In 1984 Law Firm Van Aerde & Partners was the second customer of the new CICERO LawPack. A young advocate Clive Van Aerde had just taken over his father’s law practice.
While he was still an apprentice at the practice of his father, Jo Cant, he – rather reluctantly – mainly handled divorces. He had a hard time watching how couples would do anything to fight over custody and child maintenance. When, inspired by the Notaris X case at the time, a client asked him to file a complaint because of incest with his two daughters, only because she wanted to cause problems for her husband, he had enough.
He got a degree in Port & Maritime Sciences and shot to international fame when his thesis on arrest of ships (impound law) was published as a book and he subsequenly won the Albert Lilar prize. International customes started pouring in, and soon Belgian customers followed.
In 1984 a young advocate Van Aerde had the – at the time almost revolutionary – idea of buying a word processor. ” We also heard that Jan Lefère, of CICERO LawPack, had created a program for case management. We were interested in that because wrapping up a case involves a lot of work where you’re never completely sure whether all billable hours have been charged correctly, whether you were charging too much or too less. With cases that span a certain length of time there is the additional complexity of charging and keeping track of provisional fees.”Together with his father advocate Van Aerde attended a presentation with Philips computers in a little hall. “I spent many sleepless nights on that purchase. A pc cost a small fortune at the time, approximately 150.000 BEF. Once we decided to buy the computers, we learned that Philips already had stopped making computers, and we were advised to buy IBM PCs. We bought six, which was quite an investment. ”
We attended a second presentation at Jan’s father, who was a notary, and made the decision. I think we were the second customers, after na Gobert from Ghent. We really started with the primordial version of CICERO LawPack which had Volkswriter as its word processor. “At the time it was all rather revolutionary, even mysterious. Shortly afterward, an old judge asked me whether it was true that it came with a box in which you could put your files, and the computer would then read the file and write the legal arguments for you. ”Nowadays Van Aerde & Partners is a well organized law firm with 5 advocates and 1 secretary. 80 % of the cases deal with corporate law, of which maritime law still is an important part. The remaining 20 % of cases deal with personal law and family law.
“Not once in those 25 years did I have any regrets,” says Clive Van Aerde. ” Initially we’ve encountered some hardware problems, but those were nothing compared to the obstinate resistance to ‘progress’ by some older partners. Rightfully so, because soon afterward we needed one secretary less than before. No, from the beginning we’ve been extremely pleased, and the personal service we get from Kristof De Neys is very much appreciated.”“From the very beginning we upgraded each time an upgrade was available. In the past they had to come over to install the upgrade, but nowadays it all happens over the Internet. At the start we all completed a course. But because we were right there so early on, we have become seasoned pc users and manage quite well. We sometimes send a new collaborator for training, or sometimes Sarah De Neys will visit us for an on-site training with regard to a new module. She does that very well, by the way.”
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