Susskind 2.0 digested (5)

From the fifth Times extract from The End of Lawyers?

No-one who might be thought to be in the driving seat of the legal system [not law schools, nor legal academics, nor the professional bodies, nor the UK Government, nor the Law Commission] is thinking systematically, rigorously and in a sustained way about the long term future of legal service. No-one seems to be worrying about the fate of the next generation of lawyers.

All that can be discerned in relation to the long term is a common assumption – whether on the part of scholars, professional bodies, government agencies or leading law firms – that legal service of tomorrow will be quite similar to that of today; perhaps more efficient and more business-like but not fundamentally different in nature.

It is assumed that legal guidance will continue to be dispensed by skilled professionals as a one-to-one, consultative advisory service. By and large, no discontinuities, transformations, upheavals, disruptions or revolutions in the nature of legal service are being contemplated.

One possible exception here is the legal publishing community, a market that has changed markedly in the last decade, in its widespread adoption of online techniques. I have found that many legal publishers, from the large and multi-jurisdictional to the small and entrepreneurial, do have a long term view, although it is not one they tend to publicise, for fear, perhaps, of swallowing the hand that feeds them.

Why is it that law publishers have a long term view of the shape of legal service and what is this view that they are reluctant to express? They do not need long-term lenses to see “discontinuities, transformations, upheavals, disruptions or revolutions” in (law) publishing: they are happening now. And whilst Web 1.0 facilitated the delivery of information and transactions between producers (publishers) and consumers (lawyers) and set the ball rolling, Web 2.0 is transforming the medium into one that challenges the traditional roles. Publishers see the writing on the wall: the production and dissemination of legal information is no longer the preserve of (traditional) law publishers. But, as Susskind argues, lawyers should also see the writing on the wall: the acquisition, processing and application of legal knowledge and procedures is no longer the preserve of (traditional) lawyers.

So how’s this for a vision? A generation hence, all the developed world’s legal information will be digitally organised and much of it will be free; all lawyers will be contributors and participants, if not publishers; all publishers (as we now know them) will be web service providers, primarily facilitating access to information rather than generating content; and all participants – clients, lawyers, publishers and other service providers – will be connected and authenticated via the “social graph”. More detail of my vision will be in a forthcoming book The End of Law Publishers? to be published soon!

All Susskind 2.0 extracts digested.