History Project: 1960s and 1970s

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1971 CLA’s First Tentative Steps

The Association that would become known as the Computer Law Association or CLA began with an informal meeting in 1971 at a conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey of the Association of Computing Machinery, a professional association of computer specialists. One of the participants at that informal meeting, Robert ("Bob") Bigelow, recalled it this way in 1996 on the 25th anniversary.

In May 1971 Fred Lafer, General Counsel of Automatic Data Processing, was one of several lawyers involved in computers and telecommunications attending the Spring Joint Computer Conference ("SJCC") in Atlantic City, New Jersey . He suggested to these lawyers that they meet for dinner and a discussion of current legal developments in the industry . Seven lawyers attended this May 18 dinner.

Three were inside counsel (Fred Lafer, Steve Beach and Nate Snyder) and four were from private practice (Roy Freed, Ed Grenier, Milt Wessel and Bob Bigelow) . At dinner, at a time when electronic research and computer law periodicals were not easily available, Steve Beach, General Counsel of Service Bureau Corp ., informed the group that three weeks earlier the Eighth Circuit had rendered its opinion in Clements Auto Co. v. Service Bureau Corp ., 444 F. 2d 169, 2 CLSR 143, a major contract case.

The group reached two conclusions:

1. Meetings like this could be a useful educational tool for those doing what came to be called "computer law ." An important component of such meetings would be learning about recent developments from those directly involved .

2. Such meetings would be an opportunity to meet and get to know other lawyers who shared a common interest, and who might some day be sitting opposite them at the negotiating table .
With these points in mind, the seven dinner companions became the Computer Lawyers Group .

A planning meeting in New York followed in July, and the first formal meeting was held at the National Lawyers Club in Washington on November 2, 1971 . A list of attendees is provided in Appendix II to the 25th Anniversary volume [link to 25th volume]. A further meeting was convened in Washington, May 19,1972, immediately after that year's SJCC .

Bob Bigelow would remain involved in the association for the next 35 years, serving at various times as secretary, conference organizer, President and institutional memory. In keeping with his long time involvement, he assisted in gathering materials for this timeline.

Other recollections of the founders can be found in the special 20th Anniversary Volume as well as the 25th Anniversary volume.

1973 CLA is Incorporated

The Computer Lawyers Group that had begun informally in 1971 became a District of Columbia non-profit association in 1973.

Bob Bigelow, one of the founders, recalled it this way in 1991:

Herb Marks from Washington, another founder recalled in 1991:

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