Writing a billing program to make life easier for lawyers probably won’t help Robert Todd win a popularity contest, but at least his target base is south of the border.

Todd is the president and CEO of Edmonton-based e-Quisitions. The 20-year-old firm recently released e-Quinox, a timekeeping, billing and financial management application. The second generation graphical program marks a change is philosophy of sorts. He says the earlier version was client heavy and database light.

“We have corrected that. We spent just about a year simply redesigning the database to take advantage of new technology,” says Todd. “On this new app our reports are actually faster than on our old character system. When you first run the reports you think they’re broken, they run so quickly.”

Part of the $2.5 million makeover included capitalizing on Oracle Corp.’s latest database, 9i. Todd says e-Quinox can run on any operating system supported by Oracle including Novell, Solaris and NT. “It runs real sweet on Linux,” he adds. Todd says it chose Oracle over SQL because it was less expensive and more capable, and disputes Oracle’s high-maintenance reputation.

“Oracle is a lot easier to manage than people realize. People view Oracle as a great big firm product and you need a whole IT department just to manage it,” says Todd. “That is simply not so. We manage the database on our clients’ sites for them over the wire.”

With more than 100 clients using earlier of its software, there is sizeable upgrade audience. The legal community is renowned for its reluctance to integrate new technology, but Todd says he has time on his side.

“We have some character clients that are on Oracle that Oracle stopped supporting three-and-a-half years ago. It works, but when the server they’re on dies and they want to bring in a new server,” says Todd, “your old databases won’t work with the new operating systems.”

The program was put through the wringer by eight firms in four cities. Gardiner, Roberts LLP in Toronto was one of the testers. Chief financial officer Mary Fraizinger says initially the application could add to an IT managers’ workload, but over the long haul it should ease the burden.

“The sorts of things like how the network printers would flow the information and what kind of identification they need or might not need because on the older product all of that configuration had to be done pretty carefully,” says Fraizinger. “Oracle is built to really communicate so the functionality makes all that kind of stuff happen very, very simply.”

Todd says it is targeting law firms from 10 to 150 lawyers, but adds the system can handle up to several hundred clients, with a seat price of about $1,500 per lawyer and $750 per paralegal. And like any company looking to make a buck, e-Quisitions is looking to the world’s largest market. Todd says there are more lawyers in the Los Angeles valley (55,000) than in Canada (50,000).

With this in mind, and the technology end of things taken care of, growing the company through acquisitions is a top priority.

“We are in conversations several other vendors in the U.S. who do not have the will or the dough to redevelop their software,” says Todd. “We were a small, regional software that decided that it was either get big or go home.”

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