I have been carrying out a review of my legal software pages at www.venables.co.uk/software.htm and, at the same time, inviting suppliers to provide information on any of their products which are now also provided as “Software as a Service” (SaaS). I have been amazed by the result! From just a handful of SaaS software products a year ago, it now seems as if the majority of the key software suppliers are now providing a version of their software in hosted form. So what are the “drivers” for this rapid development?
The SaaS approach got an initial boost from the wide variety of “virtual firms” which have set up over the last few years but this type of approach is now also being considered by many other types of firm.
Some products are written especially for working as a hosted system. We are used to email systems such as Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail and also the original dispute resolution/online mediation systems (deal rooms). Now, as Harry Townsend describes in his article on page 10, there are CRM and HR systems, accounts management systems, and content and document management systems, all written for the hosted environment since they are naturally suited to multiple access from many different locations.
Some systems are designed for SaaS where lots of users (firms or chambers for example) use the same software, differentiated merely with initial choices and parameters. Once set up, the software itself is only “hosted” once, with all the users being able to run that software. The original Meridian System for barristers was probably the first major system of this sort (now IRIS Meridian Law) and newer suppliers in the barristers market like Bar Squared and IRIS InQuisita Law have more recently built their systems in this way.
The early solicitors accounts and practice management systems to be offered as hosted systems for solicitors included Pracctice (Osprey), Quill (Pinpoint), DPS and SOS (Virtual Practices), as well as some case tracking systems such as Conveyancelink, ConveyControl and EasyConvey. These software suppliers generally host the systems themselves and may offer the software on a pay as you go basis. Other well known names offering their software in this way include Cognito, Eclipse, Pilgrim and TikitTFB.
Another approach has been from newer companies offering to host all a firm’s IT themselves, including Microsoft products like Exchange and Sharepoint, in some cases offering dedicated servers to do this. This is the approach of e-know.net and k-cloud for example.
There are also legal IT consultancies with particular expertise in the varied and complicated array of different approaches open to the firm or chambers, of which Managed Services consultancy (MSC) is the leading example.
See my page www.venables.co.uk/outsourcing.htm for details of the many firms now offering legal software in this way (and for the links to the companies mentioned above) and see also Allan Carton’s article in the July/August issue of the Newsletter .
Delia Venables is joint editor of this Newsletter.