BILETA Conference, Richard Susskind keynote

by Paul Maharg on 29/03/2012

Richard Susskind now on giving his keynote lecture — ‘What are we training young lawyers to become?’  Overview: the past biletas… three drivers, case studies, lawyer…?  and finally legal education.

Richard has given 3 bileta keynotes: expert systems (1980s), shift in paradigm (1990s), online legal service (2000s).  His work reflects predominant concerns of the decades.  There are now, he said, four stages of acceptance — Haldane’s work on the acceptance of death — 1. this is worthless nonsense.  2. this is an interesting but perverse point of view  3. this is true but quite unimportant  4. I have always said so.  We are now at number 4.

Three drivers of change?  1. More for less, 2. liberatlization, 3. technology.

More for less…  There’s more work to do, say general counsel, but we’re under pressure to reduce numbers.  There are only two strategies for this: 1.  the efficiency strategy — cut the costs; moving along the path towards commoditisation; multi-sourcing.  2.  the collaboration strategy — share the costs; harnessing the collaborative power of IT; online community.

The path to comoditisation he defined as the following stages:

bespoke :: standardized :: systematized :: packaged :: || commoditized.

The line moves almost inexorably L to R.  The final step is what lawyers don’t want to take.  RS’s point was that legal education sits at the LHS; practice moves, and client wants practice to move, toward the RHS.  Richard argues that decomposing skills, tasks, etc  is an essential analytical tool for this process.  Eg litigation can be broken down into document review, leal research, project management, litigation, support, e-disclosure, strategy, tactics, negotiation, advocacy — that’s decomposition by task.  Critical to this is project management — real project management, rather than just another lever-arch file.

Eg how do you source a legal service?  At least 15: in-sourcing, de-aywering, relocating, off-shoring, outsourcing, sub-contracting, co-sourning, near-shoring, leasing, home-sourcing, open-souring, crowd-sourcing, etc.

Liberalization.  Legal Services Act and liberalization of the legal profession — Legal Services Act 2007.  Cp position in the US: ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20.

Technology.  The exponential power of technology is critical, on any topic: memory, internet use, etc.  He cited a welter of examples, including examples from online communities, video, high def desktop vid conference (‘skype on steroids’).  IBM Watson — all these devices, he said, are the worst they’ll ever be: imagine an iPad 9, an iPhone 14.  Content, power, search, speed — all quite amazing.

Case studies:

Rio Tinto outsourcing its legal work: see Leah Cooper interviews Richard did.  Allen & Overy, Herbert Smith — outsourced.  Axiom, legalzoom.com.  He cited 12 disruptive technologies that will transform the marketplace — see The End of Lawyers.

New law jobs: legal knowledge engineer, legal technologist, legal hybrid, legal process analyst, legal project manager, ODR practitioners, legal management consultants, legal risk manager.

Fascinating list of jobs — and nothing like the bespoke stuff outlined above.  And no one going to law school today knows anything about this sort of stuff.

What are we training young lawyers to become?  We’re training them to the bespoke model.  More flexible team-based model… with modern management & info tech?  No.  No regard for globalisation, commoditisation, info tech and so on. And even less prepared for tomorrow.  Is there a place for the future in the busy law curriculum?    What are the reasonable expectations of students who pay for legal training?  We shd provide law students with at least the options to… study current & future trends in legal services, learn 21st century legal skills that will support future law jobs.  And from law professors: take an interest in the future of legal service, undertake research into trends in the profession, expose students to new ways of doing things.

Fantastic, breath-taking view of the profession and legal education, both under & postgrad.  If you weren’t there, read the book, and remember the question mark at the end of the title — not the end, but radical change.

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