Since the birth of the legal industry in the mid-20th century, lawyers had depended on typewriters and telephones to do most of their business, and the technology used by other types of businesses were essentially the same as the technology used by law firms. However, in the early 1950s, technological industries began to market directly to law firms. Let’s explore the history and how legal technology has evolved to fit the needs of today’s law firms.
1950s – Dictation Machine
Recording sound on a machine was invented long before the 1950s but it was in 1953 that dictation machines were first marketed specifically to firms. Lawyers could record information on dictation machines even if their assistant wasn’t present and they could have the assistant transcribe the information afterwards. It was a time-saving device as well as a more reliable method of recording information the lawyer needed transcribed. Unfortunately, the first dictation machines were expensive, clunky, and often broke down. But today, any lawyer with a smartphone can quickly and easily dictate comprehensive information and have it immediately transcribed with a very high accuracy rate.
1970s – Computers and Lexis
The 1970s provided another decade of technological and productivity leaps for firms as Lexis and word processing computers arrived on the scene. Before the 1970s, lawyers didn’t have many options and spent an enormous amount of time researching case law by pouring over law books but the ability to research cases on a computer changed everything. In 1973, Lexis created the “UBIQ” terminal to let lawyers search case law online which significantly reduced the amount of time lawyers needed to spend researching case law and allowed them spend more time on their clients. This is also around the time that personal computers began to appear in workplaces throughout Australia and by 1979, many organisations had purchased basic word processing machines that made it easier and faster to create documents.
1980s – Fax Machines and Practice Management
Before the 1980s most businesses were dependent on mail or courier to deliver important documents to their customers. But once the fax machine began appearing in workplaces, the capabilities between creating a document and sending it to a client shortened from days to minutes. But of course, that was depending on the client having easy access to a fax machine which didn’t become widespread until the late 80s and early 90s. This is also the time when the first digital practice management systems began to emerge. Unfortunately, the early versions didn’t work for most large law firms because the product wasn’t easily scalable and many firms were still using DOS instead of Windows. The migration from DOS to Windows didn’t happen on a mass scale until the 1990s — and still years away from having access to the best practice management software for lawyers and conveyancers.
2000s – Advanced Legal Practice Management Software
Early legal practice management software was helpful but flawed because they weren’t scale-able and in many cases they did not address all of the critical needs of legal or conveyancing business. Depending on which software they purchased, they may have needed to patch together multiple systems to get all of their critical business needs met. But today’s practice management systems have been completely revamped, leveraging all of today’s modern tech tools in a way that helps lawyers and conveyancers get the information they need when they need it and to easily manage client matters no matter where they are. The essential component that sets today’s legal and conveyancing software apart from its predecessors is how modern systems are “matter-centric,” linking all activity to related matters. Let’s take a closer look.
Legal technology tools have been revolutionising the way lawyers conduct business, including making it possible for them to service more clients for less money. Today’s modern legal practice management software (like Smokeball) is poised to make it easier for lawyers to do their job more accurately and efficiently.
If you’re ready to see how Smokeball legal cloud practice management software is unlike other software, schedule your free demo today or call us on 1300 33 55 53.