Information Systems in contemporary Irish legal practices and the application of progressive IT Systems thereto

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Hughes, Aileen
Issue Date
BA (Hons) in Business Information Management
Dublin Business School
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Analysis of predominant IT systems applicable to Irish firms at present highlights particular software development in such areas as legal accounting, document processing, precedents application and file management systems. The latter area, given the prevalence of sophisticated programs available coupled with careful organisation of information systems on the whole, allows for increased manipulation by management of information accrued. Where software integration is available to accommodate such practices as database systems concerning client profiles and transaction data as well as typical accounting data, a wealth of information is available to partners and more importantly, at increased speed where delivery is concerned. However, to reap the benefits of effective IT systems, legal firms given their historic origins, often have to undergo significant organisational change in which technology advancement or complete overhaul impacts on staff and partners alike. The need for effective IS strategy is essential to successful IT implementation, particularly as legal software is evidently quite costly. The reasons for noteworthy development by the legal profession down the road of technological advancement are numerous. Namely, increased pressure to conform to the changing requirements of clients could be cited, as indeed would similar pressures arise as between rival law firms. Where legal practices increase in staff numbers or partnerships amalgamate, the necessity of having an effectively operational network system would be an important issue as indeed would such external technological compatibility issues such as might arise where firms rely on e-mail communication and so on. Primary research was conducted predominantly on an interview basis with staff at some seven Dublin based legal firms. Of these, three would rank as large practices, with two at the small-to-medium size ranking and two classed as small but well established practices. Secondary research highlighted the necessity for IT strategy existence and revealed some interesting issues that might be of particular concern for law practitioners. These findings acted as an interesting backdrop to the conclusions of the information obtained at primary level. As expected, research proved that most firms are following in the footsteps of British and American law firms with regard to increased IT investment in legal accountancy packages, most of which offer time recording facilities for fee earners, with more advanced systems offering such integrated features as debtor control and so on. Also evident is the increased availability and implementation of file management systems and what was perhaps most interesting of all, considerable advancements being made in the area of knowledge management.