LONDON – 6 December 2007 – IRIS Legal today announced its direction for the future of the Legal IT sector outlining how they intend to protect customer investment in existing products while delivering new products and innovation as part of a 5 year plan.

The new plan, outlined today by Arlene Adams (MD of the IRIS Legal business) at a press and consulting conference held at Microsoft, builds on IRIS’ market leading position and proven track record of delivering long term commitment and investment in its chosen markets.

By comparison the IRIS Accounting Practice Solutions business, which is not dissimilar to IRIS Legal in size (£30m annual revenues and the leading provider of integrated practice management software), has already set out a long term roadmap for customers supported by a multi-million pound investment in next generation products.  Over the past 6 years the IRIS Accounting Practice Solutions business has grown their customer base from 2,500 to over 15,000 practices and only last month was awarded Accountancy Age Practice Management Software Product of the Year. Much of the growth, which has delivered IRIS 40% market share, is organic thus demonstrating that customers want to partner with software vendors who have a clear long term roadmap backed by the right level of investment and skills.  

Martin Leuw CEO of IRIS Group commented: “Our customers choose to partner with IRIS because we have demonstrated time and time again our commitment to the market sectors in which we operate, in particular the professions. It is our strategy to be number 1 in our chosen markets and to deliver on this we recognise the need for a long term plan supported by continuous investment. It is our clear ambition to grow our market share in the legal sector through offering great products and customer service just as we have to the Accountancy profession and elsewhere within the IRIS Group, where our customer retention rates in the high 90%’s are amongst the best in the industry.”

Having already restructured the business in early October, to position it for growth, Adams today set out the 5 year product strategy that is built on the premise of protecting customer investment while delivering new applications and innovation to customers. The product strategy is based on research that indicates law firm's immediate technology needs are growing beyond the hard and fast back office processing towards flexible front end applications tailored to how users work in their daily environments. The strategy is being driven by the need for legal firms to be more flexible, creative and cost effective in how they do business in order to compete in a market which is increasingly facing tightening commercial pressures and rising client expectations.

Introducing IRIS Legal Link.
IRIS Legal is developing a technology framework called Legal Link to deliver on their vision of an integrated legal desktop over a 5 to 6 year period for the solicitor, barrister and coroner market. This framework integrates the existing IRIS legal applications with new legal applications and relevant IRIS group products. During this period IRIS Legal also plans to introduce new practice and case management (PCM) modules through the merging of best practice and technology from the existing PCM systems. The framework is based on a modular approach with a view to delivering a world class integrated legal desktop in 5 years.

Legal Link is based on the Microsoft .Net technology and will be available as a software solution and over time as a managed service. This is the same technology currently being used to develop the latest generation of IRIS Accounting Practice software. While careful consideration was given to the underpinning technology it was clear that Microsoft .Net offered both customers and IRIS the best protection of investment long term. In this market Microsoft is widely accepted and therefore it would have been limiting for customers if IRIS Legal were to base the strategy on any other technology. This decision also has the added benefit of providing the best opportunity for customers to maintain open links to other market products as well as IRIS being able to leverage much of the hard work already conducted by the IRIS Accounting Practice.  IRIS is a Microsoft Gold and Hosted Services Partner.

New Applications
The framework has been designed to protect the investment customers have made in their existing IRIS systems while allowing for the deployment of new applications and function that can further advance the efficiency and competitive advantage of a legal firm.

IRIS market research and customer feedback indicates that the priority for new development rests in “front office” applications, ie Lawyer and Client facing, such as email and diary management, task and document management, CRM, workflow and knowledge management. Innovation in front office applications in the legal market have been limited to date. This is an area where IRIS can leverage its significant R&D resources and the technology available in the wider IRIS Group to excel in delivering new innovations to the legal community. Legal Link also takes advantage of the wider IRIS group technology and “know how”, including solutions in Human Resources (HR), Payroll, Workflow, Client Relationship Management (CRM) and Company Secretarial. The framework will also embrace the need to see more integration between solicitors and barristers at a technology level. Given IRIS is a leading player in both markets it recognises the opportunity to innovate and make it easier for solicitors and barristers to do business in a secure environment.

Protecting Customer Investments
IRIS Legal recognises the long term investment that customers are making and therefore the need for stability and clear road maps. “Our product strategy is built on a pre-requisite to protect the investment of existing customers by not discontinuing any existing products, but simultaneously investing in the next generation technology platforms which both existing and new customers can migrate to over time to improve their operational efficiency, customer  service and  business performance” stated Arlene Adams, Managing Director, “Only a supplier of the size, stature and resources of IRIS has the capability to make this a reality for users”.  

Adams reinforces IRIS's public commitment from earlier this year to provide support on all existing IRIS Legal products for at least 4 years. Adams comments that “a public commitment to maintaining support on existing product is important in under pinning the new product strategy.  Our strategy is not a big bang approach but rather a step by step approach to ease the migration for customers. We see this more as an upgrade path for our existing product set as opposed to a replacement strategy. This is important so that customers can take time to plan for any changes and can align any changes to direct business benefit.”  

A commercial roadmap is also being developed to align to the technology roadmap. This will be based on the premise that IRIS protects customers existing investment. New applications and function will be charged for as they always have been.  Existing software function will be part of the customer support agreement and for this there will be no additional software charge. Customers will only have to pay for the new function that they don't have today. The decision to invest therefore should be at a customer's choice based on the value and return.

Committed to Finance and R&D Investment
IRIS Legal accounts for approximately 30% of the IRIS Software Group’s £100m+ annual revenues, similar in size to the IRIS Accounting Practice business. IRIS is committed to making the necessary investments in research, development and customer service to enable IRIS Legal to increase market share and drive innovation in the legal sector.

The announcement of today's future roadmap, together with IRIS's proven track record of investment and long term commitment to its chosen markets is a true demonstration of the benefits the enlarged Group with its significant resources of people, experience and financial investment can bring to customers.

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