The End of Lawyers? Re-thinking the nature of legal services

by Paul Maharg on 02/06/2008

Spent two days in early May at Ross Priory, Strathclyde University’s retreat house on the shore of Loch Lomond at the Law School’s Centre for Professional Legal Studies (CPLS) Think Tank. Wonderful weather, great talks where all 22 participants engaged in a Chatham House style environment. The retreat was chaired by Alan Paterson, and led by Richard Susskind. Wide-ranging discussions on the future of lawyering and IT which took a broad view of issues, and included detailed discussions of topics such as alternative business structures (which went on into the early hours in the bar…).

Fascinating presentation by GuidoSchakenraad and Rob Creusen of the Viadicte Foundation, Eindhoven, on quality of lawyering. Their Foundation is an independent institution responsible for:
–researching the quality of legal service,
–introducing a tailor made quality scheme
–which gives advice and support tools to implement the scheme and
–motivates to continuously improve the quality of the legal profession
The tools by which they were setting out to do this are described in their presentation here (posted with their permission on my Slideshare site).

Great presentations by Richard on a variety of topics over the two days. The theme of the retreat was derived from Richard’s new book, and focused on the emerging legal market, commoditisation, mass customisation and multi-sourcing, and sustaining & disruptive technologies amongst much else. I gave two presentations on legal education – slides on Slideshare here.

Very interesting discussions, not least because practising lawyers were coming together from a variety of backgrounds — many types and sizes of firms, as well as government — to discuss IT use and theory, and future technology within the legal profession. It strengthens my conviction that most of the problems faced by legal educators as regards use of ICT are striking similar to the problems faced by practitioners; and solutions to both could be enhanced by such discussions. As I say in my book, collaboration is essential — not just between law schools, but between law schools and the legal profession, and between law schools and other professions. Last week I attended a dinner in Aston Business School for Senior Fellows of the HEA, hosted by Alison Halstead, Pro-VC at Aston. It was fascinating because of the interdisciplinary range of the SF conversation. One example — after discussing problems to do with diagnosis with Sam Leinster of UEA Medical School, I came away with new ideas about the process of diagnosis in legal educational practice. These insights shouldn’t just stem from informal conversations — they should be gathered in more formal ways for greater sharing. Look at the Masters in Clinical Education at UEA Med School, and in particular the interdisciplinary nature of the modules. Apart from Warwick’s LLM in Legal Education there’s little that we do in this respect in the UK, but it’s no less required in law than it is in medicine.

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