Peppermint Technology – www.PeppermintTechnology.co.uk – which claims to be the first major new software entrant to the UK legal market in over a decade, today announced it is working in partnership with Microsoft to develop a UK cloud-based Legal Services Platform (LSP) for law firms.

The Legal Services Platform is designed to give multiple stakeholders in the legal community access to information and services anytime, anywhere. The platform will enable firms to deliver consistent and integrated legal services directly to customers, referrers, business partners and fee earners from any device, at any time. The platform will provide law firms, and legal service companies, with a suite of business tools to quickly create, deliver and manage innovative legal services. Designed around a customer centric business model the platform, say Peppermint, goes beyond the limitations of traditional case and practice management solutions. Already in development, the platform will be released on a modular basis with the first module available in March 2011 while the complete platform is planned for Q4 2011.

The Peppermint announcement goes on to say… Law firms are complex operations facing increased competition from all directions. The Legal Services Platform is designed to provide firms with the tools they need to respond to this challenge. Designed with input from law firms, the workflow driven platform delivers back office functionality such as case management, reporting, finance, accounts, performance management, time recording, billing and business intelligence. The platform extends these services to users outside the firm, thus improving efficiency, reducing costs and providing a much improved customer experience. The service is accessed online and billed monthly based on the number of users therefore providing affordability, predictability and flexibility. There is no upfront license fee or hardware to buy.

Arlene Adams, co-founder of the business said “We started the business because a team of us shared the frustration that existing suppliers were not investing in new technology at a time when legal firms are crying out for new services to help them compete. The legal market has lagged behind other industries and we saw the opportunity to bring to market a fresh approach combined with technology innovation. We canvassed the market and found huge support from firms frustrated by the lack of innovation available during this time of market change”. She added “Our mission is simple. We want to work with firms in a symbiotic relationship to build software that allows them to outperform. We handpicked the best talent from the legal market to form a great team. We have every confidence that a combination of our people, our technology and our fresh approach to working with clients will set us apart in this market.”

In selecting Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 as the foundation development platform, Peppermint Technology will deliver a customer centric platform offering true seamless interoperability with firm-wide applications, such as Microsoft Windows, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint and, uniquely in the UK legal market, Microsoft’s CRM application. The application intelligently links and contextualises data thus allowing powerful management reporting and automated workflow which will help firms deliver improved services and manage risk. The choice of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 reflects the demands of the Legal Services Act which is pushing firms to focus on a customer centric approach to systems over traditional back office ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems that have proven cumbersome, costly and in many cases provided little return on investment.

“We are pleased to be working in partnership with Peppermint Technology, one of a few ISV Partners involved in the Microsoft early adopter’s programme for Dynamics CRM 2011, to deliver a platform that will help firms prepare for the full impact of the Legal Services Act. The new platform will provide legal firms a step change in how they interact and service their customers giving them the chance to outperform against the competition” said Steve Morrow, Director Microsoft Dynamics UK. He added, “By bringing together the depth of legal knowledge in the Peppermint team with Microsoft's technology expertise and products, we are confident this platform will challenge the status quo of the UK legal market.”

Peppermint Technology is backed by OLM Group and co-founder Peter O’Hara who commented “We are very fortunate to have selected such a strong team of legal industry experts who share a massive passion to make a difference. The evidence exists to suggest the market wants Peppermint Technology to succeed. Even before we launch the platform we have signed a number of major firms as customers due to the fact we are listening and investing. I think this is an approach many more firms will embrace”.

Comment: We know they have signed up some firms but we can't disclose their identities yet. Otherwise, is this the new normal for legal IT vendors – build a legal skin on top of a Microsoft platform?