Firm unveils hi-tech research

Alison Laferla reports

City firm Wilde Sapte is hoping to gain the competitive edge over its rivals by developing a computer application to improve legal research.

The system, called Know-How, will allow users to scan CD-Roms, the Internet and internal documents from one interface using a single search command.

It will run off a relational database and a full text search index.

All staff at Wilde Sapte currently have access to PCs which run off a local area network, but they can only access the Internet through a separate stand-alone system.

The system is being developed by IT director Simon Kosminsky in conjunction with the firm's IT committee, information lawyers and the director of library services.

Kosminsky said the team spent a long time deciding what its requirements were.

"The thinking behind the project is to make legal research more efficient and so provide a better and cheaper service to clients," he said.

"Another major objective is to allow the firm's overseas offices to access information held by our London office."

Know-How is the culmination of a review of the firm's computing system which included a five-month survey of security requirements by an external consultant.

Wilde Sapte was one of the first firms in the UK to install the DOCS open management system, which it used to organise all internal documents into an easily fileable and searchable form. The firm also recently installed a marketing database.

It will now be requesting tenders for a full-text search engine and a practice management system, probably in September. Likely suppliers include Verity, Fulcrum, Data-ware and Intext.

Kosminsky said: "Rather than develop our own system, we chose to glue together readily available products in a sensible way, to give tools that are easy to use and do what we want.

"We believe we will gain the competitive edge by the way we integrate these products and train our staff."

The firm plans to have a web site and external email available to all users by November this year and to have the whole system live by February 1997. Three full-time IT trainers will help familiarise staff with the system.