History Project: 1960s and 1970s

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Roy Freed Publishes "A Lawyer’s Guide Through the Computer Maze"
Roy Freed was one of the founders of the CLA, its fourth President and in many ways someone who in his writings started the debate about how the law should be adapted to deal with the special issues created by computerization. His article in the November 1960 issue of the Practical Lawyer entitled "A Lawyer’s Guide Through the Computer Maze" is seen by many as the seminal piece in what became computer law and is now known as IT law.


Roy Freed, the fourth President of the CLA, recalls the developments that led in 1971 to the formation of the Computer Lawyers Group and in 1973 to the incorporation of the CLA in this way.

The establishment of the CLA was not a completely novel development. Instead, it was a natural, although somewhat tardy, step in the slow recognition of the importance of the expanding availability of computer technology starting essentially in the mid-1950’s and its inevitable significance to the diverse substantive aspects of the law. A look at the history that preceded its establishment in 1971 should illuminate the response of the legal profession to the momentous introduction of that technology that provides the first, and probably the only, inanimate machines that mimic to a significant extent the functioning of the human mind as it has come to be recognized to be a biological machine that literally purposefully processes a type of electrochemical signals that people traditionally unwittingly call information. Computers have substantive legal significance largely because la variety of legal issues arise from their use that parallel those produced by the action or inaction of people.

In October 1960, the University of California in Los Angeles conducted the First National Conference on Law and Electronics at Lake Arrowhead in California. Despite the ambitions of the sponsors, it was the first and the last and its participants focused almost entirely on possibly uses of computers in the legal process. Roy Freed was a voice crying in the wilderness there with his interest in the legal ramifications of their use in society, which attracted only modest attention because the attendees were almost exclusively technical people.

However, a notable one of them was Ben Kessel, a computer engineer who was president of Computer Control Company, Inc., of Framingham, MA He immediately took a deep interest in Roy’s attention to the substantive legal ramifications, which he secured largely during their fortuitous ride together in a limousine from the Los Angeles Airport to Lake Arrowhead. In 1964, his company hired Roy as its in-house general counsel, where he served until he entered private practice in Boston to specialize in that field until he retired in 1986.

Then, in November 1960, Roy’s pioneering article that introduced computer law to the world, "A Lawyer’s Guide Through the Computer Maze," appeared in The Practical Lawyer, which was published by the Joint Committee on Continuing Legal Education of the American Law Institute and the American Bar Association.

ALI-ABA was headed by Paul Wolkin, Esq., who also was editor of that journal. He immediately sensed the importance of that subject and set up seven consecutive national conferences to explore its scope and named Roy its general chairman. Those were the first conferences on that subject and its initial one took place at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC and attracted 300 people, who included both lawyers and computer specialists. Roy invited the late Lee Loevinger, Esq., to give a major talk at it.

Around that time, the Special Committee on Electronic Data Retrieval in the ABA came into existence. It probably originated out of a project led by innovative Prof. John Horty, a lawyer, at the School of Public Health of the University of Pittsburgh. In the early 1960’s, with a grant from the Ford Foundation, his group demonstrated a batch processing system for searching for legal materials, the first of its kind. Through a series of developments, it was the seed for the Lexis system introduced by Mead Data Central, an offshoot of the Mead paper company. The members of that committee included Judge Vincent Biunno, Reed Lawyer, a patent lawyer, Prof. Reed Dickerson of Indiana University Law School, a specialist in legislative drafting, David Link, a tax lawyer in Chicago, Robert P. Bigelow, an in-house counsel at John Hancock Life Insurance Company in Boston, who became fascinated by Roy’s attention to those substantive legal issues, Roy, and some others. Roy was a lone wolf on that committee promoting attention to the legal ramifications.

Soon, that committee was elevated to the Standing Committee on Electronic Data Retrieval of the ABA. It sponsored programs at ABA conventions and published the journal MULL: Modern Uses of Logic in Law, which was edited by Prof. Layman Allen, initially at Yale School until his colleagues tired of his focus on applications of Boolean algebra for drafting legislation, such as the Internal Revenue Code, and he comfortably and productively moved to the University of Michigan. Lee Loevinger also was a member of that committee.

For the 1964 Convention of the ABA in New York, Roy’s wrote a mock trial to demonstrate how to introduced computer related records into evidence. To dignify its sponsorship, its Business Law Section was recruited for that role. However, at the very last minute, it abruptly and without explanation withdrew its sponsorship. Nevertheless, the trial went forward with great success. Judge Wilfred Fineberg of the First Circuit Court of Appeals proudly and enthusiastically served as the judge. AmJur2nd published its text.

Later, that committee was succeeded by the present Section of Law, Science, and Technology of the ABA. However, its persisting overwhelming focus on applications of computer technology in the legal process to the almost complete exclusion of the already obvious potential important substantive legal ramifications of computers caused a number of its members, including particularly Roy and Bob Bigelow, to become restive. They and the others wanted an independent organization that would provide forums for the exclusive consideration of those legal ramifications and that would be free from the bureaucratic constraints of the ABA.

Consequently, at the 1971 conference in Atlantic City, NJ of the Association of Computing Machinery, a professional association of computer specialists, seven people met together extemporaneously to form the CLA. They included Roy and Bob Bigelow, some computer specialists who quickly dropped out of the picture, and two in-house counsel of computer related companies.

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