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LawWare celebrates 20 years serving the legal community

LawWare, the long-established provider of practice management software has reached yet another milestone in its history. Mike O’Donnell interviews Warren Wander, MD and founder of the company, as LawWare celebrates 20 years working with the legal industry.

Let’s see what Warren has to say and what makes him tick.

Q: So, Warren, as the old song goes, it was 20 years ago today…, but what was it that made you start LawWare in the first place?

A: I’ve been in IT since the age of 14 when I got my first ZX81 for Xmas. That was followed by a Sinclair Spectrum. In those days, technology was new and exciting. It’s even more so today with the amazing tech. that’s coming almost daily.

I knew computing was for me and that passion, alongside a drive and ambition to “be my own boss”, was there from an early age. The direction for LawWare came afterwards in my late 20s. A lawyer family friend was looking for something new and different for his law firm and encouraged me to explore the profession. So I developed an RTA Case Management system for him using Microsoft’s new relational database system. So, to answer your question, I suppose it was a mix of drive, good timing and good fortune that started LawWare in the first place.

Q: How did you get on in the early years?

A: Don’t get me started on the early years! The part I missed from my earlier answer about drive, good timing and good fortune was in reality, sheer hard graft! Alongside an absolute self-belief and determination to follow and fulfil a dream of having my own software business. I knew I had it in me, it just wasn’t a reality, just a vision.

The early days were crazy. For years I burnt the midnight oil developing something in the hope that it would be successful. I made plenty of life sacrifices along the way and spent a long time pulling my hair out trying to stretch the tools and tech. available at the time beyond what they were capable of. That’s evident in where LawWare is today and the fact that the core architecture of today’s product is still based on my original designs and developments from 20+ years ago. In fact, there are still a few early adopters using that original system. They don’t want to let go of it! But with GDPR and MTD here now, I’m afraid its days are numbered.

I think back to those days with real nostalgia. I sometimes do wonder how I made it through some of the challenges. However, it was a journey that has taught me so many things. It shaped me as a person and shaped LawWare into the fantastic business it is today.

Q: What were the key moments in LawWare’s development?

A: Memories of late night coding and having to sleep in the office on a pull out sofa bed when it was too late to go home.

Trips down to London to visit the mighty Law Society in Chancery Lane! That was to evolve the HSSK (High Street Starter Kit) with them back in the mid-90s.

Receiving a phone call from Walter Semple (one of our first clients), after sending him a CD of a very early preview test version of LawWare. Then asking him not to use it for any live data as it didn’t work properly. He phoned to say he had loaded all of his clients and accounting data, asking how he should now backup the system. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck!

Moving to Edinburgh in 1998 and taking a small attic office above a very small traditional Law Firm (Coutts & Palfrey). It was a traditional Edinburgh town house on Alva Street, with views of Edinburgh Castle.

Working alongside a very accommodating Law Society of Scotland. Then taking on board the first few early adopters who didn’t have many other options as a result of the Year 2000 bug.

Taking on our first employee after 5+ years of working on my own doing all the developing, testing, documenting, training, supporting, selling, admin, billing, hoovering, washing up and cleaning the loo.

The rest is history and there have been many landmark moments but probably too many to ramble on about here. I love talking about it. If anyone wants to know more – and has a couple of days to spare – give me a call!

Q: Which development in the business are you most proud of?

A: I’m most proud of our team. I’ve been involved in the recruitment and interviewing of almost everyone. They are carefully chosen to make sure they fit into the culture, values and ethos of the business. People join LawWare and find their own level based on their own skills, ambitions and interests. Most stay and progress and, I hope (and try to ensure!) that they enjoy working for us. We have a team of 16 highly valued people, 5 of whom have been at LawWare for over 12 years, with the remainder around 5+ years, and some new starts in the last 6 months as we grow. We have a very low turnover of staff. In my opinion it’s a fabulous hand-picked team that delivers a great service. You can see that from the top feedback that we get from clients about how well looked after they feel.

I’m also proud of how we evolved LawCloud 10 years ago and the technical achievement involved in creating it. Two thirds of our clients are now using LawCloud and it’s a real evolution in the way that software is delivered.

There are lots of things to be proud of, but I suppose one of the key ones is our clients. I would never have dreamt that we would reach a point of having 450 law firms using the software. Nor of being the largest independent supplier to the Scottish legal profession and having now well over 35% market share. However, metrics aside, it’s the relationship that I value with our clients. They appreciate us, we appreciate them and they make us the business that we are today.

So, all in all, I’m proud of our people, I’m proud of our tech. and I’m proud of the client relationships that we have built. I suppose what all of that means is that I’m proud of the LawWare brand and the reputation that we have built after many years in business and many lessons learned.

Q: Which are your strongest memories of the last 20 years?

A: We’ve had some incredible User Group Conferences. One of the best was probably the 2018 UGM last year. It delivered, it worked and was an all-round remarkable event that, for me, showed just how strong a business LawWare has become. We have loyal clients who appreciate what we do for them. There’s nothing better than having 200 people together in a room and getting that real eyeball to eyeball feedback on what they really think.

There are so many memorable moments, it’s hard to choose the best. I’ve mentioned the early days, the bleeding edge developments, taking on board our early adopters, pushing tech. to its limits, the evolution of LawCloud and more.

The reality is, whilst all of this may sound exciting, to build a strong business, needs patience, leadership, stability and vision. If those qualities don’t come naturally to you (and they don’t all to me!) then they need to be nurtured through real life experience and that takes mistakes and time.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing. There have been challenges, there have been break point moments and there have been crises (as there always are with technology). If I’m totally honest, the strongest memories are the ones where we’ve faced our deepest challenges as a business (the growing pains), probably because they leave the most scars. However, they’re the ones that you learn your biggest lessons from and are the real route to success.

It sounds ironic that your strongest memories are the ones that you learn the most painful but valuable lessons from. The ones that you’d prefer not to recollect in too much detail, in favour of painting a more idyllic picture of your experiences.

Q: How do you find working with the UK legal community?

A: I love working with the legal community in the UK. Lawyers aren’t IT people. So, they value the help that good IT specialists give them to help simplify their roles. Being a lawyer is challenging enough in itself. Our software and services help manage some of those challenges like compliance, risk management, performance, efficiency, information accessibility and general day to day tasks.

It’s really hard to find a good techy who can speak plain English. So, I pride myself on being able to talk and help in layman’s terms whilst still understanding what’s going on under the bonnet.

I respect and value the legal profession and admire the qualities together with the hard work that it takes to become a good lawyer.

Q: To what do you attribute the success you have enjoyed over such a long period?

A: Determination, enthusiasm, ambition, vision, patience, self-belief, family support and a love of humanity.

Q: Where do you see LawWare going in the future?

A: Moore’s Law suggests that technology and computing power doubles around every 18 months. That’s evident in the pace of change in the power, miniaturisation and application of new tech. that we see evolving year on year.

LawWare is an innovator with a passion for technology. We strive to develop and create the best we can with the tools, techniques and technologies that we have. Often this is massively difficult as the LawWare system is a feature rich product. It has real depth and evolving this around the new-fangled stuff that comes out ever more rapidly is like doing a three point turn with an oil tanker. Not that I’ve ever tried that!

The answer to this is to keep evolving as best as we can using the current tools and technologies. Then plan ahead for the next evolution with a keen eye on the future.

LawWare is a financially strong business which invests heavily in research and development. That means we have some very interesting and exciting ideas for the future. I’d love to give you more information on those ideas, but we’re not a business that sells things we don’t have. Some of the ideas are a bit top secret and not the kind of things I’d like to share too soon.

All I can say is that we’re a business you can trust and we have some great ideas based on current and emerging technologies. That’s what really keeps my interest and is what LawWare has always been about.

Q: What do you think will be the most important developments in legal software in the future?

A: Everyone talks about AI (Artificial Intelligence) but nobody really knows what they mean by it. Machine learning, robotic tools, big data dissection, support systems. It all sounds very futuristic. It’s a bit like “Cloud”. “Hosting” had been around for years but wasn’t really made mainstream until the conjuring up of the word Cloud. I wish I had all the answers to this question and will need to give it some more thought.

I’d like to think that the next edition of LawWare will be the most important development in legal software. It certainly will be for us. And I’d hope it will be for our clients and prospective law firms considering software systems.

Check back in the future for an updated answer this question.

Q: When you are not running a highly successful business, what do you get up to?

A: Trying to think about how to take my mind off running the business!

It’s a constant thing and it has become a part of me. In this always on world, I’d rather be available to ping a quick response to someone than let it sit and grow into a to-do list. So, I’m responsive, available and online pretty much 24×7. I enjoy the buzz!

However, I’m not a machine and yes, I do switch off and relax. I enjoy keeping fit. I regularly go to the gym and mix between cycling, swimming, weights; sometimes running when the weather’s decent. It’s really important to keep a healthy body. I love travel and good holidays with the family, good food and simple things like taking the dog for a walk. It’s so important to have variety in your life.

I do like “mind” stuff. Reading about life, science, ideas and books about what makes other people tick. I really like reading and thinking about values and qualities, leadership, people and how things work.

More recently I’ve started liking Manchester United again after a bit of a difficult spell after Sir Alex left. We’re a red family and my Dad took me to my first game at six years old. What a history that football club has. That’s a thing to be proud of!

I listen to music quite a bit and used to play electric guitar, bass and a bit of blues harmonica. I haven’t touched those things for a very long time. Perhaps they’re next on my list.

Summary from Mike O’Donnell.

Thanks Warren. That gave me a real insight into both you and the background and history of your business. Perhaps we should do this again in a few years’ time?

Lots of luck for the future with LawWare – though somehow, I don’t think you’ll need it. Manchester United might be another kettle of fish though!

View LawWare Timeline.

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Our clients range from small start-up legal practices to multi-partner, multi-site firms.

Another great customer service experience from LawWare. My laptop had to be stripped back to factory settings as part of a repair - taking hours! In contrast, restoring LawWare took one phone call to the support team and I was up and running in 6 minutes. If only everything was so easy!

VI pensions Law Ltd.
Vanessa Ingram

As the first commercial user of LawWare back in 1998, we have had no hesitation in remaining with the product through its development. We thoroughly recommend it to any firm looking for a practice management system.

Alastair Hart & Co.
Alastair Hart

The helpdesk is exceptionally good. Whatever the query there is always a human being there to help. No leaving messages or being advised to go to a website. The best computer service for solicitors I have ever used!

South Forrest
Irene Yule

The linking of documents and casefiles saves so much time! I have experience of several accounts packages and I like that LawWare is simple to use and easy to learn. Support is quick and effective and staff are helpful and courteous.

Sprang Terras
Fiona Allison

I have worked with a number of Case Management providers over the years but have not come across anything with the attention to detail and thoroughness of LawWare. My colleagues and I have not been disappointed.

Brymer legal Ltd.
Professor Stewart Brymer

I can’t imagine trying to be a law firm in the 21st Century without 21st Century IT systems. Having a ‘single system’ that underpins all the work, whether we are in the office or out, is an integral part of what we are building.

Sneddon Morrison
Eric Lumsden

The level of support is the main benefit using this system.  The system itself once you have had training is simple and easy to use. We have a great relationship with LawWare and the ongoing support is second to none.      

Linda George Family Law
Sharon Rodger

Significant preparation was required to configure and import the data from our old firm. We had to get all clients onto the new system and then learn how to use it. We just find it very easy to use, much easier than our old system.

Scanlon Ewing
Maureen Ewing

Being a busy litigator with a growing firm it is incredibly useful to be able to view my files from any location with some form of internet connection. I am a fan, and want to keep working with LawWare to make a good product great.

Helix Law Limited
Jonathan Waters

The switch to the new LawCloud system, which is still on-going, has gone very well. We found the LawWare team without exception to be very helpful and knowledgeable. All queries are followed up and dealt with promptly.

Cullen Kilshaw
Ross Kilshaw

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