The Legal Software Suppliers Association has reacted angrily to the news last week that The Law Society of England and Wales has endorsed Clio as its first cloud case management system, with the body under fire for not conducting a formal selection process.
In echoes of the furore caused by the Law Society’s commercial endorsement of Eclipse Legal Systems at the end of 2015, the LSSA, which has 14 member vendors that provide finance and case management, including small law firm cloud provider LEAP, told Legal IT Insider: “The LSSA does not understand why the Law Society has again given a technology provider endorsement without thoroughly researching the market and talking to the best potential suppliers for law firms’ software needs based on an objective selection process.
“The LSSA has over twenty member companies, including several cloud software providers who have been providing cloud solutions for over a decade. Our initial enquiries suggest that the LSSA membership was not widely consulted prior to this commercial arrangement by the Law Society.” This is arguably more contentious than when Eclipse was selected in 2015, when 10 or more vendors were invited to pitch for endorsement as part of a competitive process.
The Law Society’s commercial endorsed partner scheme sees it select and recommend companies ranging from providers of business services to cybersecurity and GDPR services to lifestyle benefits. Within business services, the society endorses vendors who provide financial services, insurance, recruitment services, and practice management systems, which is where Eclipse and Clio sit. Both can be used for case, matter and financial management.
We asked the Law Society for formal comment on the following points:
– How did Clio “earn” (according to the press release) its endorsement from the Law Society?
– Was this a fair and transparent process?
– How many cloud provider firms did the Law Society talk to/assess?
– What was the criteria the Law Society used to approach suppliers in this process?
– Did Eclipse know that you were endorsing Clio when they signed their recent extension?
– What is the endorsement for?
– The Law Society is endorsing two software suppliers that provide similar things – how does that work in practice?
We received the following official statement:
“Our endorsements recognise that different products and services may appeal to different segments of our membership, based on factors such as practice size, areas of practice, operational/workflows and technology platforms used. Any organisations looking to discuss endorsed partnerships are welcome to engage with us directly.
“Our process for how new endorsements are considered and evaluated is available on our website: https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/Support-services/Membership-Extra/how-to-become-an-endorsed-partner/”
Given the influence and reach of the Law Society, and the fact that endorsed suppliers are able to use an ‘Endorsed by the Law Society’ logo and tagline, you would expect there to be a formal and transparent process for the endorsement of legal tech vendors. However, the website tells us, endorsement happens on a ‘case by case basis’ and vendors will be asked to fill in a form, saying: “The form does not evaluate or compare the functionality, features or suitability of the product or service, but enables us to evaluate the business, including:
– a financial history check
– previous experience of supplying to the legal sector and client references
– management of quality via policies and procedures, attainment of recognised standards/trade bodies and business continuity management
– organisational culture and processes, including CSR, equal opportunities/equality and diversity, anti-bribery, cybersecurity, data assurance and GDPR compliance.”
Another vendor endorsed by the Law Society is Document Direct, the body’s “exclusive outsourced transcription partner.”
The LSSA told us: “The LSSA is keen to help law firms make buying decisions based on clear and objective information surrounding software functionality and service appropriate to needs. It believes it could help the Law Society develop a more objective process for its members.
“Before today we had already issued an invitation to the Law Society to attend the next LSSA committee meeting. We hope the Law Society will feel able to accept this invitation so that we can have a discussion regarding this and other topics.”