“The end of lawyers?” – A look at Richard Susskind’s legal bestseller

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Widely acclaimed by academics and legal professionals alike, Richard Susskind’s bestseller explores the potential impact of numerous recent developments on the legal profession.

Susskind was one of the first to consider the possible ramifications of information technology, communisation, outsourcing and external investment on the legal profession. “The End of Lawyers?” envisages a bleak future for those who refuse to embrace innovation but hints at a world of possibilities for practitioners willing to make changes.

The book makes three key observations:

Susskind argues that law firms are performing increasingly uniform operations for their clients and that this will greatly affect future business models. Five different categories of legal services are identified: bespoke, standardized, systematized, packaged and commoditized. The End of Lawyers examines each and concludes that a shift towards standardised services will inevitably transform the way in which law firms operate.

The book also breaks down legal services into categories which can be delegated across various sources. This multi-sourcing will allow clients to obtain services from several different legal work performers which may not necessarily be law firms.  Susskind lists 12 possible destinations for this “unbundling”: co-sourcing, de-lawyering, in-sourcing, relocating, leasing, home-sourcing, open-sourcing, subcontracting, computerizing, outsourcing, no-sourcing and offshoring. There will, however, remain a need for a body to take responsibility for streamlining and coordinating all legal work undertaken.

The introduction of new legal technologies including automated document assembly, the electronic legal marketplace, online legal guidance, online dispute resolution, and legal open-sourcing, will allow for a more efficient delivery of legal services. These new developments will transform the way in which law firms operate and will require drastic changes to the traditional business model adopted by firms.

In the words of Peter Kurer, Chairman, UBS; “[The End of Lawyers?] is thought-provoking and entertaining at the same time. I strongly encourage law firms and in-house lawyers to read this book and embrace the new methods and technologies that Richard Susskind is recommending.”

4C’s breakfast debate, “External Legal Services – best bought by Procurement, or the In-house legal team?” will touch on some of the issues raised in “The End of Lawyers”.

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