Sunday, September 24, 2017

What Has Changed in 25 Years of Practicing Law?

Published: January 05, 2015
Philip A. Shapiro

Actually, I have been practicing over 26 years, but, the above title sounded better. I started practicing in 1988, fortunately, I was hired by Jeffery Schwartz, who had been practicing for six months. We both graduated from Western State University College of Law in San Diego, at that time, it was not accredited b y the ABA.

The sparseness of job opportunities at that time were not necessarily because of economics, like today, they were caused by the fact that Western State did not have the Alumni Network, that they do today. The vast majority of graduates, if they did pass the Bar, opened up their own practice. I was lucky to have had a relationship with some students like Jeff Schwartz. We practiced, what is sometimes called "toaster law", that is we took whatever popped up! I always had a desire to do criminal defense, while Jeff liked personal injury and other civil cases.

Although it may be hard for the reader to believe, computers were just beginning to be used in law offices. We still used typewriters, one of the lawyers on our floor actually leased a Xerox machine and everyone used it, paying five cents a copy to the owner. Copy machines at that time were huge affairs on rollers that weighed probably eighty to one hundred pounds. There certainly were no color copy machines. When we typed a letter or a document, we used carbon paper (for those one or two of you that know what that is) for copies. The use of the copy machine was a luxury.

The lawyer that leased the Xerox, had a meeting with the rest of us. He had arranged to also lease a machine that actually sent documents to other people, who had a similar machine. They were originally called transmitters, now they are known as fax machines. The enterprising lawyer charged us fifty cents a page to send documents to other enterprising lawyers. Finally, in about 1990, we were able to afford our own copy machine, made by Pitney Bowes, who also rented us this machine that puts stamps on letters. Things were looking up!

In those early days, email was done through a telephone coupler. It was a devise that had two openings and you put your telephone handset into the two openings. This was plugged into the computer and as you typed, signals were sent through the phone to the other party, who also had their phone in a coupler to receive the message. Those of us who were lucky enough to have computers either IBM style or Macintosh, had to use "floppy disks" as hard drives were not yet in use. The computer held maybe 640 kb. Data was stored in these four inch disks (later 2.5 inch disks) which each held another 640 kb of data. I remember reading the astonishing fact that IBM had developed what was called a hard drive that actually held 10 mb of data. Who could ever need that much?!

Of course all we had in those days was monochrome monitors. There was no such thing as a mouse or Windows. We used the DOS operating system. I am not quite sure we have progressed. By now, the history lesson must be getting less and less exciting. At this point I will advise that you will have to wait for further articles to find out if I ever advanced to a color monitor and Windows.