Law Technology News
February 2001
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Keystone Results 'As Expected'

Keystone Results 'As Expected' LEGAL SYSTEMS supplier Keystone Solutions Group P.L.C. has reported an "as expected" result for the half-year to September 30, 2000, in what it describes as "a soft market for professional services software affected by the post Y2K slump in IT spending."

Keystone's Tony Caplin said the results -- a turnover of £1.99 million (compared with £2.40 million in the same period last year) and a loss before tax for the period £3.07 million (compared with a 1999 profit of £0.02 million) -- were "consistent with the company's plan and expectations." He said the Y2K effect was now tapering off, and Keystone had begun the second half with early success in the U.S. and Australian markets with new sales either closed or in final contract negotiation with two U.S. firms and a top 10 Australian firm.

Judicum Launches eSettle

ESettle.co.uk, an online claim resolution forum designed to assist in settling any dispute open to a monetary settlement, has been launched. Created for the insurance industry in particular, eSettle.co.uk staff say it hopes to dramatically transform the dynamics of negotiation and settlement by both streamlining and accelerating the settlement process.

Although a rival American service is expected to enter the market in the near future, eSettle claims it is the only U.K. site to offer a flexible, online forum for rapid, inexpensive settlement. The parties can select the amount of time allowed for the negotiation and the degree of compromise they are prepared to accept. Each side then enters a confidential amount that they are willing to settle for. When the two amounts get within the compromise parameter the system splits the difference to calculate a settlement figure.

"[Because] neither side knows what the other is bidding, there's no need to bluff, by demanding £50,000 when you're willing to settle for £15,000, for example," says business development manager Robin Stannard. "The parties are free to make as many offers as they like within the negotiation period until a settlement is reached."

One of its key features is a management information package, allowing the parties to benchmark their performance, control the activity of case handlers and monitor the efficiency of the negotiation process, from speed of settlement to average settlement costs.

The eSettle site is available 24 hours a day and and its parent company Judicium (which also runs the Feelawyer.co.uk service) reckons it will deliver significant cost savings to both insurer and law firm through the earlier settlement of claims, a reduction in the volume of litigation and elimination of the wasted effort that has traditionally been associated with the claims management process.

ESettle has for some months been involved in discussions with the major U.K. insurers and many leading law firms in the North West. Several insurers will try out the site in the coming weeks, including Zurich Municipal, Eagle Star, NFU Mutual and AIG Europe, and more insurers are expected to come on board shortly, says the company. Among the law firms who will also test out eSettle are Pannone & Partners, Walker Morris, Donns, Antony Hodari & Co and Colemans.

By the end of the first quarter, eSettle plans to unveil a number of other tools to assist personal injury practitioners. Talks are currently in progress with several organizations to provide a range of mediation and arbitration facilities. In addition to the insurance industry, the eSettle approach can apply to other markets -- such as employment disputes, travel disputes and medical negligence claims -- wherever there are monetary settlements to be agreed. www.esettle.co.uk

New Face in Document Management

U.K.-based Meticulus Solutions is planning to enter the legal systems market with a "high function, cost effective document management system aimed squarely at small and medium sized legal firms." The company aims to provide comparable functionality to top of the range products, such as PC Docs, at a price that can compete with low end products such as Worldox.

Commercial director Andy Caras-Altas said the pricing would be based on U.S. $ 250 a seat plus $5000 for a server, with a facility to download a free 30-day trial version of the software from the Web, so users can try before they buy. An ASP (application service provider) version of the software, designed for firms with 20 or less staff, will also be launched during the first half of 2001. The chairman of Meticulus is Gordon Olson, who previously founded the Kinesis DMS business before selling it to PcW, www.meticulus.com.

LAWTEL Launches Full-Text Online

Competition is hotting up in the U.K. legal publishing field with LAWTEL announcing the launch of access to full-text court transcripts online. LAWTEL case reports will now contain hypertext links to the full text of all available court transcripts online and over the coming months the service will be extended to include older reports, including Court of Appeal (civil) decisions going back to 1980. By mid-2001 users will have access to transcripts of over 28,000 cases reports.

Eversheds Wins Against Cybersquatter

U.K. law firm Eversheds and its financial services client Clerical Medical, have won a victory against a cybersquatter -- a Bahamas company, claiming to be called 'Clerical Medical Services Agency', which had registered the domain name "clericalmedical.com." Although the Bahamas company was not itself using the domain name, its registration was preventing Clerical Medical from using the domain name which most people would associate with it. Eversheds submitted a complaint to the World Intellectual Property Organisation under the ICANN Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy. The decision of the panel hearing the case was unambiguous. Clerical Medical's complaint satisfied all three requirements specified by the policy, and the domain name was therefore ordered to be transferred.

Tarlo Lyons Warns on E.U. Encryption

Following the European Union's recent decision outlining the minimum criteria to be taken into account when governments designate bodies to perform assessments for "secure signature creation devices," Andrew Rigby, head of e-commerce and digital media at London law firm Tarlo Lyons, comments: "It is likely that as a result of the minimum criteria, we will end up with a single or small number of assessment bodies which may stifle competition and freedom of choice in the market-place and could result in a near monopoly for assessment bodies.

"While eagerly awaited by the industry, the guidelines to be implemented by July 2001 may bring disappointment to some I.T. companies as the minimum criteria may be far too strict for many who have considered applying for authorization under the directive." The notice also provides a set of rules to be observed by I.T. companies and its staff. These include requirements as to conflicts and independence. For example, the body and its staff must not engage in any activities which may conflict with their independence of judgement and integrity in relation to their tasks as a designated body or an employee of such a body. "This means that such a body, or its staff must not be involved in the design, manufacture, supply or installer of secure signature-creation devices. Additionally they must be financially independent and not become involved in design, construction maintenance or marketing of such devices, or even act as a representative of anyone involved in such activities," he says.

International Censorship

After the legal row between Yahoo! and French authorities over the need for Yahoo! to be able to restrict French citizens from accessing material on the internet that is illegal under French law, the French have done it again. A Paris court has now ruled that content deemed libelous and posted up on the internet is not covered by the same three month statute of limitation applicable to printed material -- which means Web site owners can be held liable indefinitely. The judge ruled that, unlike printed media, the Internet offers permanent online information, with yesterday's news becoming today's easily accessible archived data. The ruling is in complete contrast with a U.S. case earlier this year when a New York judge ruled the online publications could not be differentiated from printed ones.

Meanwhile the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe, Germany, has just ruled that German laws against denying the Holocaust and spreading Nazi propaganda also apply to the Internet, even if the content originates in another country and is placed there by a non-German.

The defendant, Australian national Frederick Toeben, was last year convicted of Holocaust-denial offenses arising from physically distributing "Auschwitz lie" pamphlets in Germany but acquitted on similar charges relating to publishing material on the internet because the web site that hosted the material was located outside Germany and therefore outside the courts jurisdiction. However the Karlsruhe court has rejected this ruling on appeal and ordered Toeben's retrial. The next stage will be to see if German prosecution authorities can extradite Toeben's extradition from Australia to stand trial.

Charles Christian is a member of the Law Technology News Editorial Advisory Board, and is the publisher and editor of the U.K.-based Legal Technology Insider newsletter and Legal Technology News.com ezine.

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