The Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA) has announced an agreement with the Legal Services Commission (LSC) to govern how changes in LSC policy will be communicated to – and implemented by – LSSA members.
 
“I think that it's fair to say that the LSC has not always prioritised the impact of change on software vendors. Any changes in policy – including those which might seem relatively minor to the LSC – will potentially have a big impact on software providers,” said LSSA chair Dominic Cullis. “However, following a recent Working Group meeting with representatives from both organisations, we are feeling much more optimistic about the LSC's ability and willingness to keep its promises with regard to how future changes will be rolled out to members of the LSSA.”
 
A key element of this newfound partnership rests on the formation of this Software Vendor Working Group, a body which will help to create a formal channel for two-way communication between software vendors and the LSC. Cooperating at this level will allow the LSC to hear the views of software vendors first-hand, and to take account of these concerns when implementing change. The Working Group will also ensure that a representative range of vendors will now be brought into discussions at an earlier stage in the planning of policy implementation.
 
“We are very much aware of the impact of change on LSSA members, and recognition of this issue has reached the top level of our organisation,” said  John Binks, Head of Provider Readiness at the LSC. “The Provider Readiness Team has implemented a sign-off procedure for all change requests where an impact on vendors is likely. This way, we can take the opportunity to seek the views of vendors on proposed changes, gain a better understanding of the impact they may cause, and factor that into the sign-off process. With this approach, we can ensure that the LSC understands the impact of change on software providers from the beginning, and factor into our plans proper provisions for making technical information available to vendors, along with sufficient time to prepare for change.”
 
According to LSSA, even trivial changes can have a big impact on software vendors, as suppliers will need to review and understand the new specification, write and test the new code, make any necessary design changes, communicate the changes to clients, distribute the updated software, organise additional training, and then respond to any queries they receive about the changes from clients. As such, following the most recent meeting of the Working Group, both sides have agreed that any changes affecting case management software will only be requested by the LSC for implementation at two set dates in a year, in April and October. Furthermore, the LSC has promised that a clear description of the transitional arrangements – as well as requirements for access to old data – will be supplied, and that software vendors will be provided with all appropriate changes in reasonable time to allow for the development process.