Microsoft or Novell Best for Law Firms?
Many firms face the prospect of upgrading their PCs and
networks, either due to year 2000 considerations or because they increasingly need
software no longer available on older platforms. For them, the question is inescapable:
Microsoft or Novell; Word or WordPerfect? The ongoing Department of Justice and other
lawsuits against Microsoft serve to add to the normal quotient of what the computer
industry refers to as FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).
Even though WordPerfect maintains a better than 50% market
share in the legal industry, the general perception (frequently encouraged by consulting
firms) is that WordPerfect is dead, but Corel doesn't know it yet, and it is "better
to switch than fight". This perception also holds, albeit to a lesser degree, of the
Windows NT vs. NetWare question. NT is viewed as the future of networking, and you'd
better to get used to it now rather than waiting. We examine here how this perception
matches up with reality for law firms.
Novell's traditional strengths lie with file and print
services. Law firms primarily create and print documents, so that the needs of law firms
mesh with the strengths of Novell. Recent benchmarks of NetWare 5.0 show that it is up to
50% faster than Windows NT for file and print services when using the same
single-processor server. Even if you spend the $1,000 or so extra for a dual processor
server, NetWare is still faster.
Where NT is clearly superior to NetWare is as an
application server (i.e., when applications that are database-intensive, such as
time and billing programs, fax servers, etc. are run from the server). However, you can
easily add Microsoft NT servers to your NetWare network for specific applications. The
entire system can still be administered centrally using Novell's NDS for NT. On balance,
therefore, Novell provides a superior infrastructure for the core of any legal practice:
NetWare's control over and administration of all aspects
of a network is much more efficient than NT. Using Novell's ZEN Works, administrators can
define what programs appear on the desktops of every group of users (or individual users)
in their firm. If a program becomes corrupt or a user accidentally deletes a key piece of
it, it is repaired centrally by the server: there is no need to visit the user's
workstation. Microsoft will upgrade NT's capabilities in these areas with NT 5.0, but that
will not be ready for serious commercial use until at least the year 2000, and NT 5.0's
announced features (not all of which may make the final version) do not match what Novell
is shipping today. Novell has a single point of administration for your entire system,
whereas Microsoft has a number of separate utilities. NT 5.0 will require nearly a dozen
separate utilities to administer your system. Since managing end-users' desktops is a key
component of your TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), Novell provides a substantial advantage
today over what Microsoft may offer in a year or so. A September 21 review of NetWare 5 in
Infoworld notes: "The ZENworks Starter Pack is perhaps one of the top features
in NetWare 5 for reducing desktop management costs, and it provides much more extensive
client support than is currently evident in Microsoft's IntelliMirror technologies slated
for Windows NT 5.0."
Running Legacy Applications
A Novell Network with Windows 95/98 at the desktop will
enable you to continue to run legacy applications (typically for specialized practice
needs such as real estate, bankruptcy, etc.) from the network on an interim basis. Should
you adopt Windows NT this would be considerably more difficult, if not impossible for many
specialized legacy applications. As far as running NT at the desktop is concerned, NT's
difficulty in running legacy programs may well disqualify it, since even in the most
optimistic scenario, you will need to run some legacy programs on an interim basis after
the initial conversion.
Total Cost of Ownership
Windows NT will cost a firm substantially more than
NetWare for several reasons. First, it is much more hardware intensive than NetWare: using
NT, you will have to buy a more expensive server to get the same response as NetWare. In
addition, you may need to buy two or three NT servers where one would suffice if you were
running NetWare. If you use NT at the workstation, you will have to buy about double the
amount of memory for each workstation and have a much more powerful machine as your base
unit. Finally, a recent Gartner Group report (quoted in the October 26 issue of Business
Week) estimates that Microsoft's ex post facto changes in licensing terms will
cost firms that have already purchased Microsoft products up to 50% per year additional
between now and 2002.
What Does the Future Hold?
The core argument in favor is Microsoft is that the
Gatesian juggernaut will crush any and all obstacles. However, based on my reading of the
computer trade press recently, I think Novell is picking up steam and Microsoft may be in
a position akin to that of IBM in the period just before people stopped saying
"nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." Microsoft has recently taken some very
public steps to counteract the bad publicity it has received around the DOJ suit. Shortly
after Steve Ballmer replaced Bill Gates as titular head of Microsoft, an internal meeting
in which he blasted the MS development teams for shoddy products was widely reported in
the press. And in an unprecedented move, MS has taken the initiative in contacting
end-users to receive patches to fix bugs in Word 97. Patches have been available
previously on the Web or at a user's initiative, but never before have I, as a registered
Microsoft user, received an offer to provide patches on a free CD.
In addition, hostility at being held hostage by Microsoft
may increasingly lead firms to seek other solutions (i.e., NetWare or WordPerfect).
People are rightly resentful at buying a product for a given amount, and then being given ex
post facto price increases for products they thought they already owned.
A recent review of NT 5.0 Beta 2 that appeared in PC
Week concluded that while network administrators should take a good look at NT 5.0
when it appears, "NetWare sites should forge ahead with upgrading to NetWare
5.0." (August 31, 1998). A review of NetWare 5.0 stated: "PC Week Labs can say,
without qualification, that Version 5.0 of the venerable NOS will make NetWare networks
more capable and easier to manage -- businesses should waste no time in upgrading their
servers" (PC Week, September 14, 1998).
The one area where Microsoft has an undeniable advantage
over Novell is as an application server. For law firms, products that require an
application server tend to be confined to specific areas, such as time and billing or
faxing from the desktop. However, such Windows NT servers can be integrated into a Novell
system, so this is not a major problem. Novell offers three central advantages over
Microsoft as a Network Operating System: greater productivity for a law firm's core
business of creating and printing documents; centralized directory services that make it
easier to administer; and a firm's TCO will be less because NetWare requires less hardware
than NT Server and will cost less to administer. As an added bonus, if you already have a
Novell network, training and upgrading costs will be less than they would be if you
switched to Microsoft.
Tips & Tricks
Free Disk Space in Win 95/98. To see how much free
disk space you have on a drive (C:, D:), right click on the drive letter in Explorer or
"My Computer": and select Properties.
Total Size of Files in Win 95/98. Ever wonder what
the total size of all the files in a directory (folder) is, including subdirectories? In
Windows Explorer, right click on the folder and select Properties. You will see the total
size of all files in that directory, including all sub-directories.
WordPerfect. Ever want to insert a line break in
indented text that does not go back to the left margin? Press Ctrl+Shft+L where you want
the line to break (This shows up in Reveal Codes as "LnBrk").
Using the Legal Suites with Amicus Attorney
Originally published in the Nov/Dec issue of
WordPerfect for the Law Office
A rule of thumb in the computer industry is that the
average person uses only about 20% of the features in major programs such as WordPerfect.
With the Corel Legal Suites 7 and 8, this may be even more true given additional
integrated programs, in particular Amicus Attorney, the NexLaw features and HotDocs. This
article provides pointers for increasing your efficiency by using some features that may
not be obvious at first glance. Some of these features require an up-front investment in
time. However, if your practice involves creating highly repetitive documents (letters,
agreements, affidavits, etc.), this investment will pay off with substantial time savings.
We cover the way integration works in both the Legal Suite 7 and Legal Suite 8. In some
cases, additional options are available by upgrading the shipping version of Amicus to the
full version ($149).
Address Book Integration
The main link between the Legal Suite and Amicus Attorney
is through address book integration. In Suite 8, a contact address added through
WordPerfect is copied to Amicus and vice-versa. Deletions from one address book are also
deleted from the other. This feature is enabled through Amicus Attorney: from the main
Amicus screen, select File | Preferences | Calendar and click "Export Addresses to
Corel Address Book." This creates two additional tabs in the Corel Address book:
Corel Amicus Client Matters and Corel Amicus Contacts.
The advantage of this integration is that it doesn't
matter whether you begin a document from Amicus or WordPerfect, you can still insert the
same name and address in a letter. You only have to enter a new address once, whether you
start from Amicus or WordPerfect. However, there are still a number of weaknesses with the
Address book. First, the integration is extremely slow. Second, it is not very
customizable. And lastly, the formats available for pasting into WordPerfect or Word are
very limited. Despite the potential problem of duplicating information, you might want to
investigate a more robust rolodex, such as METZ Phones.
In the Legal Suite 7, integration is more limited. You
must enter addresses in Amicus; addresses entered in the Corel Address Book will not be
copied to Amicus. When you enter an address into Amicus, you are asked if you want it to
be exported to the Corel Address Book. In WP 7, when you click on Tools | Insert Address,
you see all the Amicus addresses, though not in separate tabs as with WP 8.
Client/Matter and Directory Structure
Document management systems, such as WorlDox or PCDocs,
frequently store documents using a client/matter/doc type structure. Thus if your
documents are stored on a network at f:\docs, a standard subset would be
f:\docs\client\matter\doc type, where "doc type" could be aff (affidavit),
brief, ltr (letter), contract, realest (real estate), etc. Many small law firms, in
contrast, frequently store documents with a \user\doctype\client or doctype\user\client
structure. This is fairly efficient as long as the person who created the document (and
knows where they put it) is looking for it. However, things become more complicated when
"Mary" leaves (or is on vacation) and is replaced by "Joan." Does she
still save things under "Mary"? Over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to
locate an older document, especially one originally created by someone else. The Legal
Suite provides semi-automated document tracking that may meet the needs of smaller firms.
Through Amicus, you track all your files and assign them
client and matter numbers. The Amicus file list allows you to have all information
relating to a particular client, including phone calls, appointments, to do lists, time
billed to the client, and documents available at the click of a mouse. We will be
concerned here with the document management aspects of Amicus and the Legal Suite.
Legal Suite 7
Legal Suite 7 is an upgraded version of WordPerfect 6.1
(in fact, the main program executable is still called "wpwin61.exe"), so the
file save dialog box is identical to WP 6.1. A NexLaw add-in creates an additional item in
the QuickList list: <Client/ Matters...>. Clicking on "Client/Matter..."
brings up the list of client/matters that you have entered in Amicus and allows you to
store the document in the directory for that client/matter. Automating how your documents
are stored can go a long way to making it easier to find them. The NexLaw additions are
also available as a stand-alone product for WP 6.1 for about $29 per user, or less,
depending on the number of users (for more information see the NexCard web site at
www.nexal.com or call 800 336-3925).
Legal Suite 8
Legal Suite 8 has more options than version 7. When you
select File | Client Matters a dialog box pops up To select a client/ matter click
"Browse" and select the desired item. Check boxes provide other options,
including having the client/matter number printed on your document. The
"Advanced" tab allows you determine where your files will be stored: they could
be stored at some common location on a network. Once you have made your choices, when you
save the document (a separate step), you are brought to the client/matter directory.
If this structure is not sufficiently robust, the Legal
Suite will also integrate with WorlDox document management system. However, WorlDox
integration is beyond the scope of this article.
Listing Documents on the Amicus File Brad
If you want a more convenient access for key documents
related to a file, you can associate them directly with the file. In Amicus, open the
file, click on the options on the right part of the screen. Select "all
documents" and then "add" to relate a new document to the file. File screen
appears. You may enter a "long name," select the "file type" and add
notes concerning the document. Click on the Browse button to select the document to add.
What appears on this screen depends on how you have configured Amicus.
Legal Suite 7
The two key items to configure are Document Groups and the
basic location of your files. For each file type, document groups are configured at the
bottom of the Custom Pages configuration screen. To add these items, select Configure |
Brad Pages | Files. Document Groups appears at the very bottom of the Files | Custom Page
screen. If you have upgraded to Amicus Team, this is done by the administrator.
To configure the basic location of your files, select File
| Setup | Brad Documents. Note that you enter a path directly, you must select it using
the Browse button. Once this are selected, when you click on "browse" in the Add
Document dialog box, you will go directly to the base location and be able to select your
client/matter and document easily. Amicus does not at this time take you directly to the
client/matter directory of the file you have open.
Legal Suite 8
The configuration for Legal Suite 8 is similar. Select
Configure | Files. You can configure separate custom fields and document groups for each
category of client. To select the default path for your documents, used the
"Advanced" tab of the Client/Matter dialog. Once this has been configured, you
can see and retrieve, for example, the most important documents relating to a particular
Creating Master Documents from Amicus
If you are writing a simple letter starting from
WordPerfect, it is easy enough to pull in the address from the Corel Address Book.
However, if your practice uses a large number of boilerplate documents that you use over
and over again for different clients, you may want to invest the time in creating master
documents using Amicus and HotDocs. This is particularly the case if you need, for
example, to write letters to insurance companies or doctors addressed to them, but
containing information about the client. Without a master document you are reduced to
switching back and forth between programs and, at best, copying information from one to
the other via the clipboard.
This functionality is similar to creating templates in
WordPerfect that ask the user to enter certain information (the file number, settlement
amount, etc.), except that this information can be pulled directly out of Amicus without
asking the user to enter it manually. This is not only more efficient, but it can cut down
on typographical errors.
Legal Suite 7
In the Suite 7, everything must be started totally from
Amicus. First, you need to define the categories of document you wish to create. The legal
suite ships with a number of sample documents that let you get an idea of what is
possible. Select File | Setup | Document Assembly. Click on the left side of the screen
and make the appropriate selection to create, edit or delete categories of documents. With
a specific category selected, click the right side of the screen and select New to create
a new document. The new document screen appears. You can make a copy of an existing
template by selecting "Variation on existing document." If you wish to share the
template with others in your office, select "Master document is used by
everyone." Then click "Create Master Document" to create a new document.
This starts HotDocs and opens the WordPerfect template
creation screen. In the Suite 7, the HotDocs button bar appears automatically on the
screen. In the Suite 8, you have to add it by right clicking on the button bar and
selecting the Hot Docs button bar. To create a master template, you should already have a
basic version of the letter, agreement, etc. that you wish to create. Select Insert | File
to bring the basic document into your template. At this point you are ready to configure
the template to use Amicus information (called "variables" because it will vary
from file to file).
There are three main Hot Docs buttons on the button bar:
Before starting, position the cursor in the document where you want information to go.
When you click on the "<< >>" button to insert a variable. You will
be asked for the type of variable (text, number, date, etc.). In most cases you will click
on "text." The next screen shows you the variables available. Click on the down
button under "Variable Name" and a list of variables appears. Select the
variable you wish to insert. Click OK and the variable will be inserted in your document.
It's that easy!. With practice, you will also be able to configure how the variable is
formatted (all caps, numbers or words for dollar amounts, etc.)
This article is not a complete tutorial in creating
templates. If you look at the sample templates that ship with the product, you will get a
lot of useful information as to how they might be structured. In particular, the
"Jury Notice" template contains an "IF" routine that lets you write a
letter to, e.g., a doctor, and at the same time pull in information concerning your
Once you have your templates established, you can use
Amicus to automate the documents you need to create, for example when you open a new file.
You do this by creating what Amicus refers to as a "precedent." First, open the
new file in the files list. Then create "To Dos" or other events for all the
documents you need to create. When you have done this once manually, you can select the
"To Dos" you need for a given task by Ctrl-clicking on each one you wish to
select, then select "Save Precedent" and give it a name. The next time you open
a new file (or need to accomplish the same task, simply open the file and select "Use
Precedent". This will put all the "To Dos" on your list. You can then
execute them one by one.
Some of the features described above have expanded
capabilities if you upgrade to the full version of Amicus from the Corel Legal Suite. For
example, more Amicus fields are available for document assembly, you can automate the
creation of To Dos, and additional customization is possible. In the Legal Suite 8, the
Palm Pilot link exists only in the upgraded full version. However, the basic features in
the shipping version will enable you to accomplish most of the tasks described above. You
can then determine whether the expanded capabilities are appropriate for your practice. As
it stands, the Legal Suite 7 and 8 provide powerful ways of increasing your efficiency and
productivity and can amply repay the investment in time required up front.