Software suppliers in fury over Law Society IT guide

Legal software suppliers have attacked the Law Society for “doing a disservice to the legal profession”, and harming small businesses by producing a highly selective technology guide for the profession.

The Law Society – which has a disastrous history of advising small firms about computers – was due this week to issue a free software guide to all law firms with 10 partners or less. The guide will detail the products of five selected legal software companies.

The suppliers in the guide – Gavel & Gown, Mountain Software, Peapod Solutions, Quill Computer Systems and Solicitors Own Software – were chosen on the basis of their size, reputation and the capability of their products.

But Roger Jackson, a partner at Birmingham-based JCS Computer Solutions – left out of the list because its turnover was too small – accused the Law Society of “naivety” for using “misguided [selection] criteria”.

He said the criteria contradicted the Department of Trade and Industry's drive to promote small businesses and effectively meant that only Microsoft-based products were eligible.

Jackson said the publication of the guide would have a “potentially very harmful” effect on his business.

John Meehan, membership committee chairman at the Legal Software Suppliers Association, said the suppliers listed in the guide were “in no way representative of what is available in the market”.

But sales manager David Phillips, of Quill Computer Systems, one of the chosen companies, defended the guide and said law firms had complained to him that many software suppliers did not offer sufficient support or training.

A Law Society spokesman said: “We are not recommending these computer companies to firms, just saying they are a solution if firms don't have time to shop around.”

Last year the Law Society abandoned a £220,000 scheme to develop its “High Street Starter Kit” software, after council members lost confidence in the project.