Those of you who follow the Insider on Twitter will have seen our reports last week that LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions (that's the legal software applications arm) has linked up with Microsoft to develop a new legal market-specific PMS/ERP system based on Microsoft Dynamics AX. Here is the formal announcement, followed by our comment…

LexisNexis International announced it has signed an agreement with Microsoft to develop a legal-specific practice and financial management solutions platform, using Microsoft Dynamics AX, to meet the precise accounting needs of modern law firms. The LexisNexis practice and financial management solution will address the needs of mid-tier and international firms alike. Already in development, the solutions are scheduled to be in beta testing throughout 2011, with general availability planned for 2012 in the United Kingdom and across Europe.

The LexisNexis practice and financial management solution will offer increased flexibility and seamless interoperability with firm-wide applications, such as Microsoft Windows and Windows Server, SQL Server, Microsoft Office, and Microsoft SharePoint Server, leveraging extensive LexisNexis legal expertise to provide industry-specific functionality. The robust and scalable platform has the flexibility to adapt as business demands change, future-proofing the investment and smoothing the way for an individual firm’s future growth. 

“We are pleased to be working with LexisNexis to deliver enterprise solutions to meet the needs of customers in the legal industry. The new LexisNexis offering, built on Microsoft Dynamics AX, will deliver firms a single financial and business management platform that can evolve with their individual business requirements,” said Doug Kennedy, vice president, Microsoft Dynamics Partners. He added, “By bringing together the in-depth legal knowledge and solutions of LexisNexis and Microsoft’s technology expertise and products, we are confident that this offering will challenge the status quo prevalent in the UK practice management market.”

Law firms are becoming increasingly complex operations, with global matters and ever-growing compliance regulations to adhere to. Developed with these factors in mind, the LexisNexis practice management solution will offer full finance functionality, including accounting, time and billing, disbursement management and integrated reporting, enabling law firms to manage, standardise and streamline financial processes.

Tim Cheadle said: “Our mission is simple: to provide the best financial practice management/ enterprise resource planning solutions to law firms around the world.  The collaboration of the latest ERP technology from Microsoft and the deep industry knowledge of LexisNexis will assist law firms in their efforts to reduce costs, drive efficiency and transform their financial management. We are delighted to be working closely with Microsoft to deliver solutions that help our customers boost efficiency and further their business objectives.” 

For national firms and existing LexisNexis dna and Axxia customers, the dna platform will be powered by Dynamics AX, providing extensive accounting functionality and ensuring that firms have the technology in place to comply with industry regulations, and meet their longer term growth and development needs. For firms with global offices, or those with expansion plans, the new LexisNexis practice management solution will offer multi-currency and multi-jurisdiction functionality to ease global deployment and help facilitate business development across multiple geographies. Rolling out a single system globally reduces implementation costs, enables best practice to be implemented throughout the firm, and because users are already familiar with Microsoft applications, internal IT costs such as training, maintenance and support are minimised.

Comment: First off, LexisNexis seem to have pulled off what other software vendors and consultancies have been attempting to do for the past five years – namely create a new PMS based on standard Microsoft products but instead of reinvent the whole wheel from scratch, focus on giving Microsoft Dynamics a 'legal wrapper'.

Secondly, this is not an end-of-lifing exercise for the old Axxia Arista and Artiion products – instead it offers their users a 'painless' migration option. And, while the Dynamics AX product is potentially a full-blown ERP system (including payroll and HR functionality) it is also highly configurable, so smaller firms could opt for a simple accounts/PMS without taking on a raft of features they'll never used. Talking of painless, there were some heavy hints being dropped at last week's conference that early adopters – whether upgrading or migrating from third-party products – will enjoy some aggresively pitched pricing deals. More bad news then from those vendors who have spent the last 18 months soaking up unhappy Axxia sites.

Thirdly, the new system will continue to support all the existing LexisNexis software products including DNA, Streamline, Visualfiles, Redwood and Interaction. Equally importantly, it will provide out-of-the-box compatibility with rich client, Sharepoint, mobile and Microsoft Office client interfaces.

Fourthly, Lexis are very confident they will make their deadlines. They have already built a proof of concept version on the new PMS on the current version of Dynamics AX but will be building the new version on upcoming Dynamics AX 2011 release.

Finally, the competitive angle: LexisNexis not only see the new AX-based product as the upgrade/migration of choice option for existing Axxia PMS users but they also see it as a viable alternative for larger firms who would otherwise be considering Aderant Expert or Elite 3E as their next move. And, they will also be pitching it at users of other LexisNexis products – such as Visualfiles – who currently run a non-Lexis PMS – so that sounds like SOS users are in their sites. And, just to round off the picture, LexisNexis also announced there is a case management version of Streamline on its way, presumably to give the likes of Eclipse a run for their money.

From zero to hero then? It looks like LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions are turning their fortunes around and determined to be one of the 'big 4' players in the UK legal software market.