What was “Digital” in legal terms in 1986?
The Society for Computers and Law was founded in 1973, but that was mainly about lawyers using computers – though very few did. In the early ‘80’s, a mid-sized law firm would have a word processor – but often this would be the role of one rarefied individual in the office, whilst everyone else was being excited by the potential of golf ball typewriters.
Word processors could also be PCs, but in 1986 the prevailing feeling was that a word processor should be a dedicated piece of equipment, probably running WordPerfect, printing to a dot matrix printer which made a terrible racket, and was secreted under an acoustic hood to muffle the noise.
IT law? Well, most of us hadn’t heard of it.
Ten years later, at Berwins the limit of our knowledge was that software was something that was licensed, but we didn’t know anything about that. A client, whose house conveyancing we had done, and for whose new company we had set up a rudimentary shareholders agreement, had developed some software. They phoned us. Their first customer had asked for something called an escrow agreement (which we now know, but didn’t know, was a means for lodging computer source code with a trusted third party). We didn’t know what source code was. We didn’t know anything.
We told the client that we could find a firm who knew what these things were, but they said no, we like you; we’d like you to learn for us. We read a bit, found out a bit, and shortly discovered that we knew more than the next lawyers we came across. And from there sprung the speciality we now call Berwins Digital.
1986 – golf balls.
1996 – software contracts – what are those?
2016 – Berwins Digital firmly established in Leeds, full-on in the Leeds Digital Festival, and with an international clientele of technology companies.
Written by Paul Berwin of Berwins Solicitors.