Latest News

That Was The Legal IT Year That Was: 1998

Another classic year – 1998 – from the Insider archives with a “blood bath” at Ashurst as an implementation goes sour + NT/SQL begins to overtake UNIX/Informix + another comeback promised by WordPerfect + law firm librarians condemn Lexis and Westlaw for “low down sleaze ball tactics” + nearly half of all law firms admit they are sheep and only want websites because their competitors have them.

Time now to look at the year 1998…

The year started with law firm librarians criticising the quote/unquote “low down sleaze ball tactics” of big legal publishers with LexisNexis Butterworths and Thomson Reuters Westlaw coming in for particular condemnation, one librarian commenting “It’s enough to turn formerly docile librarians into enraged Victor Meldrews”

Elite (then still an independent company) said it had reached a tipping point with the majority of new orders for Enterprise going for Windows NT/SQL Server rather than UNIX/Informix. This didn’t stop UK vendor and one time market leader Axxia Systems from claiming the NT/SQL combo still lacked stability and scalability, a remark which prompted Microsoft to say this was just typical “propaganda” spread by vendors who were “struggling” to port their Unix systems to NT.

Reed Elsevier (the parent of LexisNexis) acquired Matthew Bender. WordPerfect announced it was poised to make another comeback in the legal market with version 9.0. And Insider editor Charles Christian’s book Legal Practice in the Digital Age was published and received glowing reviews, being described as “essential reading for every lawyer in the land” by Richard Susskind.

Things started to go wrong at wannabe top tier legal systems vendor Keystone, with Ashurst Morris Crisp abandoning its Keystone implementation and swapping it out in favour of CMS Open as a result of “irreconcilable differences over implementation expectations.” There was also talk of a quote/unquote “bloodbath” at the firm with the FD, Assistant FD and IT director all being shown the door in the wake of the Keystone debacle.

The year ended with beancounters Robson Rhodes, then a major name on the UK legal IT scene, publishing its annual survey which included the somewhat ambiguous finding that although 80% of law firms said the internet would transform the way they conducted business, 45% then admitted the only reason they were developing websites was because their competitors had already done so.