What are the Most Significant Legaltech Changes You Have Seen During Your Careers?

English: IBM Selectric II typewriter (dual Lat...

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Jerome Kowalski

Kowalski & Associates

December, 2011


While our heads continue to spin with emerging technologies which have dramatically changed the way we practice law, the ABA has asked me to write a piece for its Spring GP Solo Magazine, marking the journal’s fiftieth anniversary,  describing how technology applying to the practice of law has evolved over the past one-half century.

I certainly remember the old days of secretaries taking dictation through Greg and Pittman shorthand, with spiral bound special steno pads, with the wire spiral on the top so that the pages could be quickly turned.  I also remember old fashioned Dictaphones, which were ultimately replaced with microcassette tape recorders.  I also remember carbon paper and the old fashioned wet waxy photocopy machines.

The next big change was electric typewriters which ultimately morphed into ubiquitous IBM Selectric typewriters and then the birth of IBM Mag Card machines, a word processor of sorts that had no screen. A few years later, word processing was born, first with the Vydec machine, improbably manufactured by Exxon.

We used to send urgent messages by Telex and we had cable addresses.

Do you remember any of these?

I think that the first rattling change was the advent of the fax machine (printing out on endless roles of waxy paper at the rate of four minutes a page).   A few years later, law firms acquired mainframe computers for accounting and word processing.  CRT’s hadn’t yet found their way on to each secretary’s desk and certainly not on any lawyer’s desk.  The next big change was the birth of the personal computers.  That was followed by Al Gore’s invention of the Internet.  The Internet begat emails, which frankly was one of the business world’s most rattling game changers.

Some lawyers carried pagers. Then one day, we all had cell phones. Cell phones morphed in to Blackberries. Blackberries in turn morphed in to smart phones.

Once upon a time, we had conference calls; today we have video conferences.  We used to travel to CLE classes and bar association meetings, today we attend webinars sitting at our desks or in our dens.

We finally put computers on our desks and then laptops came along. Laptops are now being replaced by tablets.

We used to send our clients detailed legal memoranda and other complex legal documents by mail or fax.  Today, we are in the business of Knowledge Management and manage elaborate Extranets.

We once had armies of young lawyers reviewing documents.  Today, that function is handled by computers.

Clients used to come in to the office and meet with their lawyers and obtain their counsel. Today, clients are just as likely to obtain legal services from an Internet based provider of legal services.

Lawyers used to look for jobs through recruiters; today they use job boards.

We used to have young associates and paralegals assemble documents.  Today, we have computer document assembly systems.

We used to record time on slips of paper. Today they are recorded real time on a mobile app. And in some instances, we no longer even record time.

While many lawyers resisted every change to the way they do business, they were often left with little choice but be dragged along, often kicking and screaming.

Let me know what you think the most significant technology changes you have witnessed over the past many years and why.  Tell me about your own experiences in adapting to each of these technologies as they came along.  And also let me know where you see the next wave of changes coming in over the horizon and what, if anything you plan on doing to cope with the next technological revolution.

© Jerome Kowalski, December, 2011.  All Rights Reserved.

 Jerry Kowalski, who provides consulting services to law firms, is also a dynamic (and often humorous) speaker on topics of interest to the profession and can be reached at


One Response

  1. […] Yesterday marked the 35th anniversary of my admission to the bar. The day passed quietly, without note or fanfare. But it did cause me to reflect on how things have changed. […]

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