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Daniel Goodell was stunned. He received a call late last year from Hummingbird Ltd., the company that makes LawPack, the software his 80-lawyer legal department relies on to organize its cases. LawPack was being phased out, said the representative on the other end of the line. All of a sudden Goodell, staff counsel at the California Department of Insurance, would have to find another software program to become the electronic lifeblood for his office. At law departments nationwide, software to track case and matter management is as critical to a lawyer’s work as a calculator is to an accountant’s. LawPack keeps track of outside counsel and developments in cases and organizes billing information. The software basically keeps the whole operation running. In this crucial market, Hummingbird’s LawPack had the highest slice of market shareabout 25 percentof any vendor in the case management arena, according to a 1999 survey by AmLaw Tech, a sibling publication of Corporate Counsel. Hummingbird estimates that it had about 200 LawPack customers; most are Fortune 500 companies or large government agencies. General Motors Corporation, The Walt Disney Company, and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., among others, all spent considerable time (sometimes months or years) and money (often six figures) installing LawPack and tailoring it to their needs. Many law departments used the program for five or ten yearsan eternity in the software business. Corporations have until December 2004when the Toronto-based Hummingbird says it will stop providing support for the softwareto find a new system. This isn’t as far away as it sounds. Many companies have slimmed-down 2003 information technology budgets in place, and it takes time and money to select and install case management programs. “Time is running out,” says Curt Canfield, a consultant with the legal consulting firm Hildebrandt International. Why did Hummingbird decide to walk away from this lucrative and popular product? The company admits that it has an ambivalent relationship with its “stepchild”; Hummingbird acquired LawPack when it bought PC DOCS Group International Inc. in June 1999. (PC Docs had bought LawPack from its founders back in 1991.) LawPack never quite fit into the strategy of PC DOCSa document management vendor for law firmsor Hummingbird, which helps businesses manage content companywide, not just within a single department. Over time, Hummingbird discovered that LawPack’s high-profile customer base wasn’t enough of a reason to spend the development dollars to keep the software around. “It was not part of our core business strategy,” says Hummingbird president A. Barry Litwin. It’s not often that a company walks away from revenue-earning software. Even Microsoft Corporationwhich historically has had an antagonistic and complicated relationship with Apple Computer, Inc., and its Macintosh userscontinues to sell a version of its flagship Office suite for Apple’s computers, simply because it earns money. But inherited software sometimes gets short shrift, as did WordPerfect, bought by Ottawa-based Corel Corporation in 1996. Corel wasn’t able to resist the onslaught of Microsoft’s Word juggernaut, and the once-dominant WordPerfect fell out of favor. In many ways, LawPack was more than mere software. It developed something of a cult following, starting with its birth in the 1980s. Its customers formed a tight-knit community of user groups that met every few monthsand were loath to give it up. “It’s something that’s at the heart of this department,” says Allen Howe, manager of legal information systems at Franklin Lakes, New Jersey-based medical technology maker Becton, Dickinson and Company. “I would never have gotten rid of the software.” Part of the users’ devotion can be attributed to sheer inertia: While there are other case management tools that perform similar functions, choosing and installing another product is a daunting prospect. The key to LawPack’s popularity over competing products, say its boosters, is that it’s easily customizable. General Motors, for example, tailored LawPack to track cases by vehicle type, so it could quickly see which cars pop up most often in litigation. Occidental Petroleum Corporation uses it to keep track of distinct categories of matters, like chemical exposure cases. By looking at one category in depth, attorneys can see trends in litigation, says James Hall, corporate applications team leader at Occidental. “It’s fairly intuitive,” says Hall. “Attorneys track narratives and comments about the case at the matter level.” The California Department of Insurance uses LawPack to manage a whole spectrum of legal worknot just litigation. It is installed on every attorney’s computer at the agency. The software tracks thousands of matters, as well as the insurance companies doing business in the state. Goodell, for example, can view every application that an insurance company files with the agency. In addition, the department has customized the system to show the levels of complexity of a case, says Goodell, as well as whether that matter is a priority. He estimates that the agency spent “hundreds, maybe thousands” of hours customizing and tailoring LawPack. Many companies, like Occidental Petroleum or GM, use LawPack to keep track of how much outside counsel is spending. In-house lawyers, for example, can view all of the cases handled by one law firm or a single type of casesay, product liabilityhandled by all of its firms. Those specifications made LawPack essential to many legal departments, and will make it even harder to replace. “We’ve heavily customized the system, so it’s right where we want to be,” says Ruth Baldwin, a systems analyst at Honda Motor Co., Ltd., where about 80 lawyers, paralegals, and administrators use the software program. As much as their customers liked LawPack, Hummingbird never saw it as a core product. Hummingbird’s Litwin says the company held on to LawPack because of the cachet of its customer base. But that wasn’t enough. “It’s a very prestigious customer base, but it’s a very small customer base,” says Litwin. (He won’t say what portion of Hummingbird’s revenues came from LawPack.) Hummingbird’s disinterest in the product was obvious early on. At meetings with customers, company officials displayed a lack of knowledge about LawPack, to the consternation of the software’s loyalists. Worse still for LawPack fans, promised updates to the software program never materialized. Customers grew anxious for Hummingbird to introduce the long-awaited Web version, which would have enabled lawyers (including outside counsel) in remote locations to log on to the system using a Web browser. Hummingbird even gave a demonstration of the Web version at a user group meeting in Las Vegas two years ago. But the customers never saw the Web program materialize. Litwin admits that the company put out the word that a Web version was in the works. But, he says, it was proving costly to develop a new product, and Hummingbird didn’t think the user base was large enough to justify it. “This is not an altruistic relationship,” he says. In any event, customers who wanted more newfangled features in their case management programs were already thinking last year of making the switch from LawPack to one of a number of rival programs. New Brunswick, New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson, for example, planned to replace LawPack before Hummingbird’s announcement. But other customers did nothing. Many noticed that LawPack was not evolving, but they weren’t in a rush to replace it, either; doing so meant getting approval from senior management, as well as an onerous software rollout. “I didn’t float it up to management at the time,” says Occidental’s Hall, who says he knew something was awry months before Hummingbird decided to pull the plug. Late last year, word leaked out that Hummingbird would not release a Web product. Soon after, the company told customers it would stop supporting its software altogether. Hummingbird says it considered selling LawPack to another company, but as of press time no buyer has been found. However, LawPack’s customers can’t plan for the future hoping for a buyer to appear, so many are talking to other vendors. “There’s a lot of confusion in the industry,” says Scott Rosenberg, a technology consultant with Baker Robbins & Company. That confusion extends to corporate counsel. But while LawPack’s demise creates big problems for in-house lawyers, it’s created a large opportunity for LawPack’s competitors. “Vendors are knocking on our doors,” says Wendy Porton, associate director-legal and administrative systems at pharmaceutical giant Wyeth. Shopping for and implementing new software is an arduous process. Options abound [see chart], and that can be a curse as much as a blessing. To start, says Hildebrandt’s Canfield, legal departments must evaluate how robust and feature-laden they want their case management system to be. Then it’s time to call in the consultants, winnow down the list of potential vendors, and have them come on-site for demos. Next, legal departments must get their technology steering committee to hash out the logistical details, and begin the rollout. That can take around six to nine months, says Canfield. “And that’s aggressive,” he adds. Of course, there’s also the budgetary issue. Case management systems are not cheap. A bare-bones product can run around, say, $9,000-$12,000 per computer, including consulting and installation costs, Canfield estimates. A high-end product can run about $15,000-$20,000 per computer. Tight budgets or not, lifeand case managementgoes on. Johnson & Johnson, for example, is rolling out Law Manager, a case management system owned by Elite Information Group, Inc. The product has a Web component that is crucial to J&J’s legal department, according to associate general counsel Taysen Van Itallie. California’s Goodell says that he, too, will probably go with a Web-based product for its “simplicity of maintenance and access.” In the meantime, the close-knit user groups continue to convene. Now, however, LawPack devotees attend technology trade shows to watch marathon product presentations by rival vendors. If nothing else, at least misery has company.

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