Sunday, 19 October 2014

Has the Law Society shot itself in the foot with its CMS Proposal?

Unanimity across the spectrum of law firm profiles is rare, yet 99% of law firms surveyed agree that The Law Society's view of endorsing only one or two case & practice management software suppliers is counterproductive. The Society's action may well lead firms to question the endorsement of Reliance and the merits of IT projects such as the Conveyancing Portal. An increasing number of firms are asking themselves whether the Society represents their interests  or is seeking to justify its own existence.

In a recent survey 236 out of 237 senior representatives of over 200 law firms said they were opposed to the Law Society’s proposal to have one (or a very small number of) preferred supplier/s of case and practice management software.

The members of the Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA) represent about 80% of the installed law firms market for IT systems in the UK.  They are concerned about a new initiative by the Law Society to engage in a process to choose one supplier as the endorsed partner of the Law Society, with unrivalled exposure to the legal sector. By contrast, the LSSA said, “We are not aware of any discussion with the industry on this issue which we would regard as essential for a properly informed research project.

Those who challenge the evolution of the conveyancing portal  claim that the project is divisive and expensive, imposing a "top down" solution to a problem that barely exists. This is an allegation that is now also being levied by those questioning the 10m investment made by the Law Society into 'Veyo' the new conveyancing portal to be launched next Spring.  In recent weeks a number of stakeholders have asked for me to comment on the conveyancing portal. My view (and it’s one that I have given to the Law Society itself) is that, given that conveyancing negligence claims have soared since targets and speed became all important, more energy should be expended  on reducing risk, thereby boosting the reputation of solicitors among the public and lenders.  

Earlier this year, the online magazine Legal IT asked : So how do you get to become a preferred supplier?

‘The Insider has seen copies of the LSSA/Law Society email exchanges, in which the Law Society is less than forthcoming, but vendors we have spoken to say the only criteria appears to be ‘whoever is prepared to pay the most money’. The figures being mentioned are an annual fee of £50,000 to £100,000 plus commission on sales.”

Chief Executive of the LSSA, Roger Hancock comments: “Diverse Case and Practice Management solutions reflect the requirements of the legal profession from the smallest to the largest, the specialist niche firms as well as those in general practice. The Law Society should take note of its membership’s views regarding a preferred supplier of case and practice management software. The profession does not want this, and considers it totally impractical for a variety of reasons. We call upon the Law Society to abandon this scheme that the industry is so against.”

When asked to comment on the LSSA’s survey findings, the Law Society made no comment.

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