The end of BigLawyers – does the rest of society care?

By Nick Holmes on October 14, 2009
2 comments
Filed under Future of law

Having just penned my previous post on BigLaw, I browsed the latest issue of Legal Information Management and was riveted not by my own article therein :=), nor by any of the many other worthy articles, but by the Book Review at the end in which solicitor Gillian Bull rather comprehensively disses Susskind’s The End of Lawyers?

Her main beef is that the arena of legal services from which Susskind draws most of his examples is BigLaw: “Susskind’s book in the main deals with life on Planet Mammon: life on Planet Rumpole (or even Planet Pooter) doesn’t figure much.” Thus, in her view, the book is not relevant to most lawyers and the public at large. Not only that, but City lawyers either won’t need to read it if they’re already on the game, or won’t want to read it if they’re not; and their ICT managers will “need more than the collection of anecdotes and predictions that this book comprises. To make their case for spending money they need lots of hard data, of which there are none here.”

Not content with trashing the book, Gillian puts Susskind down for liberally referring to committees and reports in which he was a participant and to himself generally – and not much to others.

So is all this criticism fair? I too was disappointed that there was disproportionate coverage of and emphasis on BigLaw. It is only in Chapter 7 on Access to Justice that he refers to the types of legal services offered by the majority of lawyers and experienced by the majority of businesses and the general public. But I found myself easily able to read between the lines and to relate the arguments to other types of practice. High Street conveyancing and will writing first kicked off the inevitable evolution of legal services from bespoke to commoditised and it is not difficult to see with Susskind’s help how other mainstream legal services are following. Should he have drawn on examples from these other mid- and lower-market services and explained how they will be affected according to his thesis? Yes, I think so, but that does not make the book irrelevant to those unconcerned with BigLaw issues.

As to the frequent references to himself and his own activities and the paucity of references to others, again Gillian has a point, though that did not stand out to me when I read the book. We cannot expect Susskind not to draw on his own experiences, but we could again expect a bit more balance by reference to the work of others.

Judging from its Amazon.co.uk Sales Rank of 16,304, a lot of people have bought this book; far more than bought books of related interest (selected from “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought”):

  • The Law Machine (Paperback) (2000) by Marcel Berlins 19,125
  • Law Firm Strategy: Competitive Advantage and Valuation (Hardcover) (2007) by Stephen Mayson 250,703
  • The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies (Paperback) (2008) by Kennedy and Mighell 839,256

Big sales do not make this a good book, but they do mean that many people have read it and I’m sure most have benefited and at least taken something away about the future of legal services that they did not have before.

As Gillian says, “There is a book yet to be written concerning the impact of IT … on both lawyers and the public at large. Unfortunately, this book is not it.” But we did not expect that from this book. We expected Susskind to extend and expand on his earlier work, and this he has done in his own way. Someone else will write that other book.

Unfortunately, the review is not publicly available. To read it you need to subscribe to LIM or buy the issue. Maybe the publishers or the author would make an exception for these few hundred words which, refreshingly, do more than praise the book or deny its arguments relate to them.

2 comments

To do him justice, he does mention myself, a sole practitioner (www.landlordlaw.co.uk) and Richard Granat’s site (www.mdfamilylawyer.com) on page 123.

However I agree he seems to be over concerned by big law.

by Tessa Shepperson on 14 October 2009 at 7:40 pm. #

In a similar vein it’s worth drawing attention to Andrew Charlesworth’s review of Future of Law back in 1997:

http://webjcli.ncl.ac.uk/1997/issue3/charles3.html

Equally riveting to read – wonder if he’s got around to reviewing the latest work?

by Midlands Lawyer on 15 October 2009 at 10:07 am. #