to address this evolutionary move towards a single uniform and unified approach to technology in law offices".

This software links with Microsoft word processing, spreadsheet and other products such as mail, diary and fax. Four different modules – contact manager, case manager, practice manager and document manager – are offered, independently or jointly. All of the details required by each module are stored in an underlying, single, relational database. "The data need only be stored once in order for those details to be available to the other modules," said Paton.

One law firm IT partner Nigel Miller of City-based Fox Williams said it was very interesting to see a presentation on an integrated Windows solution as there was nothing yet that was the complete working desktop solution for lawyers. "Although the whole of the system is not yet ready to go to the market, this could be the way forward" he added.

* The first 200 delegates to register for The Lawyer's seventh annual 'Information Systems for Lawyers' conference in London next week will be given a complementary copy of Microsoft Office. Visitors can see the new software in action at the exhibition alongside the conference. The event takes place at the London Marriott Hotel on 14-15 February. 071-434 3711 for details.