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Latest from Pilgrim – they're smiling in Edinburgh

Pilgrim Systems plc has announced new faces and organisational changes to support its growth strategies. In order to build on the 19% annual growth of the last financial year (ended 30th September 2008) the company has made some key appointments.
 
Colin Kennedy has been appointed Chief Operating Officer. Kennedy joined the company a year ago after leaving LexisNexis Visualfiles where he held the same role. His role touches all areas of the business, but in particular business development and overseeing Pilgrim’s continual drive to refine and improve how Pilgrim delivers successful projects, on time, with maximum ROI and customer satisfaction.
 
Kennedy will work closely with the sales consulting team which, as of 3rd November, includes Matthew Fiske-Jackson, who Pilgrim describe as “one of the most successful new business sales consultants operating in legal technology circles today”. He was central to Visualfiles’ dynamic growth of 2000 to 2007. Since leaving LexisNexis Visualfiles he has worked with Zylpha, a legal IT consultancy. Pilgrim say that during this period he had an opportunity to fully assess the new shape of the legal technology market since the recent spate of consolidation and is confident that Pilgrim and its LawSoft technology are best placed to cater for the complex technology needs of today’s legal profession.
 
Pilgrim also welcomes Brian Dudley to the company to head up its Installation Team. Dudley has worked in legal technology circles for many years, most recently as IT director at Gillespie MacAndrew, a 200 people firm in central Edinburgh.

Comment… Is the sub-text here: will the last person to leave LexisNexis Visualfiles please turn out the lights? Company chairman Jim Cummings also told the Insider that Pilgrim has a healthy pipeline for the coming year.

8 replies on “Latest from Pilgrim – they're smiling in Edinburgh”

Congratulations to Pilgrim. If what they are saying about a strong pipeline etc is correct they seem to have found a number of firms of solicitors who are different to all of the other firms in the country – i.e. some who seem prepared to spend money on IT projects at the moment!
I for one will take this press release with a huge pinch of salt. The market for legal IT is completely dead at the moment and even if firms want to invest many think it is inappropriate to do so while laying people off.
I have never seen the market at quiet as it is now and it seems to have affected nearly every firm in the country. High street firms laying off 3 or 4 people does not make headlines but when that represents 15% of your workforce it is as much of a tragedy as a bigger firm laying of 100. Law firms do not have the benefit of order books and recurring revenues in the same way that suppliers do and so whilst I would expect nearly all suppliers to announce record results this year I suspect that next year will be a car crash for many.
Job losses in the IT industry are as inevitable as job losses have been and will continue to be in solicitors firms.
Discuss……

Pilgrim's pipeline must indeed be very strong and never-ending too as it seems to prevent its contents from leaking or spilling out in a gush of new business wins! Ah yes.. the circular pipleline…
IT sales don't need to suffer in a downturn – the reason for IT investment is to gain efficiency and a competitive edge – law firms will need more of both to prosper in tough times and emerge as winners. The World won't stand still despite the downturn.

Very interesting observations and comments, quite worthy of discussion.
Alas … If only “Anonymous” would give a name (and an affiliation?) so that a discussion could openly take place …
Question Time has a host who everyone knows, and has to be seen to be impartial – that way there is a degree of trust.
Until then The Rag will be a forest full of snipers nests.

Andy, you are having a laugh.
Do you really expect me to put my name and company affiliation against a post admiting that times are tough?
I may be anonymous but I am not daft!
I am afraid if having this post from “anonymous” means that you won't debate it then I regret that the debate cannot happen. That is a shame as sometimes one can only be “honest” when unattributed.
How many time in business have you asked the question “How's buisness” and got an honest answer?

A laugh, no. A wry grin, quite possibly.
Though I do appreciate the point about anonymity and honest debate.
I know of many law firms who often have heated debates about should things like chat rooms, discussion forums and appraisal feedback be anonymous or not. Employees feel they can be honest whilst anonymous (but feel constrained or threatened if they are not allowed to be), yet employers feel contributions 'have to be named in order to give them full and due consideration' – including and up to getting rid of folks whose opinion they do not like.
And of course the same happens not just in law firms but in Legal IT suppliers too. So I can certainly appreciate that people who give honest and constructive opinions, but whose employers are not so enlightened, may wish to remain anonymous whilst commenting.
I guess my real issue, such as it is, is with the Anonymous 'snipers in the trees' who are disingenuous in their postings.
So back to the debate; here's my 2p …
No debate as such; times certainly are tougher in Legal IT at the moment, probably more so for product suppliers than for consultants etc. Big ticket items are certainly not in demand, which I'll come back to …
However (and apologies to those affected by redundancies etc, for whom I have sympathy) things are only relatively tough. Many law firms are still making good money, just to a lesser extent. What we are seeing is the 'No new Porche this year' syndrome. To a large extent this is made worse by the constant comparisons that law firms make with each other.
We are also seeing poor management from some law firms whose incumbent management team have only ever managed in good times and for whom prudence is not a popular word to have used in the past. Some would even use the word 'Greed' and scathingly compare it to the apparent Corporate Social Responsibility we hear so much about.
At present spending from law firms is still taking place out of last years agreed budgets; mainly on consultancy and smaller items. Next years budgets will be very slight indeed, based on the current knee jerk 'What, No new Porche next year either?' reactions.
I personally think a downturn is a good time to invest if at all possible, as you can get non-busy people to contribute to process improvement and transformational activities etc. And there are firms out there, who have been prudent in the past and farsighted now, who are doing just that …if you can spot them.
However such an policy is not popular with Partners who do not want to part with cash.
And I think this is where I get to my key point … The licencing and cost model of many suppliers (pay cash now, then 20% support p.a.) is just not popular in the current climate. It's fine to tell firms that they can write the cost off over 10 years, but the fact is that they do not want to part with the cash when times are uncertain…
Traditional suppliers who insist on selling on this basis will either suffer for the next couple of years, or will have to start to transform their business models to be more flexible – SaaS, product leasing etc.
This requires a longer term structural change in the cashflow model, painful in the short term current climate, but one which is needed in order to be able to survive the ecconomic cycles which always happen. It will be agile and innovative firms that will grasp this, and some firms will not be able to make the change, and some will be better than others – in much the way that some law firms will manage better than others.

“Until then The Rag will be a forest full of snipers nests.”
Interesting mixed metaphor there. (posted anonymously as I am having a cheap jibe)

Actually, I've spent a lot of time recently studying, with various FDs, how law firms CAN predict cash flow and (effectively) their order books, and I think there is plenty of opportunity for them to do so; what's been lacking previously is the WILL of fee-earners to be bothered completing those pesky inception forms etc. I expect that will change in the present climate, the only upside of which that I can see being that lawfirms can focus more on cashflow and working-capital management: vastly undervalued areas.
Back to Pilgrim, well we can all await press releases announcing wins, er… Surely nobody can seriously expect any supplier to announce 'things are a bit shit right now'.
Onto supply generally, I've commented previously that no board is going to find it politic to be ordering large volumes of new kit or software through the front door whilst people are leaving out the back clutching P45s. Budgets may well have been agreed in Jan/Feb for this financial year, but I imagine the only sales that are up this year are for red pens to highlight non-vital spending and erasers to rub it out. Until somebody can reasonably forecast the likely duration of this downturn, it makes no sense to commit cash you might need to pay salaries to buying the latest gismo that will give you some competitive edge once things pick up; until they do there's precious little market to try and be 'competitive' in…

Whilst I accept that times are “relatively” tough most businesses will look to ensure that they maintain appropriate staffing levels for the level of business they are getting.
If a law firm’s conveyancing department is down by 50% (which seems to be the norm) the number of staff they require in that team is likely to drop by a similar amount or more as there will no longer be as much money being made on mortgage monies being held by the solicitor. If property work accounts for 25% of the law firms’ income they will see a reduction in earnings of 12.5% so even if they redeploy staff elsewhere, there is going to be a staff reduction. For firms who have a greater reliance than this on conveyancing the situation is much worse and there have been firms going quietly bust or just ceasing to trade.
This problem is mirrored to an extent with corporate work as the banks are providing less debt so less M&A work etc. Compromise agreements and the like do not make up the shortfall and not all firms are geared up for litigation and insolvency work which also seems to be enjoying a resurgence.
Legal suppliers (and not just IT suppliers) are therefore seeing some of their clients going out of business and others cutting back on what they see an unnecessary expenditure. This in turn means less implementation, training, consultancy and project management work for suppliers. Some suppliers may take the view that they will keep all of these skills and allow them to do other jobs that “need to be done” but these are not usually chargeable and do not generate income. A prudent business will adjust their costs for the amount of work coming in (within reason). As has been said before, nobody knows how long this downturn / recession will last and there is a limit to how long any business can keep staff on the books with nothing to do.

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