Vsiting LegalTech in January was a good chance to see what
is new, upcoming or interesting in the world of legal software.
Both Corel and Microsoft are releasing the next version of
their respective suites in the May-June time frame, both to be called "Office
2000." For firms that have just gone through an upgrade, is there anything here worth
In its press release announcing WordPerfect 9, Corel
stated that its main focus would be on increased speed and reliability and not on
razzle-dazzle new features. This is a smart move. One of Corel's main concerns is better
conversion of documents to and from MS Word. The ability to convert paragraph numbering,
Word's "field codes" and graphics flawlessly would be a major step forward, even
if Corel's original claim of "compatibility" is unattainable, since for legal
documents "compatibility" ultimately means that every page ending and every line
ending of the two versions of the document are identical.
In many respects the two companies are pushing similar
features (even down to having the same name!), focused on increased compatibility with Web
documents. WordPerfect 9 will include Trellix (created by Dan Bricklin, author of
VisiCalc, the first "killer app") and NetPerfect which together give a firm the
ability to create a Web or Intranet site and publish their documents to it. Microsoft is
pushing HTML as a "native file format" and both are touting XML (though Corel
has a head start here as it has supported SGML for several versions).
What are the chances that HTML (or XML) will become a
standard format for law firms? Don't hold your breath. One only has to consider some
typical legal word processing needs: footnotes, automatic paragraph numbering and merges.
At present, none of this is adequately supported for HTML-based formats.
Both programs are implementing "install on
demand" features. This will be a disaster in a networked setting, since at any given
point in time no two end-users menus will be identical! I'd hate to be on a help desk in a
firm that used this setting.
One new feature Corel has announced is the ability to save
a document to Adobe Acrobat (*.pdf) format. This will be extremely useful, since it not
only provides a document format that anybody with an Acrobat reader can read, but it will
embed your fonts, letterhead, etc.
Corel has also licensed a version of Microsoft's Visual
Basic for Applications and will include it in the suite. However, this also means that
WordPerfect could become victim of Word macro viruses (currently the most common form of
virus). Unless Corel provides additional security over Microsoft's lame system, I
recommend you not install VBA, thereby maintaining WordPerfect's current relative
imperviousness to macro viruses.
In terms of legal features and basic word processing,
Microsoft is still playing catch-up, touting as "cool new features" things that
WordPerfect has included for several years. Microsoft's paragraph numbering and footnote
capabilities still lag far behind WordPerfect.
The last question is: given that both these suites are
likely to see the light of day in mid 1999, is anybody likely to buy them before the year
2000? Alternatively, assuming you do not need to upgrade in any event for year
2000-related reasons, is there any compelling reason to upgrade? Based on current
information, there are two main features that might justify an upgrade from previous
versions of either Word 97 or WP 8. First, if Corel's increased compatibility with Word
turns out as advertised, this would definitely make upgrading worth while for firms that
need to deal with a significant number of Word documents. Second, for any firm that is
thinking of setting up a Web site or an Intranet, the increased web capabilities of both
programs may make it worth while to upgrade to the new versions. The Heckman Consulting
Newsletter will be taking a more in-depth look at these programs once they ship.
Another program being shown at LegalTech that in concept
is very powerful is "DealProof." If you have, say, a dozen documents relating to
a deal, this program "reads" them all to check for inconsistencies of items such
as defined terms, key formulations, various dates, dollar amounts, etc. Thus if a term is
defined one way in one document and slightly differently in another, DealProof will flag
it for you and ask which one is correct. Right now, the implementation is fairly clumsy.
You have to define the documents you wish it to examine manually and the program does not
take advantage of document management systems when selecting the files you want it to
compare (i.e., by selecting documents for a particular client/matter number). But the
potential is considerable. DealProof is available from ExpertEase Software at
(800)488-6996 or visit their web site at www.expertease.com. DealProof starts at $500 for
a single user.
Ever want a transcript-searching tool but not a
full-fledged litigation support package such as Summation Blaze? E-Binder may be for you.
You can not only index your transcripts but also perform boolean and proximity searches,
and attach exhibits and image files to your transcripts. You can annotate the transcripts
and issue-code them (with color-coded annotations). Reports can be produced based on
annotations, issues, etc. This is a well-designed transcript indexing program. available
from PubNETics, at 888-584-9988, or www.pubnetics.com. Pricing starts at $599 per
METZ Phones has a new version.
Aimed mainly at larger firms, it has a number of usability features that also make it
attractive for smaller firms, including the ability to customize the rolodex display. Get
a trial version from www.metz.com.
WorlDox will be issuing a new
version sometime this summer, featuring web accessibility and increased security options.
This will definitely be worth the upgrade. 1 800 962-6360 or www.worldox.com.
OnTrack Forensics will search
for e-mail and other items that have been "deleted" from a hard drive,
recovering potentially key evidence. 1 800 347-6105 or www.ontrackevidence.com
Sites for Lawyers
Note: The following links are "portals,"
intended to point you to other sites relevant to specific issues and research.
Katsuey Kat's Legal Links. Very extensive and easy to use. No advertising.
Advertised as "the first legal portal." Extensive links to other sites, but sets
Lists the ethics requirements for web sites for all 50 states.
www.ljx.com. Law Journal
Extra site. Also has a daily "legal news" mailing that you may wind up receiving
without knowing you signed up for it. Some sub-sites (LegalResearcher.com) cost money.
The PC Law site has useful links to various courts and universities.
Find any attorney, firm, etc. and print out firm or attorney information. The Web site is
updated more frequently than the hard copy.
Offers an index of reviews & assessments. Far from complete, but a good starting point
if you are looking for new software.
Has extensive listing of lawyer jokes.
are the official Corel sites for technical information. Searchable.
will let you download patches and other supplemental files.
(that's w3, not www). Both these sites feature reviews of various WP versions and
comparisons with Word.
the latest add-ons.
takes you directly to the knowledge base. But you have to register & provide personal
information (e-mail address & registration number).
Site operated by Woody Leonhard & co. The best overall site to find solutions for what
bugs you about Microsoft products, from Windows, to Word, to Outlook.
The site for the "Microsoft Annoyances" series of books.
Newsgroups and Forums
Has a discussion group that will keep you up-to-date. More information than you may ever
Corel maintains a legal discussion group at