Don’t be held to ransom: LSSA sets out data conversion expectations

The LSSA has published a white paper on data conversion which provides guidance for law firms and users of legal software considering or undertaking a data conversion from one software system to another. It details how data conversions may vary, what should be expected of a new system supplier and the responsibilities of system suppliers, with LSSA chair Julian Bryan warning law firms not to be “held to ransom.”

Typically, a law firm will have a large amount of client, matter, accounting and document history relating to the cases it has worked on and the firm’s own accounts. When a firm takes on a new practice management, case management or legal accounting system it is necessary to migrate some or all data from one or more existing systems to a new system.

The scope of a data conversion will vary from firm to firm and from system to system. Data conversions are often complex and time-consuming, requiring input from the old system supplier, the new supplier and the customer (aka in many cases a complete nightmare).

The guide contains useful tips and information, particularly for those without the resource and expertise of larger firms. Under ‘data extract’ the report says: “It should be recognised that the data is property of the firm and it is entitled to a complete copy of its own data in its entirety. This is usually easy to achieve as the firm’s data is often stored in a single standard database and there is no reason for the supplier not to allow the customer unfettered access to a backup of its own database. Where the data is not stored in a single industry standard database or where the supplier is not willing to release the database in its native format due to the structure containing its own proprietary intellectual property, then the current supplier must make a complete copy of the data available in another format. This could be either XML with a DTD, Microsoft Access, CSV, Excel or another industry standard format that allows for a complete copy of the firm’s data to be provided. It is not expected that a charge should be made for providing the firm a copy of its own data.”

The data conversion white paper is issued on behalf of the 23 LSSA member firms, all of which agree to abide by these guidelines. Members include DPS Software, Eclipse Legal Systems, Linetime, LexisNexis and Tikit. In September the group welcomed three new members: BaseNet, Coyote Analytics and inCase.

LSSA chair Julian Bryan comments: “This comprehensive guide will help law firms approach the complex issue of data conversion. Together with the recently updated LSSA Code of Conduct this adds to the growing reputation of the LSSA as the leading organisation protecting the interests of UK law firms. Data conversion has occasionally been used as a blocker by some legal technology providers to prevent law firms from moving suppliers. By publishing clear guidelines on data conversion the LSSA is helping prevent law firms being held to ransom by unscrupulous technology suppliers.”

The full data conversion white paper can be seen on the LSSA website here.

The LSSA Code of Conduct can be seen on the LSSA website here.

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