Our thanks to the latest issue of the Solicitors Journal for drawing our attention to this story…

The cost of the new version of the Legal Services Commission's LSC Online portal for legal aid firms has now risen to more than £12 million. Following a freedom of information request by Andrew Keogh, a partner with the law firm Tuckers, the LSC has admtted that it will cost £2.68m to get the site functioning properly after it crashed in November. This is in addition to the £9.4m it cost to set up the site.

A spokesman for the LSC is reported as saying “the cost of setting up the system would be outweighed by the long term benefits in efficiency savings” – a view currently not shared by legal aid practitioners who initially wasted large amounts of time and effort trying and failing to input data and are now having to use spreadsheets as a stop-gap measure.

Indeed Penny Mackinder, the acting manager of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, says the crash raises questions about the ability of the LSC to manage IT projects. Adding “The LSC has talked about using electronic case management for best value tendering. Until this is resolved, everyone will by skeptical about the LSC's abilities in this area.” The Solicitors Journal also quotes a partner at another legal aid practice asking “Why did they launch a system without testing it?” (Well, if Heathrow Terimnal 5 is anything to go by, not testing software before launch is now standard practice.)

Readers will be relieved to learn it is the new version of LSC Online that crashed and that this dead parrot system should not be confused with the original version, which was confined to electronic billing and so good that it actually won the technology award at the 2007 Civil Service Awards. (Presumably any government system that doesn't crash is eligible for an award.) Needless to say, nobody is resigning from the LSC over this debacle – but hey, it's not their money they are wasting.
www.solicitorsjournal.com