Package tailored to suit a lawyer

Vanessa Spedding finds Microsoft on the case
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Indy Lifestyle Online
The long tentacles of Microsoft are extending outwards - and upwards - into "vertical sector marketing". Intending to push their "solution- providing" approach into professional corners of the market, the company has launched a software package specifically for the legal sector.

The backbone of the bundle is Microsoft Office 4.2 for Windows, which includes applications such as Word, Excel and Power Point. Buying Office means you can get a number of other services at a discount, such as a subscription to Lawtel, the on-line database of legal information, and also one to Compuforms, an electronic forms service that provides the latest version of legal forms on-line.

But this is more than just a combined marketing effort. Microsoft has included extra features in Office 4.2 for legal document processing, and Compuforms and Lawtel have designed interfaces to make their products totally compatible with Word and Excel: in fact, they look as if they are Microsoft products.

This means that with connections to Lawtel and Compuforms established, information from Lawtel, or a form from Compuforms, can be downloaded straight into Word. Furthermore, the form can be filled in, while still in Word, with the information from Lawtel. It amounts to an impressive level of integration, and there are some disturbing implications for Microsoft's competitors.

Solicitors who are considering investing in either Compuforms or Lawtel will be won over by the package because of the simplicity that the Word interface affords, while Microsoft's marketing power will mean that Compuforms and Lawtel get lots of interest. Lawtel and Compuforms don't run on the Mac, and there are no plans at present to change that, but that's because the general opinion is that solicitors use PCs if they use anything.

Microsoft has even obtained an endorsement from the Law Society for the product. Acres of leather-covered desk space could soon be sporting the Microsoft logo, all because of this simple initiative; Microsoft intends to take the strategy into other professions.

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