This lecture will lay out the central arguments of Richard Susskind’s latest book, The End of Lawyers?, just published by Oxford University Press.
The legal market is under unprecedented pressure. Access to justice is available only to citizens who are very poor or very rich. The cost of dispute resolution in the courts often exceeds the amount at issue. Small businesses invariably claim that mainstream legal services are beyond their budgets. And even the world’s largest companies and financial institutions are seeking radically new ways of meeting their legal needs.
Susskind will argue that, in this time of grave economic uncertainty, the market will no longer tolerate traditional, expensive lawyers who handcraft tasks that can be better discharged with the support of modern systems and techniques. He will claim that the legal profession will be driven by two forces in the coming decade: by a market pull towards the commoditisation of legal services, and by the pervasive uptake of disruptive, Internet-based technologies. The threat here for lawyers is clear – their jobs may well be eroded or even displaced. At the same time, for entrepreneurial lawyers, Susskind foresees quite different law jobs emerging which may be highly rewarding, even if very different from those of today.
Susskind will set a new challenge for all lawyers. He will urge them to ask themselves what elements of their current workload could be undertaken more quickly, more cheaply, more efficiently, or to a higher quality using different and new methods of working. The challenge extends to teachers of the law too: he will ask what law students are being trained to become. And he will suggest to students that the legal world for which they are preparing will change radically for the next generation of lawyers.