Susskind 2.0 digested (4)

Richard Susskind takes a while to get to his point in the latest extract from his forthcoming book The End of Lawyers?:

The major firms may feel they are beyond the scope of commoditisation and systematisation and that, on bet-the-ranch deals and disputes the legal fees represent but pocket change in the grand scheme. But this is not the attitude I find amongst the general counsel of some of the world’s largest organisations.

These managers are under pressure to reduce their legal budget. And these clients’ loyalty to conventional firms will be limited if new legal businesses emerge that offer quicker, more convenient, lower cost alternatives to low- and high-value work that seem to be more geared to the interests of clients and are more business-like in their constitution.

It’s clear that Web 2.0 offers ways to produce value and to conduct business more efficiently that were lacking in Web 1.0 which was used to automate the repetitive but not much more. When looking at the prospects for high-end work, “commoditisation” and even “systematisation” are probably not the key words on which to focus: law is a knowledge business, so instead think “collaboration” and “collective intelligence” to see where some of the new efficiencies will lie.

Another point I take away from the debate on the Times pages is that a number of commentators blithely ignore the telling question mark at the end of the title The End of Lawyers? Even the Times itself is guilty, asking “Will lawyers still exist in 100 years?” If lawyers are those who do legal work, then the answer is “Of course they will”. But that is not the question and misses the point; the question is rather “What shape will lawyers be in?” Reliance on the fact that there will always be lawyers will not help those lawyers who fail to adapt to the changing landscape.

All Susskind 2.0 extracts digested.