To celebrate the fact that the Legal IT Insider is 20 years old this month, every day this month we’ll be looking back at the legal tech events of the past two decades, starting today with 1995…
1995 was an entirely different world: although this was the year Microsoft launched Windows 95, WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS was the dominant WP platform. Green-screen UNIX/Informix systems led the way in accounts and practice management. Email was still a novelty and used by relatively few firms. IBM OS/2 was still seen as a serious competitor to Microsoft Windows. Digital dictation was unheard of. Marketing systems meant “mail-merge”. Document management was a shared folder on a network. And our lead story in the first issue looked at a large Scottish law firm that had rejected Windows NT as a networking platform “because of performance doubts” and opted instead for Novell NetWare.
It was also a world where businesses, including law firms, with High Street premises were being attached by “RAM Raiders” – that is to say thieves were breaking in overnight to steal the processor and memory chips from PCs. According to London’s Metropolitan Police, these latter-day Fagins were supplying teenagers – some as young as 14 years-old – with stamped, addressed padded envelopes and sending them out to steal RAM chips and then pop them in a post box on their way back home. An entirely different world indeed.
Oh yes, and people were predicting that workflow/legal process automation systems would make lawyers redundant. OK, somethings were not that different! In other developments that year, Microsoft made another foray into the legal vertical market space, then changed its mind again and pulled out. (So, no change there either.) UK legal tech vendors were at war with the English Law Society over the Society’s dabbling in the legal software market. (Also no change there 20 years after.) And beancounters Robson Rhodes published their (then annual) survey of the UK legal tech market and warned that the majority of law firms were dissatisfied with the quality or products and services they were getting from vendors.