The ongoing row between the Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA) and The Law Society of England & Wales over the Law Society’s proposed Preferred IT supplier scheme has taken a turn for the worst with LSSA sending an open letter to the Law Society saying the scheme “is not in the best interests of the Profession”. In addition, LSSA member companies have decided not take part in the tendering process. A copy of the letter is attached here LSSA Letter

LSSA say the reasons they have adopted this stance are…

    The proposed process is not transparent with insufficient clarity in the documents about the selection criteria, costs, and process for phase two. Similarly the process is being run on too tight a timetable to give potential suppliers the time to give the PQQ the attention it deserves, particularly in the run up to Easter.

   The existing proposal appears not to take into account the huge variation of professional needs reflecting those of different areas of law, size of firms, degrees of IT maturity and commercial models.

   There can be no one size fits all solution, every firm has unique requirements.

   The current proposal to be inappropriate due to it being an anti-competitive intrusion into a vibrant and competitive market
potentially not compliant with SRA rules requiring firms to operate in appropriate and effective ways for the benefit of their clients.
misleading in that Practice and Case management software is not a simple commodity similar to those supplied by existing Law Society commercial partners (such as the Riliance COLP & COFA system)
likely to lead to a reduction in the range of available products for Law Society members and an inhibitor to new entrants to the legal software market
unfair to smaller suppliers who may not be able to afford to take part – all the indicators suggest the the key criteria for Chancery Lane is who will bid the highest amount to secure the deal
based on the selection of a Preferred Supplier by means of competitive tendering, a proposition deemed as unacceptable by the Law Society in relation to Legal Aid.

Roger Hancock, the LSSA chief executive, goes on to add “Whilst the LSSA considers the existing proposal to be unacceptable and impractical we are very keen to co-operate and collaborate with The Law Society in providing positive guidance to meet the needs of the members. The now abandoned Software Solutions Guide provided this in the past and was much appreciated by your membership. A modernisation or a development of this might again help the Profession in the complex area of software provision and could also provide revenue to the Law Society as it did previously. We also suggested an application by LSSA which was rejected without any reason. In the light of the withdrawal of most of the main suppliers from the process we would urge you to reconsider your approach and look forward to further discussions.”

COMMENT: There is of course the bigger picture here of a Law Society that has lost its purpose in life and is struggling to find a new role – and a source of income – in the post Legal Services Act era however as regards the Preferred Supplier scheme, we have never in recent years seen the members of LSSA so unified on any one single issue. But will anyone break ranks? The LSSA members, even those whose names are not attached to the letter, say “no” however we have heard the names of two non-LSSA member legal IT suppliers mentioned as likely suspects willing to do a deal with Chancery Lane. Let’s hope they have long spoons.