First Advisor

Leslie N. Goslin

Term of Graduation

Spring 1970

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Business Administration (MBA)


Business Administration




Information storage and retrieval systems -- Law -- United States



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 80 pages)


Purpose. This study of automated information retrieval systems was undertaken to attempt to ascertain the extent and development of a total legal information system.

Overview. Historically, lawyers have searched the statutes and case law in the traditionally manual method. Given consistent high standards of editing, not too complex materials, and a collection of manageable size, this manual method will work to reasonable satisfaction, so long as a document never changes in meaning or significance. Lawyers point out that the present manual system is inadequate because with 30,000 new judicial decisions and 15,000 new statutes being promulgated each year it is becoming increasingly difficult to search the law.

Methodology. The writer surveyed a selected sample of legal firms to determine the methods or aids used in the area of major management concern: (1) word processing, (2) bookkeeping, (3) timekeeping, (4) library, (5) filing, and (6) legal research. Correspondence and interviews revealed that only five firms are using a mechanical search system, while only one firm was on-line with a computer legal research system. Because law firms began addressing themselves to administrative problems only since 1960 it was necessary to make an investigation of the literature to develop an information base for this study. The proceedings of national law office management seminars were studied. Interviews were held with law firm managers, interested lawyers, the Chief Clerk of the Supreme Court of Oregon, the Administrator for the Oregon Justice Department, and computer and accounting system salesmen.

Discussion. The use of the computer as the tool to use in a system for automated information retrieval for legal research was first demonstrated in 1960 at the American Bar Association's Annual Meeting in Washington, D. C. Several experiments and studies conducted since that time are discussed in this study. Two new systems seem to offer significant promise for automated legal searches, (1) the OBAR System, and (2) the Aspen System. Each is computer-oriented and offers full text ("word for word") searches. Resistance by lawyers to use an automated legal research system is expected due to professional conservatism.

Recommendations and Conclusion. Law firms must continue upgrading their administrative functions in order to be ready for a sophisticated automated information retrieval system. A national organization such as the American Bar Association will have to organize a joint effort for implementation of a full information system. Law school curriculum will have to include a study of system analysis and computer technology. Law firms will have to develop a new concept of organization and work habits will need to be changed. The use of automated information retrieval systems for legal research will make lawyers more efficient and more profitable, without the need to increase client fees.


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