Lawtel is a subscription-based online
legal researchtool that provides subscribers with access to a range of legal information from tracking progress on legislation through to case summaries and an articles index. It also provides access to directories of solicitors and barristers.
The Prestel years
Lawtel was created in 1980 by a Liverpool solicitor, Graham Ross, and demonstrated at the second annual conference of the Society for Computers and Law, where he was a speaker. Subsequently that year he was joined by a retired barrister, Gerald Impey. Together they set up a Manx company 'Lawtel Limited', from which Ross resigned a year later. Impey remained as majority shareholder and Lawtel Editor in Chief until the business was sold to UK-based Centaur Communications Limited in 1994; after the sale Impey stayed on as a Lawtel editor until his death in November 1999. The original Lawtel operated on the
Prestelplatform, a teletextstyle service, however in 1991 a text-based service was developed with assistance from Context Limited (now Justis Publishing Limited [http://www.context.co.uk] ). This new service, which was hosted by Context, replaced the original Prestel system.
Centaur - the Lawtel revolution
In 1994, Lawtel was acquired by Centaur Communications Ltd. Context Limited continued to host the service until 1995, when Centaur developed an internet-based platform for providing access to Lawtel.
Sweet & Maxwell
In 2002, Lawtel was acquired by
Sweet & Maxwell. Most of the senior staff were made redundant at this time, however Lawtel continues to remain a separate service within the Sweet & Maxwell portfolio.
The impact of Lawtel on legal publishing in the UK
Laurence Eastham, Editor of the [http://www.scl.org Society of Computers and Law] journal C&L, commented upon the sale of Lawtel to Sweet & Maxwell that:
"Lawtel undoubtedly made others improve, and move more rapidly than might otherwise have been natural to them. A large number of practising solicitors have been recruited to the need for updated online information by Lawtel... [i] n short, they made a difference" C&L August/September 2002, p.2
* [http://www.lawtel.com Lawtel]
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