January 1, 2001

Nostalgia corner

Rememberlast year, last century. We had all been awaiting the effect of the date changefrom 1999 to 2000. Law firms had formed task forces and many articles books andWeb sites devoted themselves to anticipating the flood of litigation. Where didit all go and what happened to it?

Theconventional explanation is that the world, inspired by its Y2K lawyers, notleast contributors to Computers & Law Magazine, was just properly prepared.Some say that the fat lady has not sung yet. One gloss is that predictedlitigation does not happen, people are far too sensible. Litigation arises fromthe unpredictable and there was nothing more predictable than that, a year ago,four figures would move in date fields rather than two.

Whateverthe next big legal craze is ( insolvency, optical fibre networks,collective conditional fees), the great Y2K alert should be fondly remembered.

So farewell then

LINK.I had originally planned to offer the magazine a fuller obituary on thepioneering online service conceived and run for most of its active life by JohnPritchard of Legalease Limited. I’ll stick to a brief item in thismagazine’s nearest equivalent to a gossip column but I think that some sort ofrecord is worthwhile.

In1994, LINK offered lawyers and associated professionals, secure e-mail, legalnews, exchange of information and chat. It was, sort of, revolutionary. It wasfronted by a Legalease editor, Evan Predavec, who encouraged participation,marshaled debate and even arranged a number of successful social evenings. Heleft for his native Australia and something went missing. But there wasdefinitely a buzz about Link in the early days. Not least because it was thefirst means, revelatory at the time, under which I and appropriately switched oncounsel could exchange documents bye-mail. And it offered a sense of communityto a diverse bunch of lawyers and hangers on.

Whatchanged? Well the Internet changed everything, as people say it often does. In1997 or thereabouts, the percipient Pritchard, tried to make the service Webbased but it was a bit too early. Whereas the original pioneers had a variety ofmodems (I used, successfully, a 2,400 baud Pace Microlin) by the late 90s mostlawyers were connected direct to the Web and modems were not used in law firms.LINKlost critical mass and at the end of 1999, after some uncertainty, Legaleaseappeared to have transferred it to a new management team. There was Web accessfor a time, albeit slow, but this appears to be mostly inaccessible most of thetime. You can still dial in but there seem to be no new messages. The rest, asthey say, is silence. It deserves at least this footnote in history.

New year thought

Whenyou consider the benefits of a new advance in technology: are you thinking ofthe profit you’ll make by creating more time – or the benefit you’ll getby saving more time. In the increasingly frenetic and stressed world of legalpractice, it’s worth concentrating on what IT can do to improve your life inthe very broadest sense, that is by helping you get one.

RichardHarrison is a partner in Laytons.