Peer to Peer Magazine

June 2010

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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Page 88 of 111

Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services THE END OF LAWYERS? O n the surface, The End of Lawyers? in the context of Law2020 strikes an ominous chord. Fortunately, lawyer, consultant, and industry futurist Richard Susskind’s book is far from heralding a death knell of legal. Instead, Susskind offers an intriguing view of how the practice of law might change and what firm leadership and technology planners need to do to prepare for — and to shape — that change. The End of Lawyers? was published in 2008 in what Susskind calls “the slipstream of an economic downturn.” As we know, that slipstream became a flood, eliminating the jobs of both lawyers and support staff at firms worldwide. The good news is that, well-armed, these “leaner, meaner” law firms can be well positioned to come out of the economic downturn — and charge toward 2020 — with an opportunity to thrive in a potentially more client-empowered legal environment by rethinking the nature of technology investment. To do that, however, we must evolve our understanding of the changing legal landscape in several broad areas: • Technology — or the potential of technology — has become so powerful that “it might be time for lawyers to rethink … their working practices and processes” (my emphasis). As Law2020 technologists, we need to redirect our technology 90 Peer to Peer investment from the “sustaining technologies” or “plumbing” of technology to those “disruptive technologies,” which Susskind describes as “new, innovative technologies that … fundamentally transform companies, industries, and markets.” These disruptive technologies need to address the “Technology Lag” between how we have traditionally applied technology to manage data and how we can, instead, apply technology to create information from data. • Clients are becoming increasingly empowered, and certain “basic” legal information and services are so widely available via self-service that lawyers will be forced into fundamental changes in how they work. We are already seeing this in the upward trend in alternate fee arrangements, expressed succinctly in the American Corporate Counsel’s 2010 Value Challenge. • We need to prepare for a future where only a small percentage of lawyers are delivering “bespoke” services, i.e., acting as trusted advisors developing highly individualized, highly customized legal solutions, and lay the groundwork for supporting lawyers functioning in other capacities (supporting automated, “packaged” legal services, serving as legal “knowledge engineers” and expert “risk managers” for clients, and providing “hybrid” legal services involving project management, business consulting, etc.).

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