Corel Corp. is offering deep discounts on WordPerfect to bar associations across North America, but a partner at a Toronto legal firm says that it may take miracles to undermine the dominance of Microsoft’s Word.

WordPerfect

Office 12 has been available since last May and a legal-specific feature-set includes a “Pleading Wizard” and “Document Review and Compare.” Starting this week, Corel is offering about 60 per cent off its Office suite to any North American bar association that joins its Bar Association program,including training and IT support.

“We know that we’ve enjoyed a strong, loyal following within the legal community and we are trying to show (them) that we are completely interested in fostering and strengthening the relationship with them,” said Sandra Inglish, product marketing manager.

The legal profession was at one time loyal to WordPerfect, said Simon Chester, a partner at Heenan Blaikie’s Toronto office, but he estimates that about 95 per cent of legal users have since migrated to Microsoft Office.

“Up until around about seven years ago, WordPerfect had a very significant part of the legal market. There were all sorts of features that were attractive for law firms,” said Chester. “I remember it with affection. It had great features . . . but we moved, and so did everybody else.”

Even now, Chester said, he still hears that some users would prefer the functionality that WordPerfect has for the legal community. But Microsoft is standard for most law firms today, aided by the interoperability between key aspects of Office such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

“At this stage, I cannot imagine under what circumstances anyone is going to go back and revisit that decision, almost regardless of how good the software is,” said Chester.

There are two circumstances under which Chester would recommend WordPerfect to his firm’s 370 lawyers, he said: If it represented a “category killer,” i.e. it’s functionality was something lawyers could not live without; or if clients ever pressured the firm to switch.

WordPerfect may find customers in smaller legal firms, he said, where the cheaper cost of the suite might be attractive and training and infrastructure disruption would be minimal.

Inglish said that the New York Bar Association has expressed interest in joining Corel’s program, and several large law firms are entertaining the idea of switching to WordPerfect, but she declined to say who. She added that Corel’s legal price promotion may attract smaller firms and that the SMB sector – along with a core user base in the public sector – remains the company’s bread and butter.

In an e-mail, IDC Canada’s enterprise software analyst Joel Martin said that specialization is one way for a company like Corel to compete in a difficult market. “By offering a focused set of tools, Corel maybe able to offer the legal industry a simpler (thus less time-consuming) means for document development and cataloging,” he said.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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