Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A concise history of the use of forms in the legal profession

The earliest use of model forms can be traced back to 1392, when the Worshipful Company of Scriveners first employed scribes to beautifully copy one document to the next. WHEREAS, the aforementioned forms were penned in Ye 'Olde English, the innovation is remembered mainly for its use of hand-scrolled, script font.

In these early years, the pace of innovation is swift. The next major milestone came in 1450, when Gutenberg invents the printing press, enabling the mass production of form books. In terms of drafting practice, the distinguishing feature of the innovation is the use of the blackletter font.

However, for nearly 400 years innovation is shunned as drafting enters the dark ages. It is not until 1829 that the next major innovation arrives with the invention of the typewriter, enabling lawyers to mass produce their own forms. The innovation is distinguished mainly by the eventual adoption of the courier font.

Finally, in 1976, Jobs and Wosniak invent the personal computer, facilitating the automated mass production--and personalization--of legal forms. However, most contracts are still drafted by copying the last document and laboriously making the necessary changes for the next client. The key innovation is the wholesale transition from a fixed width to a proportional font with the introduction of Times New Roman.

One can only imagine what new discoveries will be made in the centuries to come.

1 comment:

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