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No. 7, November 1998  

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.

Producing Documents

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: producing documents.


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 file.

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 client.

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.

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