You Be the Judge - Page 5

Go Vertical Whichever way the law firms go, theyll need support from integrators and resellers.From servers to office software to vertical legal software, firms regularly seek outside help for their in-house needs. Some of those needs can be quite specialized. Legal Computer Solutions, for example, puts all its efforts behind LextraNet, a Web-hosted, litigation support and case management system.

Internally, law firms are moving from older server operating systems, often NetWare or Unix, to NT. Only the most IT-adept firms, like Kirkpatrick & Lockhart and Greenberg Traurig, are making the jump to Windows 2000 Advanced Server. While internal IT often shoulders most of the upgrade burden at larger firms that employ 150 lawyers or more, smaller firms look to integrators for all of their upgrade help.

According to the 2000 AmLaw Tech Survey, the countrys 100 biggest firms spend an average of $17,913 per lawyer on technology annually.

Once a law firm makes a technology choice, the firm tends to stick with it for the long haul. In 2000, slightly more than 20 percent of the top 100 law firms were still using Corels WordPerfect. While almost all of them are moving to Microsoft Word, its not because they want to. "Lawyers were perfectly happy with WordPerfect," says Hassel Parker, president and CEO of FirmLogic. "They left it to go to Word, not because Word was superior, but because their clients had moved to Word and wanted their firms on a common platform."

Law firms tend to look for solutions that have been long proven in the marketplace. On law firm desktops in 2000, for example, youd find 48 percent using Windows 95, 34 percent using NT, but only 12 percent on Windows 98 and a mere 6.4 percent running Windows 2000 Professional.

Still, some law firms are willing to adopt leading-edge technology if it gives them a business edge. One area where restraint is thrown out the window involves wireless e-mail devices and PDAs. Lawyers love gadgets. The RIM Blackberry handheld e-mail device is wildly popular. Indeed, large firms in 2000 were buying more Blackberries for their attorneys than they were Palm Pilots, according to law firms that we interviewed for this article. Windows CE devices lag far behind.