Does anyone want to argue seriously with the proposition that Richard Susskind's The End of Lawyers? single-handedly jumpstarted the conversation about the impact of technology on the future of law? Now comes Susskind and son, Oxford don Daniel Susskind, to tell us that lawyers are not alone -- all of the learned professions as we know them may be going down, as legendary Alaskan lawyer Ted Stevens would put it, the internets' tubes.
The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts won't be out in hard copy until January, but you can, fittingly, get it now on your e-reader. Here's the review in this week's The Economist. This blog will be posting on it periodically as we work our way through its seven chapters, ending in the provocative question, "What Should We Want?". Please join us.
From the book's prologue, here's why you should pay attention:
To the sceptics, who might already be tempted to put the book to one side, consider this: in the mid-1990s, when we predicted (in retrospect, rather unambitiously) that electronic mail would become the dominant way in which clients and lawyers would communicate, senior officials at the Law Society of England and Wales said that we should not be allowed to speak in public, that we failed to understand confidentiality, and that we were bringing the profession into disrepute.
Today, an evolutionary blink of the eye later, the Law Society of England and Wales is fully engaged in the work of adapting the profession, its habits, culture and ethics, to technology's imperatives. Check out the speech given by the Law Society's President Jonathan Smithers last week in Vienna, "What does the future hold for small law firms and what is the role of Bar Associations in helping them?"
The State Bar of Michigan, too, is fully engaged. We don't want to disappear down the rabbit hole of history.