• Technology Guru Predicts Radical Changes to Legal Industry in Interview with College of Law

    21 September 2009

    Business (or ‘grown-up’) versions of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter will shape the way that lawyers win and undertake work in the future, a legal technology expert predicts in the first of a new series of podcasts produced by The College of Law.

    In the interview, published today on the College’s website, Professor Richard Susskind OBE says that the legal industry will be transformed over the coming years by the need to embrace ways of improving efficiency such as new technology and outsourcing. He predicts that while the new legal landscape will reduce some of the conventional areas of legal work it will open up a range of new, exciting roles for young lawyers entering the profession.

    “Lesson one for law students is to disabuse themselves of the thought that legal practice tomorrow might look anything like legal practice today," he says. “If you are about to enter the profession by the time you’re my age, 48, the legal world’s going to look wildly and vastly different.

    “There’s a great quotation that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. A real opportunity exists for young lawyers to shape this future and we need that kind of energy and imagination."

    Professor Susskind has specialised in legal technology for 25 years and is an independent advisor to major professional firms and the Government. Since 1998 he has been IT advisor to the Lord Chief Justice of England.

    He’s enjoyed a distinguished academic career and in 1996, in his book ‘The Future of Law’, predicted that e-mail and the World Wide Web would come to dominate the way that lawyers communicate with clients and seek information, a suggestion that was met with deep scepticism by the profession.

    His recent book ‘The End of Lawyers?’ aims to think ahead for the legal profession and anticipate trends in the delivery and receipt of legal services.

    In the College of Law podcast Susskind suggests ways that the legal services market can satisfy the growing need to become much more cost-effective, including using new technology, standardising and commoditising services, outsourcing routine legal tasks to low-cost jurisdictions and giving customers direct access to legal services by removing the traditional lawyer as intermediary.

    He says: “There are pressures in the marketplace to provide more for less, more legal service at less cost, and that involves us thinking imaginatively about new ways of delivering service. These won’t be the traditional one-to-one consultative advisory bespoke service delivered on an hourly billing basis. So if you read John Grisham or watch ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’ … the models of legal service we see there will, I think, not disappear, but will diminish."

    Prof Susskind also discusses his predictions that external investment in legal businesses, brought in by the Legal Services Act 2007, will add competitive advantage to the English legal system by giving rise to new ways of delivering legal services and will increase access to justice for citizens.

    He concludes the interview by urging the various sectors of the English legal system to do more to look into the future and predict how the market may develop.

    “No-one who you might think is in the driving seat is looking 10 years ahead, not in the Law Society and not in the Bar Council, not in Government, certainly not in law firms, and not in the academic world either," he says.

    “If you look at the oil industry there are people systematically looking 50 years ahead, using techniques such as scenario planning. We owe it to our young students, as senior people in the profession, whether in academe, whether in law firms, whether in government, whether in professional bodies, to be doing scenario planning and thinking through what the possible futures are for our profession. It quite amazes me that there are just a handful of published articles and books on the subject of the future of the legal profession."

    The podcast is the first in a weekly series of interviews, called ‘Inside Track’, which will be published on The College of Law website throughout the autumn. The interviews provide insights into the latest legal developments and how they will affect those considering entering the profession from some of the country’s leading industry professionals. They are conducted by Mike Semple Piggot, who writes the well-known ‘Charon QC’ legal blog.

    Next week Jenny Rowe, Chief Executive of the new UK Supreme Court, will give a behind the scenes view of the court and the work being carried out to make it more accessible to the public.

    Further information

    Contact Lucy Wray, Press Officer, The College of Law on 01483 216072 (lucy.wray@lawcol.co.uk).