If you plan to work in the law for more than the next five years, you need to read The End of Lawyers?  In his book, Richard Susskind reflects on the pressures technology is bringing to the legal profession, and how attorneys must adapt – whether they want to or not.  Briefly stated, Susskind believes lawyers must change how they work or die.

According to Susskind, the growing availability of legal information on the Internet, coupled with increased cooperation among and demand for price controls from end users, will force more efficient delivery of legal services.  Susskind sees the law evolving (and soon!) to the point there will be five types of lawyers:

  1. Trusted advisors who offer “bespoke” services;
  2. “Enhanced Practitioners” who provide systematized, packaged legal services;
  3. “Legal Knowledge Engineers,” who create standardized working practices and systems;
  4. “Legal Risk Managers,” who work with end-users to reduce the need for more costly services (such as litigation); and
  5. “Legal Hybrids,” who have multidisciplinary practices, i.e., acting as project managers (with real project manager training) as well as attorneys.

I mostly agree with Susskind, but not entirely.  I think his research, largely among large law firms and in-house counsel, skews his perspective, making him less knowledgeable about legal services provided to non-institutional clients.  I believe Susskind places too much emphasis on cost savings influencing the future of the law – people often make decisions based on factors other than what something will cost them.  Finally, Susskind doesn’t acknowledge that although online legal solutions may appeal to the consumer, use of those services may ultimately result in more work for lawyers when they undo the messes created by people who don’t know what they are doing.

I want to make one more observation.  I find most tomes like this to be unreadable, consisting of pages and pages of meaningless words, saying the same thing over and over again.  Susskind’s book is not one of them.  Although dense, the book is not repetitive and mostly made sense to me.  In other words, I could read it.  I think you should, too.

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