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The End of Lawyers?: Rethinking the nature of legal services Paperback – Sep 16 2010
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Review from previous edition: "His advice cannot be ignored by those lawyers who want to survive the economic turmoil" --Joshua Rozenberg, The Law Society Gazette 2008
"I feel Susskind has made an excellent start by opening up the debate" --Phillip Taylor, The Barrister 2009
"The End of Lawyers is a fascinating and timely book" --Bruce MacEwen, Adam Smith Esq
"This book is addictive! Susskind has done it again with an extremely engaging blend of advice." --Patrick McKenna 2009
"I believe anyone working in a professional service form could find useful examples of what can be accomplished in their own profession, throughout this book" --Patrick McKenna 2009
"Richard Susskind's predictions of 1996, in The Future of Law, can now be seen to be coming to pass. I am confident that those in this new work, where he looks even further into the future, will likewise come to pass, given the extraordinary depth of knowledge, analysis and reasoning he has brought to bear and which this book demonstrates on every page" --Lord Saville of Newdigate, President of the Society for Computers and Law
"Richard Susskind speaks to the issues facing law firms big and small, in-house legal teams, legal publishers, training establishments and individual lawyers. He has a lucid style informed by personal experience and observation and deep connections within the legal profession. This book should be compulsory reading for all who care about the future of the law." --Mark Harding, Group General Counsel, Barclays
"If you don't quickly absorb what Susskind has to say, you'll already be behind in adapting to the modern legal profession, in-house as well as private practice. You can't and won't agree with everything here, but you must read it all and think about it all. It would be irresponsible (and self-destructive) to avoid reflecting on the voluminous arguments and examples presented here." --David Maister, consultant and author, The Trusted Advisor
"Susskind remains the only the writer today who can put the future of lawyers and the legal professions on the agenda at the highest levels of government, the judiciary, the legal institutions, major corporations - and law firms" --Charles Christian, editor, Legal Technology Insider
"In The End of Lawyers?, Richard Susskind brilliantly and passionately shows us how to think about practising law in the 21st century. The book's inspirational outlook and yet practical approach make it a must-read for any lawyer aspiring to achieve professional success and make a difference for his or her clients." --Dov Seidman, Chairman and CEO, LRN, and author, HOW
About the Author
Richard Susskind is an author, speaker, and independent adviser to international professional firms and national governments. His views on the future of legal service have influenced a generation of lawyers around the world. He has written numerous books, including The Future of Law (Oxford, 1996) and Transforming the Law (Oxford, 2000), and has been a regular columnist at The Times. He has been invited to lecture in over 40 countries, and has addressed legal audiences (in person and electronically), numbering more than 200,000. Richard is Honorary and Emeritus Law Professor at Gresham College, London, Visiting Professor in Internet Studies at the Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University, and IT adviser to the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. He holds a doctorate in law from Balliol College, Oxford, and is a Fellow of the British Computer Society and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He was awarded an OBE in 2000 for services to IT in the Law and to the Administration of Justice.
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Susskind, a British information-technology consultant and futurist, is not necessarily predicting the end of the legal profession in this thought-provoking but overly long and convoluted book. He is predicting that within a couple of decades, lawyering will have changed in ways that the typical law firm partner of 2009 can hardly envision.
The engine of change, as far as Susskind is concerned, is the Internet and information technology in general. Susskind points to 10 "disruptive technologies" - among them ideas as prosaic as automated document assembly and as visionary as the provision of legal advice through open-source technology - that will alter the face of the profession.
"Information technology is now part of the universe of lawyers," Susskind writes. "It is not a parallel universe. Disruptive legal technologies are too important to be left to technologists ... they are applications of technology that challenge the old ways and, in so doing, bring great cost savings and new imaginative ways of managing risk."
Susskind believes, for example, that except for the most customized, top-of-the-line engagements, legal work done by top firms in the United States and the United Kingdom will soon be largely standardized through the use of intelligent document assembly programs, the deployment of more paralegals and nonlawyers, and other innovations. Even high-end corporate work, he says, can benefit from standardization. The result will be lower costs to clients, a broader availability of legal services to the public, and possibly the end of the big law firm as we know it today.
Susskind is quite aware of the cutting edge of legal marketing. One of his "disruptive" techniques is "the electronic legal marketplace," which he sees as including online ratings of individual lawyers, online auctions, bulk purchasing, and readily available price comparisons. He foresees the multi-sourcing of legal services, increased confidence by clients that they are getting the best value for their money, greater choice, and of course lower costs.
The book can be slow going (Susskind has not learned how to write in short paragraphs), it can be repetitious, and Susskind's examples are taken almost entirely from British life, law, and experience and will be quite foreign to the American reader. For example, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, a government agency that Susskind regards as a key player in the legal Internet, sounds merely quaint to American ears.
Regardless, anyone who wishes to understand where the profession has been and where it is going should read this book.
The End of Lawyers? Susskind tells us that the question mark in the title should hint that he is not out to bury lawyers but to investigate the future of the profession. And investigate he does. We are treated to eight chapters rife with observations, predictions, useful anecdotes, marvelously detailed case studies, and presented with the kind of insight that only an IT expert with Susskind's decades of experience could execute.
The eight chapters include:
1. Introduction - the Beginning of the End?
2. The Path to Commoditization
3. Trends in Technology
4. Disruptive Legal Technologies
5. The Future for In-house Lawyers
6. Resolving and Avoiding Disputes
7. Access to Law and to Justice
8. Conclusion - the Future of Lawyers.
This book points to a possible future in which conventional legal services will be much less prominent and explores how commoditization and IT will shape twenty-first century legal services. One of my favorite topics is the obviously disruptive force of websites now in play from which anyone may obtain legal guidance and advice. Susskind provides a masterful description of the evolution of disruptive technologies, the path to commoditization of legal services, and provides concrete advice - three keys to success when it comes to making money from online services.
And should you think that this is of importance only to those lawyers who populate big law, you would be dead wrong. Susskind provides numerous examples of solo practitioner and small firm innovations. In fact, I believe anyone working in a professional service firm could find useful examples of what could be accomplished in their own profession, throughout this book.
For me, this book was like getting a pep talk from your favorite coach.
The title, with its inclusion of "end" is meant to be provocative. Lawyers tend to be somewhat mired in the past and resistant to change. I'm a lawyer, and there is resistance to changes in the way legal services are prepared and sold. There is a view that legal services are somehow different and special.
The first four chapters (The Beginning of the End?, The Path to Commoditization, Trends in Technology, and Disruptive Legal Technologies) lay out how information technology has affected other fields which were similarly resistant to change, and how provision of legal services has already changed in responce to new developments in computers. Susskind breaks down different aspects of legal services and discusses potential for changes in the way these are provided. For example, rote drafting is easy to picture as being done by computers. Even in a system where the lawyer physically types out each standard contract or pleading, that lawyer is probably using a form book and a form book translates directly into a cut and paste computerized form. However, even complicated anaylsis can be done differently. For example, medical diagnosis by computer can be done by having the patient answer yes or no to a series of questions. This works well even for complex conditions. Susskind discusses a program designed to do the same in commodities law and the reaction of an expert in the field (the computer program did as well as he and sometimes better, which surprised him but not that much).
The next four chapters (The Future for In-house Lawyers, Resolving and Avoiding Disputes, Access to Law and to Justice, The Future of Lawyers) look indepth at different roles lawyers play and for each role try to extrapolate changes that might occur in that role. The entire book is laced with examples, and footnotes are likely to point to websites or firms which already provide the types of service which Susskind thinks we will see more of. These chapters moreso. This isn't all theoretical. I particularly liked the discussion of court systems and the ways some of them have automated different aspects of the court in order to deal with heavy case loads. Some many examples discussed here, like electronic filing and docket searches are newer changes which now feel normal. I spent my last semester in law school clerking part time at an administrative court in which judges are located a 6 hour drive from the district in which their cases are tried. This is accomplished through telephonic and video hearings. That's a huge change that came in within the last 10 years, but now it's normal. I think the extent to which the clerks of courts have adapted to new technologies and the extent to which they haven't is more obvious to lawyers in the field, since this is a system which eventually gets interacted with by everyone but is removed from most lawyers' daily lives.
I highly recommend this book to people in the legal field or knowledge management. It is well worth hunting down or ordering a copy. This was a fascinating, and because of that quick, read. The examples provide a good resource for where we've been, and the predictions are well thought and and provocative glimpses of where we might go.
First the good news. Before reading Susskind's work, you'll need three packs of sticky notes in different colors. Use one color to mark the things that you already agree with, another for the things you disagree with and the third - the big pack - for the new ideas you hadn't considered before. Since tradition is only helpful to the extent the future will be like the past, it is not so much in his specific predictions that Susskind's work benefits the legal community as much as the fact that he makes the velocity of change undeniable.
The metaphorical image of lawyers Susskind paints is a bunch of guys in `bespoke' suites, standing on a beach toward which a huge wave is approaching, arguing with each other who will bear legal liability for the tsunami. Those who value the profession and their role in it will heed the warning and move to the high ground. These will be those who recognize that the legal profession is the servant of society - not the repository of its order or wisdom.
In `minding the gap' between consultant speak and difference between theory and practice, the footnotes alone - most of which are web sites exemplifying what he's discussing, are worth the price of the book. The author would have earned more money from this work if he had simply asked the readers to send him a dollar every time they looked followed up on a footnote and said to themselves `now I see what he's talking about'.
The bad news is that the author's experience clearly focuses this book on the net sum of his professional experience, which, apparently, is serving the largest `white shoe' firms in Great Britain. Since, using economic terminology, the law is a `lagging phenomena' - this exacerbates the differences in `legal culture' between us. The significance of this is inversely proportional to the `listening skills' of the reader. To the extent that most lawyers spend the time they're not talking thinking up what they're going to say next - this is a problem.
Overall, the book gets a thumbs up. The author does American lawyers the favor of not only saying that changes are coming but outlines some specifics as to what those changes might be. Getting to higher ground in time is up to each individual and firm.
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