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Lexis Innovator Dies

If asked to identify some of the major milestones of the past century that have changed the nature of legal practice, I'd put the development of computerized legal research systems such as Lexis in my top five. But I never really knew who was responsible for creating Lexis until yesterday, when I read about the death of Donald Wilson, who prepared the business plan for LexisNexis, through Robert Ambrogi's post at Law Sites.

Wilson's obituary in the New York Times describes him as a visionary who, back in 1969, recognized the potential value of computer assisted legal research:

In 1969, Mr. Wilson was asked by the Mead Corporation to assess a venture in computerized legal research that the company was considering. Mr. Wilson told his client that the searching of legal texts would be a useful tool for lawyers, as well as a promising business. He not only recommended that the company pursue the venture but also outlined a marketing plan for persuading law firms to adopt the technology.

The article notes that the turning point for the acceptance of Lexis came in the early 1970s, when Wilson arranged for Supreme Court clerks to use the system, which found more cases than the clerks found using manual research.

So when you sit down at your computer terminal and log on to Lexis or any of the other competing research systems that it helped spawn, give thanks to Wilson for his persistence in pushing lawyers into the computer age and making one aspect of our job substantially easier.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on November 27, 2006 at 05:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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