Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
In January 2000, West Group announced that it was developing WestWorks, a Web-based collection of practice management tools for small and midsize law firms. Many thought WestWorks would explode onto the scene. The economy was booming, the world was moving to the Web and the untapped small-law market seemed ripe for the picking. But the big bang never came. Since West started full-scale marketing of WestWorks in December 2000, sales have been soft. So soft, in fact, that West recently stopped selling WestWorks altogether. “We pulled in our sales force because we needed to regroup,” says Kevin Moran, the senior director of WestWorks. “We need to make sure that we’re bringing out the right product at the right time.” Exactly when the small-law market will be ready for WestWorks is hard to answer. WestWorks’ goal is ambitious: to put everything a small law firm needs under one technological roof. At its core, the platform acts as a Web-based document repository. So lawyers without expensive information-technology infrastructures or support staffs can rely on West to organize and store all of their work product. But WestWorks also links to everything else a lawyer might use during the day, including Microsoft’s Word and Outlook programs, Elite’s Timesolv time-and-billing platform, the Internet and Westlaw. WestWorks also offers a handful of “practice libraries” to help lawyers assemble documents. “WestWorks is the product of a lot of hard thinking, a lot of good thinking,” says Martin Dean, a San Francisco-based legal technology consultant. Allison Walsh of San Francisco’s Workshare Technology has called it “fantastically smart.” Given such reviews, West’s quick pull-back is surprising. Just six months ago, the company began a marketing blitz that seemed geared for the long haul. It ran ads in national publications, featured WestWorks on the trade show circuit and started teaching its Westlaw sales force how to pitch WestWorks. At the time, Steven Daitch, then the head of the WestWorks development team, said the company had devoted “tens of millions” of dollars to the project, making it the biggest financial commitment the company had made to a new product since the launch of Westlaw 25 years ago. West pins WestWorks’ lackluster performance on the economy. The sales freeze “has very little to do with our actual product,” says Moran. “In this economy, small- and medium-sized firms are reluctant to adopt new products or make expensive upgrades. Everyone’s just trying to squeak by for another year with what they have.” Maybe. But given WestWorks’ cost, there’s no guarantee it would succeed in a sunnier economic climate. A fully loaded WestWorks package runs about $132 per month/per user, a price that doesn’t include access to Westlaw. And that’s the least of it. WestWorks requires a high-speed Internet connection, which isn’t cheap (or even available in some places). And WestWorks only runs on Windows 2000. Upgrading a 10-person firm to Windows 2000 can cost more than $5,000. Then there are cultural issues. A firm switching to WestWorks might have to abandon familiar platforms — like WordPerfect or Lotus Notes — for the Microsoft suite that integrates with WestWorks. A firm also has to feel comfortable storing privileged documents on the Web. So prospective customers are looking hard before leaping. “The sales cycle is long,” says Moran, “sometimes very long.” Moran says his company needs to address whether West “can devote so much time to each customer and continue to grow the product.” So far, West has sold WestWorks to around 80 law firms in its three initial pilot markets, San Francisco, Miami and Houston. West recently scrapped plans to launch another round of pilots in Minneapolis, Dallas and Tampa, Fla. For now, the company is using its existing clients to help iron out WestWorks’ bugs. Moran says a lot of the 80 customers are giving “detailed comments” to the company. The feedback helped with the first big WestWorks upgrade, launched on July 1. West has improved WestWorks’ integration with Outlook, created a mail merge file and added “shadowing,” which lets users work on documents while disconnected from WestWorks. West won’t identify most of its pilot testers. But at least one seems taken. “WestWorks is really working for us,” says Orlin Te Slaa of Bloomington, Minn.’s two-lawyer Walsten & Te Slaa. “Document retrieval is a snap, and we’re really starting to take to the document library. I can barely remember what life was like without it.” West hopes that a nation of lawyers will someday agree with Te Slaa. But it’s now clear that that day isn’t right around the corner.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.