Elizabeth Davidson previews next month's Solicitors and Legal Office Exhibition and reports on a number of exciting new initiatives taking place at the event
REGARDED as the focal point of the year by many in the legal IT industry, the Solicitors and Legal Office Exhibition (SOLEX) promises to be bigger than ever this time round.
The fifteenth annual show, being held at London's Barbican Exhibition Centre from 2-4 June, will include more than 120 exhibitors – 20 more than last year – and is expected to attract over 6,600 visitors.
The exhibition is designed to give solicitors and managers in commerce, industry and the public sector a chance to survey the vast range of products that can help them change the way in which they work.
For those ill at ease with technology, experts will be on hand to offer advice free of charge, while for experts themselves there will be plenty of issues with which they can grapple.
New this year is a 100-seat theatre where visitors can listen to various seminars. Topics range from why the legal profession needs professional standards from legal IT suppliers, to the developments in telecommunications likely to be made in the next 15 years.
Speakers include BT laboratory researcher Dr Katie Brown, who will be explaining future office tools such as the “active wall” telephone. This screens a live, life-size image of the user on to the wall of the person communicating with him or her making it seem “as if they are at the next desk and there are no walls between them”.
Brown will also be talking about research undertaken in laboratories around the world, including projected uses for the Internet, and about the impact of the “convergence between computers and telecommunications”. She says increased technological capabilities have made “human communications” more important than ever to avoid “information overload”.
Brown adds: “We have the technology to do a lot of things but we don”t yet know what people want.” She says she welcomes contributions from the legal profession about their technical requirements.
Legal recruiter Longbridge International's managing consultant Craig Coverman and senior consultant Wendy Phillips will be offering advice on how firms can attract and retain key IT staff.
Grant Thornton head of IT consultancy Andrew Levison and Russell Jones & Walker partner Mark Feeney will be talking about ways in which lawyers can redesign their cost base to provide clients with what they want.
Solicitors concerned about the quality of IT support will get a chance to make their point during a question and answer session hosted by Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA) vice-chair Alan Richardson.
Richardson, managing director of practice management supplier Norwel, will be describing the aims and achievements of the LSSA, a trade organisation launched two years ago to improve the image and represent the interests of IT suppliers. The 17-member LSSA has now adopted a membership emblem and a code of practice governing the way its members work.
BT marketing manager John Gavin will be explaining current initiatives to ensure the City of London retains its status as a prime business location into the next millennium.
A bird's eye view
Firms are increasingly recognising the power of the Internet, with many having already launched Web sites and a few using it to offer legal advice or attract business. With this in mind, first-time exhibitor NetNames will be advising firms on the highly topical subject of how to register domain names on the Internet.
There will be a chance to try out three specialist voice recognition systems – Dragon Dictate, Talkwrite and Waspvox.
Some exhibitors will be celebrating anniversaries, including last year's winner of the Best Stand award, practice management systems supplier Axxia Systems. It is celebrating 30 years in the business and has promised that there will be a “surprise” element to its stand this year.
Axxia will also be providing a 30-seat theatre at its stand and hosting speeches by, among others, representatives from practice management system suppliers Novell and Digital, and Axxia's development director Doug McLachlan.
Lawyers can brush up on their qualifications at the show by visiting Television Education Network's (TEN) stand and picking up a free preview video of programmes from the Law Channel. Viewing a one-hour programme qualifies solicitors for a Law Society CPD point.
TEN will also be demonstrating its new Law Channel In-house Service, aimed at in-house commercial lawyers.
Visitors can take a break from the show at the Media Zone, a place to sit and read legal publications, or attend one of the many workshops where companies will be demonstrating the latest goods.