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Cottage Industrialist, a founder or top executive of a leading vendor to law departments: Joe Bookman of CompInfo (Part 4 of a series)

Here is the latest backgrounder on a leading matter management system’s founder, Joe Bookman of CompInfo (currently the CEO of PinHawk).

“CompInfo was incorporated in 1978. Yiorgos Athanassatos and I, along with other early CompInfo people, had worked for CBS News Elections and Surveys. We were part of a small group responsible for the Election Night computer system and we started out with large system consulting projects.

Our first law office project came in 1980 when Skadden Arps asked us to develop an accounting system to help them run the firm. We exchanged lower consulting rates for the right to license the resulting software, and LawPack for Law Firms was born. The idea of running a law firm like a large business was unique at the time. The system gained lots of attention, mostly as a curiosity. Eventually, the system was implemented in 11 of the 50 largest law firms in the U.S.

While the Skadden software was being developed, another CompInfo client, Equitable Life, received a Wang VS word processing system for their law department. The head of litigation realized that the Wang VS was a computer and could be used to manage the details about each matter, each outside counsel, and many other things. CompInfo and Equitable worked together to develop the earliest release of Corporate LawPack. During the next 20 years, LawPack was ported to a variety of hardware and software platforms. The software was implemented in numerous law departments, including 40 of the Fortune 100, many large government agencies and financial institutions.

I believe that CompInfo was the only legal vendor with large law firm accounting software as well as large law department software to manage legal bills. Corporate LawPack was the first commercially available matter management system. It was originally targeted at large departments since it required a Wang minicomputer. Those computers were expensive and many corporate IT departments would not support Wang equipment. Today, hardware platform independence is taken for granted but in the 1980’s and 1990’s the choice of hardware platform greatly limited the potential market for software.

CompInfo’s strong market position in both law firm and corporate legal markets made it an attractive takeover target. The company was acquired in 1991 by a law firm time and billing vendor that had recently gone public. Since then, the acquiring company was restructured; sold two time; and endured many management changes. The expanded company did not offer the software support that clients required. I am told that old releases of LawPack are still running in a few corporate departments.”

On a personal note, I met my friend Joe Bookman on the platform of MetroNorth in Scarsdale in 1984. He was holding a Wang portable hard drive, a heavy object the size of a very large hat box. We began talking and a month or so later I quit practicing law and joined CompInfo as a sales person at its offices, then 1860 Broadway. For more on Cottage Industrialists (See my post of Sept. 21, 2011: Frank Orzo of LTOnline; Oct. 14, 2011: Rob Thomas of Serengeti; and Oct. 24, 2011: Ladan Behnia of Mitratech.).

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