Friday, April 23, 2010

An Update on LexisNexis and PCLaw

Because of this blog people frequently contact me asking for product and service recommendations, etc. In the past week several people have contacted me regarding LexisNexis and its PCLaw product. Voila! Along comes a great article from John Heckman on those exact items. Here is what John writes on his Does It Compute? blog:
The State of LexisNexis

It’s been a while since I’ve written about Lexis Nexis. Interestingly, several people have written with observations or questions about what I think may be going on.

The first thing to note is that LN continues to push PCLaw as the low end practice management, complete with baseball hats and ad campaigns on Craig’s List using slogans like “Practice Manager for hire: 23 years experience. 31,393 references. Loves doing everything you hate to do.” While there are also ads for accounting, note that this one does not even mention time billing and accounting.

There have also been concerted efforts to combat bad publicity. Loretta Rupert, former chief architect of the failed Billing Matters program, is reduced to answering questions on a listserv whose existence used to be studious ignored by LN and most Certified Consultants. We are assured that everything is (or will be) just fine, and if Service Pack 2 for Time Matters 10 did not fix a lot of issues (the Worldox link, for example), these will be addressed in SP 3.

Even mentioning SP 3 raises an interesting question: if Time Matters 11 is to be out this fall (which would be in line with their normal schedule), how do they have time for SP 3? Does that mean that TM 11 will be delayed (gobbling up those Annual Maintenance Plan fees in the meantime)?

But all that is window dressing. Time Matters faces a deeper problem typified by a recent “Technorelease” in Technolawyer by “Seven Second System” a grouping of consulting firms. The main headline says it all: “Can Time Matters really be Easy to Use? — WE DID IT! Plug-ins for Time Matters. No Learning Curve and Transformative Features!” A major problem with Time Matters (and many other software programs – Lexis is not alone in this regard) is what might be termed “checklist features.” These are akin to “paper certifications” for consultants – you have the paper saying you are certified, but do you really know anything in real life? A feature appears on a “checklist” for advertising purposes, but does it really work, or work reasonably? Maybe, maybe not.

This has led to a vibrant cottage industry of programs designed to compensate for the lacunae in Time Matters functionality. These add-ons put Lexis in something of a bind, because often in order to make something work right, you have to modify some of the Time Matters code. Steve Stockstill, formerly the Director of Software Engineering for Time Matters, recently posted a Letter to the Time Matters community highlighting the dilemma: “Having been explicitly told not to modify the Time Matters database, Data Equity is unable to adequately provide two-way database services for our Time Matters add-on products.” The bottom line here is that Lexis is not willing to allow the third party development community to do what is necessary to enable Time Matters to work better. Even if there are obvious problems with letting a third party mess with your code (voiding warranties, unverifiable results, etc.), This is another short sighted position by the LN leadership.
Please click here for the original article.

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