July 23, 2004

Legal Product Web Sites: Who's Behind the Door?

See if you can figure out which vendor runs Calendar-Software.com. (Note that I'm intentionally not providing the underlying web link -- which amounts to my Google "link vote" and it's not insignificant.) It purports to provide "information about legal calendaring and law practice management software", and includes quotes by some prominent legal technology professionals (I hope they obtained permission).

The sponsor made it somewhat difficult for the visitor to determine which particular vendor is actually behind it, and I have to say this rubbed me the wrong way. The Contact Us page asks for name, telephone number, e-mail address and law firm name, so you can "contact us" -- but the "us" isn't identified. Instead, unsuspecting people are probably just providing the vendor with a sales contact list.

What also seemed misleading to me is that the "Choosing a Vendor" page purports to provide an objective feature comparison chart between a number of well known practice management programs. Interestingly enough, one product received many more "Y's" for supported features than all the rest. Mind you, in my career, I've worked directly in implementing and supporting three of the other products listed, and I'm not currently associated with any consulting firm or software vendor. However, I felt the chart was less than completely accurate on a number of the "N's" several of the others received.

So it didn't take much effort to determine Calendar-Software is registered to Abacus Data Systems, Inc., with e-mail contacts at AbacusLaw.com. No surprise there. My intention here is not to pick on Abacus, but rather, use this as a good example of what not to do with a vendor-supported web site. In my mind, their credibility is completely shot, especially by the fact that they've purported to present an independent company, web site, and feature comparison chart, yet chose to hide behind Calendar-Software.com. Perhaps this example may appear somewhat harsh, but that's what they have generated as my perception. Definitely not a good thing. I'm tempted to ask, what are they hiding from, and who do they think they're kidding?

Note that this discussion has nothing to do whatsoever with their products or services. It's purely derived from the way in which they purported to promote part of their web presence (Abacus does have their own web site at AbacusLaw.com).

Now, for a very good example of a vendor-sponsored web site, I really like how DiscoveryResources.org has evolved. It's sponsored by Fios, Inc., no stranger to the EED (electronic evidence discovery) market. Initially, the site didn't really mention Fios, and in addition to checking the domain name registration, I had inquired who was running it. However, I now see they are disclosing its sponsorship (smart move), and it has evolved into a very good resource for EED news and developments. They offer many articles from well known professionals, and provide updates relating to EED case decisions and more. I don't know if they're allowing their competitors to post information there, but it wouldn't hurt in my opinion. If you're going to offer a seemingly neutral site as a clearinghouse for relevant data and education, then offering diverse competitor views isn't a bad idea, and it hopefully promotes more collegiality in the market if moderated appropriately.

Topic(s):   Legal Technology
Posted by Jeff Beard

The important thing here Jeff is that, regardless of whether you're being harsh, Abacus is the one that left you with the perception you have, and that perception is their problem. If a manufacturer does something to cause you to have a lack of confidence in their candor, that's not your problem.

I appreciate your bringing this to the attention of the legal community, because I don't think most of us would have picked up on it.

Glenn K. Garnes
The ESQlawtech Weekly
"Your Technology Parnter"

Posted by: Glenn Garnes at July 28, 2004 10:51 AM