Throwback Thursday: That Was The Legal IT Year That Was – 1999

As our countdown through 20 years of the Legal IT Insider continues, it is the turn of 1999 to attract our attention.
This was the year of the Y2K “Millennium Bug” with predictions of global catastrophe striking down civilisation as we knew it when the clocks rolled passed midnight and 31st December 1999 became the 1st January 2000. The Insider carried multiple stories about Y2K and what might happen if there was a global failure of IT systems – in fact Insider editor Charles Christian was even commissioned by the English Law Society to write a Y2K “survival guide” for solicitors. And what happened?
Well, er, nothing. The early hours of New Years Day 2000 saw life continuing in the same way. However, the Y2K scare did create an artificial boom for legal systems suppliers as law firms around the planet, ignoring advice about the availability of simple and cheap bug fixes and software updates, dumped their existing hardware and software in favour of replacement systems. For the record, the next scare is on 19 January 2038 when UNIX counters flip back to zero and commence new 68-year cycle – the last one began in 1970.
In other developments, in March Hummingbird acquired the entire PC Docs Group, which along with the DMS business also included the CMS Data practice management software subsidiary for $155 million. Six months later Hummingbird sold the CMS PMS business to Solution 6 Holdings in Australia for $30 million. And, undaunted by the Ashurst upset, Keystone Software raised £1.5 million on the AIM stock market in March, followed by another £1 million in November – the latter was to fund a new ASP (application service provider – what would called a Cloud service today) project.
Finally, at that year’s “Glen Legal” legal IT conference at Gleneagles, Michael Mills (then with Davis Polk & Wardwell – now with Neota Logic see said he believed lawyers only need email and a web browser on their desktops and that all legal applications should be delivered through a browser front end. He also warned that if lawyers were “the reducers of friction” and online systems could also reduce friction, were lawyers risking automating and commoditising themselves out of a job?