Law firm gets suite deal with WordPerfect

The Toronto law firm of Borden & Elliott was quite happy to stick with Version 6.1 of Corel’s WordPerfect suite.

Despite that, the firm upgraded recently to the latest offering, WordPerfect Office 2000. The need for continued compatibility within the industry plus some attractive features in the WordPerfect 9 word processor convinced Borden & Elliott to make the move.

“[WordPerfect] 6.1 is a very good word processing program and if the world wasn’t changing out there we wouldn’t change that word processor. It’s been very stable for us,” said Rob Russell, the partner responsible for technology at the law firm.

However, the reality is “with word processors you have to upgrade, you don’t have much choice because they are otherwise not compatible with other products out there.”

A legacy user of WordPerfect, Borden & Elliott wanted compatibility with older versions of the product, plus continued integration with applications such as CMS Open and DOCS Open as well as specialized templates created by Nereosoft Inc. for documents like fax sheets, letterhead and legal documents.

The firm had previously passed on WordPerfect 7 because “the 32-bit applications were promised the same time 7 came out,” Russell said. And although they planned to migrate to Version 8 by the end of 1998, the decision was made to delay the upgrade and “leap frog right into 9.” Part of the reason, Russell explained, was that “the filters that were with Version 8 for Word 97 weren’t particularly good and WordPerfect 9 has cured that problem.”

In mid-March, the first 9 Beta version was delivered to a pilot group of about 45 people, including individuals from the legal, word processing and technology departments.

According to Russell, the firm encountered very few problems along the way. In fact, he pegged the main difficulty as a technical change management issue. “One of the biggest problems was that we left 6.1 on [some test] workstations because we were piloting a group that had to produce work for lawyers every day,” he said. “A lot of them were still running that and we would have to remind them that they hadn’t been trying to do things on 9.”

In addition, the firm has about 200 different templates plus several dozen macros for generating different types of documents, all of which had to be upgraded to the new version, said Twane Boettinger, litigation support supervisor and project manager for WordPerfect 9.

Using beta software within the pilot group allowed them to address such issues and “was really the start of us being able to work with our third-party programmer,” Russell said. “There was a bit of rollout going on all the time with new templates becoming available and some fixes that had to occur with our templates. Whenever there would be anything missing they would flip back to 6.1 and use the pre-existing macros and templates.”

“So our rollout in the pilot was basically a bit of a development stage at the same time for some of the add-ons that we do.”

Satisfied with the Beta 4 version of WordPerfect, Russell said the decision was made to do a firm-wide rollout on the beta and “then within a couple of weeks we went on to the full release version.”

Over a two-and-a-half week period, with about 35 to 40 installations per day, the firm rolled out WordPerfect Office 2000, Standard Edition on 650 workstations.

“We sent it out through our network through a program so people would sign on in the morning and it would install on their computer. It was done in stages because we didn’t want to use up all our bandwidth on the system,” Russell explained.

Following that, employees were trained in two stages, Boettinger said. After the initial 45-minute product demonstration individuals were brought back a week later for a two-and-a-half hour training session.

Both Russell and Boettinger credit Corel for the support they were given throughout the rollout. In fact, Borden & Elliott took part in Corel’s premium support services which, according to Russell, provided a hotline ensuring full on-line support.

Boettinger agreed. “They did a very good job of tracking down what the issues were and identifying for us whether it was something we were doing here or something in the installation.”

Corel also supported third-party implementers and vendors working with Borden & Elliott on the company’s macros.

Another factor which contributed to the project’s success, Russell said, was the planning that had taken place in 1998 for WordPerfect 8. Training schedules and hardware upgrades which were already completed helped facilitate the upgrade.

According to Russell, the new suite resolves compatibility issues with other word processors and offers several advantages, including improved conversion engines with Microsoft’s Word 97, the retention of Reveal Codes, paragraph numbering at multiple levels, and the ability to import and export in PDF and XML formats, a critical feature for electronic filing.

Russell said the only change he would make with the implementation would be additional time. Because the upgrade was just one of many projects scheduled for the year, everything had to be done in a “pretty tight window” of about six weeks in total.

Boettinger agreed. “Ideally, we would have liked a longer period to do that but it just makes it a little more stressful for the IT group to get the product out there in that amount of time.”