Evolution of Legal Technology: Past, Present & Future of Data Management

In today’s rapidly changing world, the intersection of law and technology is more significant than ever before. Adoption of technology for efficiency is no longer optional for law firms, but rather a requirement of their corporate clients. Firms are being faced with exceeding pressure to meet cost reductions while continuing to provide superior service with limited resources. 

Below we explore the history, current trends, and future possibilities of legal technology. We’ll provide quick insight into each decade on how advancements in software, data analytics, and automation have transformed legal processes, enhanced efficiency, and what legal professionals have done to adapt.

Legal Technology Timeline: Events and Adoption Through the Decades


Infographic: Evolution of Legal Technology Timeline

1940s: Scientific approach to law: Jurismetrics

The term “jurismetrics” was first coined in the 1940s introducing the scientific approach to legal issues through the application of quantitative methods of probability and statistics to law. However, the concept of law drawing from suggested scientific reasoning had been discussed for many decades prior.

1950s: Dictaphones find widespread use in professional environments

The first dictation machine was invented in the late 1800s-early 1900s and continued to evolve with advancements in the mid-1900s with the introduction of magnetic tape. These devices were instrumental in streamlining document creation and knowledge transfer.

1960s: Computer networks are introduced

This decade launched the ability to communicate on a computer network, transmitting data from a sender to a receiver. The capability of computer networking was allowing things to become more automated and self-managing.

  • The modern fax machine is commercialized
    Xerox set the industry standard by providing a smaller, affordable, and easy-to-use option for businesses.

1970s: Legal firms began to broadly adopt documentation systems

Legal professionals began to move beyond typewriters and manual legal research, reaching a newfound understanding of efficiency and accuracy.

  • First word processing program is developed 
    Altair programmer Michael Shrayer wrote the first PC word-processing program called the Electric Pencil. By the end of the decade, most law firms used a word processor or desktop computer to create their legal documents.
  • Launch of the computer-assisted legal research revolution 
    Lexis (now LexisNexis) was the first commercial electronic database of case law, introduced in the early 1970s.
  • Personal computer industry began
    Personal computers, an affordable model compared to mainframe computers, allowed opportunity for individuals and small and medium-sized businesses to adopt technology.
  • Local area networks (LAN) technologies are introduced for business 
    An increased demand and usage of computers in universities and businesses generated the need to provide high-speed interconnections between computer systems.

1980s: Personal computers and the Internet enter law offices

This decade saw a significant increase in the use of personal computers in legal practice including document sharing and communication.

  • The IBM Personal Computer is introduced 
    The IBM PC was significantly faster than others on the market and had about 10x more memory capacity. It became the world’s most popular personal computer and the industry standard.
  • Case management systems began to emerge
    There was low adoption of these systems because they were not easily scalable. This ability was not brought to the market until the late 1990s – early 2000s.

1990s: Widespread internet use and email

The industry experiences an explosion of data through the widespread use of the internet and email.

  • Widespread internet use 
    The decade began with the introduction to the World Wide Web and quickly expanded with browsers, search engines, and websites leading to an explosion of data and data sources.
  • Concept of internet-based services is popularized
    The decade ended with internet-based services entering the market appealing to businesses as it reduced in-house technology costs.

2000s: Legal industry experiences significant technology advancements

This decade saw significant advancements in technology and changes in the legal sector, setting the stage for further innovations in the following decades.

  • Dot-com crash begins
    The dot-com crash marks the collapse of many internet-based companies, impacting the tech and legal industries.
  • Amendments to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP) Rule 34(a)
    FRCP Rule 34(a) is amended to confirm that the discovery of electronically stored information is evenly matched to the discovery of paper documents and clarifies that the production of documents should include ESI unless clearly distinguished.
  • Smartphone Revolution
    Steve Jobs introduces the iPhone, popularizing smartphones and leading to their widespread adoption in the legal profession.
  • Rise of digital information and technology-assisted review
    The amount of digital information created grows exponentially, posing challenges for legal professionals. Technology-assisted review (TAR) is introduced to expedite document review processes.

2010s: New legal services offerings flood the marketplace

The developments in the 2010s paved the way for further advancements in legal technology, leading to more efficient, cost-effective, and innovative legal services.

  • Funding boom for legal tech startups
    Funding for legal technology startups reaches a record high, indicating growing investor interest in legal tech innovations.
  • Introduction of AI Lawyer ROSS
    IBM introduces ROSS, the first AI lawyer, showcasing the integration of artificial intelligence in legal research and analysis.

2020s: Virtual environments and AI-technology

The legal sector experiences a notable shift in virtual environments and AI-assisted technology developments.

  • Adoption of Video Conferencing in Courtrooms 
    Video conferencing becomes prevalent in courtrooms, transforming legal proceedings and adapting to remote work environments.
  • AI Disclosure Act of 2023 
    All material generated by artificial intelligence technology needs to have a disclaimer. This applies to videos, photos, text, audio, and/or any other AI-generated material.

Legal Technology and AI in Litigation Data Management

The evolution of technology has revolutionized the legal industry and how data is managed. As we continue to embrace innovation, we must recognize the transformative potential of emerging solutions as we shape the future landscape of data management and analytics. 

For 40 years, LMI has maintained the ongoing commitment to deliver the highest level of service and continually enhance our technology offerings to meet your evolving needs. This year, we will launch a tech-enabled medical record review software for injury-related claims and litigation. Law firms and in-house legal teams can experience an expedited approach to the review of medical records in how data is identified, organized, analyzed, and delivered.

Learn about LMI’s Legal Software and Data Analytics solutions and how we can help you gain process efficiencies to make informed decisions, faster.