The Harris County Law Library has seen many changes since it opened on October 1, 1915, including many changes in technology. This month's exhibit features several treasures from the past century representing the evolution of technology in the Law Library and in the practice of law. Don't miss the exhibit, which will be located in the library's lobby throughout January.
The electric light bulb was the first technology introduced to the Law Library, followed three decades later by a new development in sound recording technology.
The Soundscriber Dictation Machine, which featured an amplified microphone and soft-vinyl recording discs was introduced in 1945. It allowed attorneys to dictate notes, letters, and other documents while conducting research in the Law Library.
In the 1980s, electronic legal research made its debut with W.A.L.T. (West Automated Legal Terminal), Harris County Law Library's portal to the Westlaw database. This dedicated computer terminal allowed users to access the Westlaw database over the Internet, but the cost of online legal research was prohibitive for most users. Electronic searching could cost up to $150 per hour, so print materials remained popular.
Demand for print resources guided the Law Library's collection development decisions throughout the 1990s. The library began purchasing books on computers and the law, but developments in tech quickly outpaced their usefulness. Fortunately, Westlaw and Lexis were becoming more accessible and robust. Today, the Law Library relies heavily on electronic resources. With 25 public legal research computers available for patron use, a great variety of digital content is readily available.Computers are Internet-connected, allowing for access to several databases, including Lexis, Westlaw, HeinOnline, O’Connor’s Online, and the State Bar of Texas Practice Manuals.
The library's presence on social media -- Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram -- has also grown, providing users with up-to-date access to information about Law Library resources, services, and events, including the CLE sessions presented by the Law Library's Legal Tech Institute.
The Legal Tech Institute is an ongoing series of free learning opportunities focused on using technology for more efficient legal work. Since October of 2016, a new learning session has been offered each month with content designed for a diverse audience of legal tech beginners and experts. Microsoft Word for Lawyers, Excel Essentials, and Finding & Formatting Legal Forms are just a few of the courses that LTI has presented so far. Representatives from Westlaw and Lexis have rounded out the schedule with regular Vendor Visits.
LTI continues to grow with an ever-expanding menu of learning opportunities both in person an online. Earn CLE credit and improve your tech proficiency by visiting the LTI webpage where on-demand recordings of previous events are available. Look for even more offerings via our Hands-On Legal Tech Training courses which are scheduled to launch in 2018.