Last week saw the launch party in London for the revised paperback edition of The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services by Richard Susskind. Our intrepid associate editor Linda Cheung reports…
An easier task for Richard Susskind now, than it was two years ago when the hardback was first published. What’s changed? In a short speech, Susskind attributed his increased influence to a “key change” in the attitude of lawyers. It used to be “hard to convince a roomful of millionaires that they're wrong… [but] it's different now.”
When Susskind was writing the hardback edition things weren't as tough as they are currently, so even though it emphasised achieving more with less “more for less is needed even more today.” Many firms have less resources, more legal work to do, and need to consider new ways of delivering their services, such as legal process out-sourcing. “Besides liberalisation, we've seen implementation of the Legal Services Act and new entrants for more competition.”
So what should law firms do?
Lord Saville of Newdigate commented in his introductory remarks that the title of the book didn’t mean “we won't end up with no lawyers at all. It's about change. Good change. If some lawyers don't adapt, it will be end of those lawyers… What Richard saw was that technology provided tools to do things in an entirely new way… a better way…. it should be compulsory reading for all who care about the future of law.”
Susskind's key tip was to focus on emerging technologies “even if they have a silly name.” Two years ago “no-one would have heard of Twitter. Many still don't think it’s relevant. It has 100 million users. It is relevant. Lots of law firm clients are tweeting. Any law firm should be interested in what their clients are saying.”
Susskind went on to reinforce his point by asking guests to guess how many disputes there had been on eBay, and challenging us with “whatever you think won’t nearly be enough.” Apparently there have been 60 million disputes on eBay – solved online without any of the traditional or physical dispute resolution practices most would expect. “Change is upon us.”
Susskind seemed confident that the coming changes could be handled, but warned that lawyers would need to work their way through four stages of acceptance:
1. This is worthless nonsense
2. Interesting, but perverse
3. True, but unimportant
4. I've always said so
What else had changed in two years? With Charles Christian still working on how to clone himself and be in two places at once, this was my first book launch party. Not knowing what to expect, I asked a fellow guest how representative the evening was of book launches in general. I learned that the party for the hardback involved champagne in a very grand room at the Law Society. The party for the paperback was a low key affair, in the basement of Hammicks Legal Bookshop, sans bubbles. Leaner times for all.