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April 22, 2009

Susskind on "The End of Lawyers? The End of Law Schools?" - liveblog

The Harvard Berkman Center's Law Lab sponsored a talk today with Prof. Richard Susskind at Gresham College / University of Strathclyde on the future of the legal profession and legal education. The live video stream can be found here.

Liveblog to follow...

The Future

Black & Decker does not sell drills; they sell holes in the wall. What's the actual value that lawyers offer? Maybe as KMPG describes it: "Transform our knowledge into value for clients."

Today's law firms are too reactive -- they don't anticipate client needs. Clients don't want dispute management but rather risk management.

Automation vs. Innovation: Automation merely systematizes that which already exists.

The Market

Most major clients face a dilemma in three parts:

  1. Pressure to reduce internal headcount
  2. Pressure to increase internal speed
  3. Yet more legal and compliance work than ever (and it's riskier too)

In short: clients want more for less. Two strategies in response:

  1. The efficiency strategy: cutting costs by moving towards commoditization or multi-sourcing. How do we take the costs out of the routine work? Or clients can share costs of similar problems.
  2. The collaboration strategy

(As of 2007, England allows private non-lawyer investments in and management of law firms. This stimulate investment and innovation of business models -- and the genie will be out of the bottle.)

Commoditization

Susskind's model: Bespoke > Standardized > Systematized > Packaged > Commodity

Law schools teach us to think of all problems as bespoke (esp. our study of appeals, Supreme Court), but that just isn't true. In reality, we start with precedent documents, not blank paper; often we even use automated templates. Why can't we package our expertise for clients to use for themselves, just as banks generate their own term sheets? We need to realize that we provide value for the client, that our value is not embedded with the form of our relationship. The last step, commoditization, is likely to happen online, and is often unattractive because the price trends to zero.

Law firms imagine themselves as bespoke, but that is both factually incorrect and strategically misconceived. Clients are strongly pulling towards commodity. We need to chunk client work down into these boxes. And much of it can happen by "multi-sourcing" such as outsourcing, subcontracting, leasing, open-sourcing, computerizing, etc... Who will manage this process?

Information Technology

There's a tendency to resist technology-driven change. But just as email swept law firms, other communication media are also going to transform legal practice.

Four examples of disruptive technologies:

  1. Closed client communities, as is happening across doctors (clients, not law firms, will join to share experiences).
  2. Online dispute resolution
  3. Embedded legal knowledge. [What I call "codelaw" -gk]
  4. Electronic legal marketplace

The Shape of Law Firms

The traditional pyramid, with junior lawyers as profit centers, will change to new modes of sourcing. [How, then, will new lawyers be trained? This was a question I've raised earlier -gk]

Access to Justice

Rolls Royce service for the rich, free services for the poor, nothing for the rest. How about online legal advice, open sourcing of legal materials, establishing communities of experience among "clients." Remember Voltaire: "The perfect is the enemy of the good."

Lawyers?

What parts of lawyers' work can be undertaken differently -- more quickly, cheaply, efficiently, or to a higher quality -- using alternative methods of working?

What are lawyers' competitive advantage?

  • Complexity - but complexity can be modeled in technology
  • Creativity - but this can be exaggerated (we fool ourselves)
  • Communication - but direct contact is diminishing anyway

Future jobs for lawyers?

  • The expert trusted adviser, our traditional role
  • The legal knowledge engineer [which I'd written about in the context of Codelaw -gk]
  • Hybrids
  • The legal project manager
  • The legal risk manager

Law Schools?

The curricula of most law schools have serious gaps, because we are training the one-to-one, face-to-face, bespoke crafters. Instead we need more emphasis on complex teams reflecting all of the above. Even in the world today law firms complain about what law schools aren't teaching -- globalization, technology, etc.

Should we extend the mission of law schools to include other disciplines such as risk management, project management, legal knowledge management, and disruptive legal technology.

QUESTIONS / DISCUSSION

Some concern about embedded systems appearing to the users as "natural" and not amenable to challenge. Likewise, concern about mistakes becoming hardened inside systems or packages.

Existing disencentives from change, including up-front investment in new systems. But the market is demanding it, and it will eventually get what it wants. Law firms need a more R&D mentality.

Will the firms win or will the new winners be other players? How can you convince a room full of millionaires that their business model is all wrong? Maybe 2/3 will suffer and decline, and we'll see new service providers. Multi-sourcing model may allow US firms to innovate without the need for external investment.

- Gene Koo

April 22, 2009 in Legal profession realities and developments, Teaching -- research, The mission of law schools | Permalink

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Comments

Future jobs for lawyers? High school history teachers. American history as learned in law school, was shocking, stunning, unbelievably intense. Law school is the best preparation for the most exciting, informative, and compelling high school history course ever taught. No student would skip class, all would read to much greater depth with a law school trained high school history teacher.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 22, 2009 6:40:40 PM

I am not ready to discuss the future. The first step is to arrest the entire hierarchy, have brief trials, and execute them for insurrection against the Constitution. These are the world's most powerful, wealthiest criminal syndicate. Nothing will happen while alive.

The above questions make no break with the present. They continue to assume rent seeking as Job 1 for the lawyer profession rather than fulfilling the self-stated goals of every law subject. Those goals are in utter failure now.

An Amendment should exclude anyone passing 1L from all benches, all legislative seats, and all responsible policy decisions in the executive. Judges should be middle aged people who have made decisions and taken responsibility for them in any field. They are chosen for their judicial temperament, and admitted into judge schools. In the third year, they judge under the supervision of an experienced judge. Then they take a judge license exam. They have full professional liability, and carry insurance to make whole any victim of judge malpractice. They accept responsibility.

Enough for now.

After the next terror attack enabled by the appeasement and rent seeking of our lawyer President, the risk is the end of 1776, if the lawyer profession cannot be better regulated and improved. I do not want to discuss that grim scenario.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 22, 2009 8:47:02 PM

"Disruptive Technologies?" No. Disruptive arrests is the necessity. Nothing in the above ramblings addresses the criminal syndicate nature of this profession.

Did anyone learn that the Inquisition had a business model in 10th Grade? It declared wealthy people as heretics, burned then at the stake, and seized their landholdings, for guess whom? It went after wealthy Jews, not after poor Jews.

Correct. The Church. More specifically, the Dominicans.

The merchants demanded something be done for their taxes. Executives all over Europe beheaded church people. Lawyers boohoo what Henry VIII did to that vile, traitor lawyer, Thomas More. However, he had to because the Church had gone to far in its rent seeking. Other executives invaded the Vatican and set up a competing Vatican. The Church did not learn to keep its place until the mass executions of the French Revolution. The guillotine is the sole way to communicate with these internal traitors.

The lawyer picked up the business plan where the Dominicans left off. The lawyers are not linked to the Dominicans, except by imitation of their classic business plan. Call them the New Dominicans. They make up supernatural rules, that all on earth violate, that only they can understand and enforce. They pick the productive to plunder, to destroy, and to enrich themselves.

The time of reckoning with the New Dominicans may have come. Any proposal that does not involve cleaning house, mass executions, and permanent lawyer control laws is a joke.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 22, 2009 11:34:09 PM

Who invited the freakshow? Thanks a lot for your irrelevant verbiage, Claus.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus's bag of coal | Apr 23, 2009 1:56:17 PM

SCBC: Nice name.

I am one of the owners of law. My remarks are from the physical world of reality, and not from the supernatural garbage, Medieval sewer the lawyer swims.

They are for your welfare. If the public is oppressed by the criminal cult enterprise hierarchy, the lawyer is doubly so. Their indoctrination is so good, you do not know it took place. You are such a victim, your first and last loyalties remain to them, above that to nation, family, and even self-interest.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 23, 2009 8:53:26 PM

Law schools teach us to think of all problems as bespoke (esp. our study of appeals, Supreme Court), but that just isn't true. In reality, we start with precedent documents, not blank paper; often we even use automated templates. Why can't we package our expertise for clients to use for themselves, just as banks generate their own term sheets? We need to realize that we provide value for the client, that our value is not embedded with the form of our relationship. The last step, commoditization, is likely to happen online, and is often unattractive because the price trends to zero.

Posted by: bosch dishwasher 500 series | Nov 22, 2012 11:41:57 AM

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