Barrister Information Systems Corp. is hoping the Internet will carry the computer software and services firm to the consistent profits that have been so elusive for more than a decade.
With Internet versions of its professional office software in hand or under development, while trying to revive its computer services business with a Web-based customer service system, Barrister executives said Wednesday the company has plenty of opportunities to grow.
"We believe we're on the leading edge in both the services business and the software business," said Henry P. Semmelhack, Barrister's president.
So far, though, Barrister's efforts haven't paid off in a big way, with the company earning $8,000 on nearly $15 million in sales during the fiscal year that ended in March, which was down from $23,000 on sales of $17 million the year before.
While Barrister officials said they are optimistic about the potential for the company's growing stable of professional office management software products, the firm's services business has struggled recently because of the loss of some major clients.
Barrister lost $592,000 during the first fiscal quarter of this year, partly because of the sagging services business and a stepped up campaign to market the LegalHouse software for larger law firms that it acquired through its purchase of Icon Technology in January.
"Our thought was, let's seize the day, let's sell hard" to take advantage of the technical advantages that LegalHouse now offers, Semmelhack said.
Semmelhack predicted that the rest of the year should be much stronger for Barrister, as its Internet-based service network catches on and the marketing campaign leads to more software sales.
He said Barrister should come close to breaking even or have a small loss during the second fiscal quarter, which ends in two weeks. The third quarter should be "substantially better" with even stronger profits during the first three months of 2000.
"We feel very good about what we're doing," he told shareholders during the company's annual meeting.
Behind much of that optimism are new developments at the company's software business. The acquisition of the LegalHouse product gave Barrister software that is aimed at the nation's 300 biggest law firms, while Barrister's existing Javelan software is more compatible with medium- to small law firms, said Jay S. Moeller, Icon's former president who now is president of Barrister's software division.
Barrister also is modifying the LegalHouse software into a new product that can be used by a variety of commercial firms, including Internet and banking companies, to organize their financial information. An advantage of the LegalHouse software is that it can work in conjunction with other office management software, including Javelan.
Microsoft Corp., for instance, is using a version of LegalHouse to produce financial reports for its Web TV unit. Those modifications will form the base for the commercial version of LegalHouse, Moeller said.
"We see a lot of opportunities for expanding beyond the legal marketplace with our technology," Moeller said.
Semmelhack said he hopes the launch of Barrister's Global Services Network will help turn around its services business, which saw sales fall by 28 percent last year to $8.6 million. The company also was picked by Intel Corp. as one of five warranty service providers for unbranded personal computers that are assembled by resellers.