Hey, just what the world needs in a recession – another legal IT event.

Butterworths are throwing their hat into the water with what is being called The Alternative Legal IT Event (yes, we know this was an idea and name first mooted on the Orange Rag blog months ago) that is to take place on the Thursday 17th & Friday 18th September (and, yes, we know Fridays are not usually a good day on which to hold conferences). The event is being pitched as something for mid-market firms as “following our survey of 500 firms, the consensus was that existing events cater only to the needs of the big international firms and that the mid-market firms have not hitherto been given a voice.”

Or as Marcella Barron, head of conferences, put it “We have not hitherto run any events for the legal IT community but it seemed to me that there was a gap in the market for a hard-hitting, content rich conference as opposed to the Gleneagles, Legal Technology jollies, hence the title. Given the current economic climate, this year seemed like a good time to provide a “no frills” (or fewer frills anyway) conference for mid market and regional firms who were possibly not being served by the existing events.”

OK – mid-market eh? But in that case (and we'll gloss over the fact that some of the speakers are from relatively large firms, such Cobbetts, Brodies and Mishcon de Reya) are topics such as Six Sigma, HR systems, e-billing and e-learning really on the agenda of mid-market firms? We've heard some odd ideas for dealing with the economic downturn but as yet we've heard nobody clamouring to bring in a load of consultants on a Six Sigma project.

However, its when it comes to the practicalities that you wonder whether this event has legs. For example, it is rather late in the day to be launching a new event – particularly as any would-be sponsors or exhibitors have either slashed their marketing budgets or already assigned them by this point in the year.

And then there is the competition element, because Butterworths are part of LexisNexis, which is now a major player in the UK legal systems market through its Axxia, Visualifiles and Interaction product lines. According to Barron “Yes, as a company we own a number of legal software products but Butterworths conference department is an entirely separate division.”

Well that's as maybe but it hasn't stopped a number of vendors, who've been approached to support the event, describing it as the 'Axxia User Conference' – which is not helped by the fact the timing is almost exactly the same as the old Axxia annual user conferences. The view of these vendors is that LexisNexis as a group is now a competitor and they are not spending their marketing money supporting an organisation that is competing with them in the PMS and case management software markets.