The End of Lawyers?

Standard
The End of Lawyers?

Rethinking the nature of Legal Services (2008)
By Richard Susskind

After reading this book, I believe that it is not only lawyers who will need to adjust to future changes in their jobs, other occupations will also have to adjust to the pending changes brought about by information technology.

What are the implications for the business of law for future work of the lawyers?

1) First concern is the size and structure of legal business. Even for in-house lawyers, there is pressure to reduce their size. Increasingly, firms are being called upon to reduce their fees, to undertake work on a fixed fee rather than an hourly billing basis, and to be far more transparent in their dealings with the clients.

I agree on this one. When I was very young, my dad mentioned to me that the lawyers are suckers and unempathetic. The lawyers on the other hand, seem to want to see how far they can extend their services further to my dad, to get more money rather than solving his business problem at hand.

 

2) Second concern is Innovation

The author is very convincing about the usage of information technology to use systems and processes to reduce the cost of undertaking routine legal work. He talks about stages such as standardization, systematization, packaging and commoditization.

Bespoke -> Standardization -> Systematized -> Packaged -> Commoditized

Standardization of substance
Lawyers can re-use pre-articulated bodies of text such as standard form documents, precedents, templates or past work products etc.

Systematized
This includes interactive checklisting and electronic workflow. Polished contracts can be generated after a user has responded to a seriers of questions. (the system holds standard blocks of text and rules)

Packaged
Systems that are used within a law firm can be made directly accessible to clients, usually across the internet. One obvious example here is when law firms offer their clients access to their internal knowledge systems. Example document assembly systems are given to clients to use directly as Eversheds do to enable their clients to generate their own employment contracts. This is “packaged” for the client’s convenience.

Commoditized
The central idea is that a legal service or offering is very readily available in the market, often from a variety of sources, and certainly at high competitive prices example writing of wills. There are templates for writing wills.

 

3) Third concern is the type of people who will be lawyers in future
The arguements and findings in this book call not only for de-skilling and re-skilling of lawyers and for some fairly fundamental reconfiguration of legal businesses, but perhaps the type of people working in the legal profession.

I like the idea of thinking that the author mentioned about Daniel Pink in a thought-provoking book called “A Whole New Mind” published in 2005. Pink argues that :

The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of people with a certain kind of mind – computer programmers who could crack code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands.

The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people -artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.

Pink images a world where automation and outsourcing are commonplace; and where goods and services are in such abundance that design rather than functionality distinguishes one from another. Applying Pink’s thinking to the legal world, the keys to the kingdom, as he puts it, will pass from the traditional, analytical, logical legal mind to a more creative and imaginative cadre of lawyers.

I guess this is one of the best part of the book, and it really gives me a refreshing experience to read it. I mean you don’t often come into contact to read a book about such a controversial topic. However, it is in such controverial topics that you gain a new perspective in life.

 

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