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Modems stretch the law overseas: Bermans attorneys link U.S. and U.K. business.


As the need for quick, accurate global communication increases, many businesses are getting into highspeed modems.

Bermans, a British-based 20-year-old law firm, is using 4142TCX modems--which BT Datacom, a subsidiary of British Telecom, is marketing as its high end--to link offices in New York, Manchester, Liverpool, and Glasgow.

Bermans uses modems to maintain an international client network. Linked to AS/400 computers in New York and London, the 14.4-kb/s 4142TCXs (which Bermans began using in May) provide full-duplex single-dial-backup lines in a synchronous environment as well as extended V.32 and V.33 functionality with Trellis-coded modulation.

New York represents U.S. corporations and educational institutions pursuing litigation, commercial dealings, and debt collection in the U.K. and 150 other legal jurisdictions based on English law.

"We needed a way to more accurately and efficiently transmit information between offices in Liverpool and New York," says founder and partner Keith Berman.

"Good communications are essential in the legal industry. Not only did we need a link between our offices for legal correspondence, but as the firm grew we also needed our offices to communicate with and access data from our central computer."

Line Failures

First they tried 2400-b/s modems, with limited success. "The modems had echo compression, but did not overcome it. There were many line failures. Sometimes connections coud not be established at all. Variable line quality--whether satellite, submarine, or fiber-optic--was so uncertain, sessions would often fail before the task was complete."

Bermans people heard about the new BT modems, ordered some, and ran prototypes. Transmission speed and unflaggingly high line quality scored points.

"Often, transoceanic submarine cable distorts either the telephone signal or the phase," Berman says.

He credits the modems' phase-roll technique with eliminating distortion to allow full data throughput over international dial-up circuits.

"As part of our debt-collection services," he says, "we often type in letters and pleadings in the United States, which are transmitted to the United Kingdom, where they are printed and have the appearance of being locally produced. This has a been a great advantage for our clients.

"We simply prepare a bankruptcy petition in the U.S. and transmit this to the U.K., where a clerk will take it to court and file it. The petition is then faxed to the debtor to give notice.

"The whole procedure can often be completed within a few hours."

Less Paper Traffic

Documents are sent back and forth to partners in all offices for consideration and amendment, reducing the need for interoffice paper traffic. Once data is put into the AS/400, the modem routes it to whomever has been designated to receive it.

When secretaries sign on in the morning, they print out electronic messages conveyed via modems. This saves time and allows Bermans to transact faster and lose less information than it did did before it used 14.4-kb/s modems.

Bermans clients are now linked to Bermans' AS/400, which enables them to get timely and accurate status on legal proceedings.

To access the system, the client needs a BT Datacom modem and PC communications software.

Using password protection, they access prescribed menus to get information.

As well as check the status of their proceedings, clients can use modems to call for action. For example, a client can input the address and name of a debtor, the amount owed, and a case reference number. When the client signs off, Bermans personnel scan the system for new data, which is then integrated with appropriate client documents.

Often, the only action necessary is a simple mail merge. This produces a form demand letter, to be signed by the attorney on duty and sent out.

Barbados Venture

Apart from its legal practice, Bermans is working on a venture with Offshore Keyboarding Corp., a sister of Barbados Telephone Co., a Bermans client.

Last year, Offshore told Keith Berman they wanted to improve transmission of documents from Barbados to the U.S. The 4142TCX modem solved the problem.

That capability to handle the load will grow into a permanent link, which Offshore will use between Barbados and New York for electronic transmission of transcribed manuscripts, books, and other publications.

The old way was to fly transcribed diskettes back and forth. They were then used by printers and publishers for typesetting. Obviously, this ate up time and money, and the diskettes were subject to corruption by security-equipment X-rays.

After the documents pour into the New York computer, printers and publishers will use dial-up modems to access them and download right into their own PCs for proofing the copy. Then they'll send the copy directly to typesetting machines, often for overnight production.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
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Publication:Communications News
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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