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A Tech Adoption Guide for Lawyers

in partnership with Legal Tech Publishing


The Museum Of Obsolete Legal Tech: Data Storage, Sans Robot

Before the cloud and AI, there was cardboard. 

We hope you’re enjoying this break from our regular Non-Event programming to revisit lawyer tech from years and centuries past.

In the first installment, we brought you the Arithmometer, a forerunner of today’s Artificial Intelligence and Time, Billing & Payments applications. 

Today, we look at how a lawyer may have stored data at the turn of the 20th century — long before cutting-edge tech like cloud-based Practice Management or Document Storage came about. 

We hope you enjoy the tour! And while you’re here, stop by the Non-Event for all of your technology needs. 

 The Case

Pfft. This is not why you went to law school — to be sent by third-class train to a remote place, Las Vegas, circa 1905. 

Unfortunately, your client, an eccentric telephone company CEO, wants to expand their business. You’ve been sent to survey the residents, visitors, and other weirdos who seem to congregate here. 

The Solve

Library of Congress

Even worse, this client sent you with punched cards — stiff rectangles you puncture in specific spots to register specific information. What the heck?

The technology was invented in 1725 by French textile worker Basile Bouchon for the loom industry — the punched cards programmed patterns into machines. A few iterations and 150 years later, MIT Professor Herman Hollerith masterminded a version that can be read by a machine. It’s so accurate the U.S. government used Hollerith’s innovation for the 1890 census.  

Now other legal entities have adopted the tech, including your client, the odd-ball telephone tycoon. Oh well — he’s the client; you’re just a lawyer, what do you know?

The Twist

Computer cards dominated data storage for the bulk of the 20th century. That’s actually how IBM started — it was founded in 1911 as The Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, with Hollerith as one of the founders. Changing its name to IBM in 1924, the company was so powerful that the U.S. government turned to them when it came time to create the early Social Security databases.

IBM’s No. 1 status also led to legal trouble in 1936, when IBM created punch cards that could only be read by IBM-built machines. Opponents said this monopolistic control hurt consumers, and the Supreme Court agreed: IBM was ordered to create more universal tech.

That little defeat didn’t end IBM’s reign, but punch cards weren’t as lucky: They were slowly but surely replaced by magnetic tape, the kind the oldsters out there may remember from videotapes.

Awww, isn’t nostalgia fun? 

Today’s Tech

If you’re a lawyer without management platforms for your data storage needs, you probably spend as much time on organizational tasks as Olympic athletes spend training. That’s why the latest legal tech can be so transformative!

The best legal practice management platforms streamline a variety of tasks, including business development, case and matter management, document management, e-signature portals, and time tracking — all while maintaining the highest data security standards.

So, still storing data in punched cards? Then maybe it’s time to head back to the Non-Event to see just how easy an upgrade can be.