ellwood Associates Inc (eAI) grew out of the the solo practice of Steve Ellwood.
In 1984, as a junior at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, Steve took a part time job in a computer store near his student residence. The first IBM PC, model 5150, had been released 1981 and the personal computer revolution was starting to gain ground. Commodore and Atari were the consumer focused computers of the time. Games were their dominant use.
By 1984, with the arrival of the IBM AT, non-enterprise businesses were starting to think about using computers, mostly to manage their ‘lists’ and help with their accounting processes. The computer store wanted to use them to manager their postal mailing lists and do the books. Steve jumped in to help the store. Soon others in the store were referring all business clients to Steve for advice and direction.
Soon Steve started working directly for his business clients, while continuing to service the store where it all began.
At graduation time 1986 Steve continued his ‘computer consultant’ practice rather than heading to graduate school. His father, Bob, ran a substantial construction company in Niagara at the time and it became Steve’s first Accpac cost accounting system installation. The system was so effective that construction firm’s contractors wanted to know who developed the system and sought Steve out.
Around 1990 lawyers started considering the impact of automation on their document creation. IBM Selectric typewriters and Wang word processors were still the dominant order to the day.
The rapidly progressing software, infrastructure to support them, and new staff training required to use them kept Steve busy between client clusters in Toronto, London and Niagara. These developing systems were not yet robust and required constant maintenance.
Eventually Dell came to prominence in the hardware market with it’s direct-to-customer distribution model. By taking orders over the phone, providing low prices and quality offerings, especially their full-service warranties, Dell convinced many businesses to look to them for computers. But a quality box on your doorstep was not the same as a reliable accounting system or automated document creation.
Dell reached out to Steve, who at this time was the largest consulting ‘value added reseller’ of Dell products in Ontario, to help with some of their most demanding clients.
The Move to Legal
Most of these clients turned out to be lawyers. Steve’s early experience in the legal market created an instant affinity.
Steve’s practice began to focus exclusively on the needs of law firms. By now a specialist in the computerized accounting systems used by law firms, systems still in their early days, along with his expertise with early word processors like WordStar and WordPerfect, law firms began looking to Steve for solutions to their changing needs, a role now called ‘change management’. Steve focused on the implementation of productivity systems in Canadian law firms.
Those early lists soon became client databases. Eventually software developers created practice management applications for forward-thinking lawyers. Steve lead the implementation of these programs, learning and gaining valuable expertise on how the systems worked and how he could best integrate them.
Computer system connectivity started to be a key value-added element of any effective office system. Steve developed skills in the early networking protocols of Arcnet, Token Ring and Ethernet. The others are long forgotten as Ethernet has become the worldwide standard, but in the beginning a ‘networked’ office could present any number of competing networking standards. Steve became a certified Novell Network Engineer and Lantastic certified specialist all using servers no more powerful that today’s wristwatches (IBM AT’s) and workstations with less computing power than today’s average refrigerator.
Market focus on law firms, application specialist, network specialist, change agent. Steve’ practice grew to the point where there was far too much work for one person.
David Turner, a colleague from Western, joined Steve in the early 1990’s and together they added staff, systems, processes and prominence to their practice.
Dave’s tenure was short lived as the demands of the ‘frantic’ consultant on home life became too much.
The practice continued to morph as the requirements of the law firm client based changed.
In the late 1990’s a government legal department with offices across Ontario needed a practice management system. Dell wanted the hardware deal so they partnered with Steve to provide a complete ‘solution’. The performance measuring practice management implementation lead to many surprises in the way the group was using its resources and many changes in the operations of the department.
As the Y2K computer problem started to force many businesses into rapid upgrades and remediations Steve again took on new members of the consulting team. The volume of work in the closing years of the 1990’s was incredible. So many systems required work before the ‘deadline’ of midnight December 31, 1999 the practice sizzled.
Today there are three divisions of the practice. All still focus on the needs from the law firm, but each from its own area of expertise.
The ellwood Technology division (eTI) specializes on the infrastructure of the firm. The servers, the workstations, the network, the email, the web server, the database servers, the application servers, the virtualized everything, the firewalls, the smart phones - all the hardware and software that every organization requires to provide a technology infrastructure to support their operations.
The ellwood Practice Management (ePM) group focuses on the specialized applications that are unique to the law firm. Their accounting systems, with docketed hours, retainers, transaction levies, law society requirements. Their practice management systems with the unifying object of the client matter or a case which has people, events, documents, reminders, security and alike all connected to this central matter object. Their document assembly processes providing unique specialized forms and documents drawing from the larger information systems of the firm. Their document management systems again focusing on the organizing principle of the matter but also dependent upon version control and the negotiated development of a document like an agreement between two or more parties, all but one from outside the law firm itself.
ellwood Evidence Inc (eEI) is a stand alone entity separate from the rest of the ellwood family. It is a venture between a lawyer, Ron Davis, and ellwood Associates Inc. Head to the ellwood Evidence company page for more information on the newest chapter of eAI’s development.