College of Law Podcast 2: Richard Susskind OBE on the Future of The Profession

The future of the legal profession

Today, as part of my series of podcasts for The College of Law, I speak to Professor Richard Susskind OBE.

Listen to the podcast

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter will shape the way that lawyers work in the future, Professor Richard Susskind predicts. He says that the legal industry will be transformed over the coming years by the need to embrace ways of improving efficiency such as new technology and outsourcing. He predicts that while the new legal landscape will reduce some of the conventional areas of legal work it will open up a range of new, exciting roles for young lawyers entering the profession.

“Lesson one for law students is to disabuse themselves of the thought that legal practice tomorrow might look anything like legal practice today,” he says. “If you are about to enter the profession by the time you’re my age, 48, the legal world’s going to look wildly and vastly different.

Professor Susskind has specialised in legal technology for 25 years and is an independent advisor to major professional firms and the Government.  Since 1998 he has been IT advisor to the Lord Chief Justice of England. He’s enjoyed a distinguished academic career and in his recent book ‘The End of Lawyers?’ aims to think ahead for the legal profession and anticipate trends in the delivery and receipt of legal services.

Listen to the podcast

13 thoughts on “College of Law Podcast 2: Richard Susskind OBE on the Future of The Profession

  1. sorry to be a pedant, but people making comments like:

    “If you are about to enter the profession by the time you’re my age, 48, the legal world’s going to look wildly and vastly different”

    need to appreciate that some of the people entering law ARE 48.

    institutional ageism… it’s easy to do and needs no ill will; merely a very slight failure to comprehend by otherwise balanced and clued-up people.

  2. I am sure Richard Susskind was using this as a device to explain the long term. No-one could accuse Richard of being ageist… he is a strong supporter of diversity and older entrants to the profession are well aware of the difficulties they can face and the fact that they may not have the same long term career opportunities as younger entrants to the profession.

    I always warn older prospective entrants that they may face difficulty with some of the larger firms who have a focused recruitment policy – but, the Bar and many law firms are more than happy to consider older entrants.

  3. and yet he makes a comment like this… i accept that one can be a strong supporter of open-age recruitment and yet still say something like that because we all (me included) have a vision of the typical person embarking on a career. and that ‘typical’ person isn’t older, doesn’t have a disbaility isn’t one of those less usual ethnicities (how far do you think the bar is unconsciously prejudiced against women who wear the veil, let alone anything more?) and is in fact in our own image.

    i can’t speak purely on my own experience, but none of the older entrants i have spoken to reckon it’s made things any easier. the profession is ageist. not evil; not even nasty, but it is ageist. it’s something we who are older just have to live with and get past, but it’s there.

  4. Simply, I fear you might be over doing it on this rare occasion. There is nothing in RS’s work which suggests an ageist view and, indeed, probably plenty that lends support for the case of the older, wiser, better educated, more experienced etc entrant to the profession.

  5. lest my remarks be misunderstood, i just want to add:

    i don’t know richard susskind from adam (or eve or any other non-discriminatory persona). i certainly don’t want to make any accusation about him personally or professionally. further, charon who is notably fair and impartial and DOES know him, says he is ‘a strong supporter of diversity’ and i am sure he is correct. my comment was about the words he used and the implication i consider they bear.

    i think we are all prone to assumptions about people on the basis of irrelevant characteristics (largely because i know i am) and it is in unguarded phrases like this that such assumptions show themselves. one of the biggest difficulties in coping with prejudices born of our own privileged position (my own position being a highly-privileged one as as straight white middle-class oxbridge-educated male) is actually seeing that one’s viewpoint is a product of one’s privilege rather than a neutral position.

    people are welcome to consider i am reading too much into a simple phrase and mayhap they are right. they may think the simply doth protest too much… i still think it’s an important point in general, not anything to do with richard susskind individually.

    right, i’m done now and will continue my tedious rants about the conservative party.

  6. Pingback: Susskind on “The End of Lawyers?” « Legal Informatics Blog

  7. Simply – We can all get caught in the trap of semiotics and linguistics and the matter you take issue with, is I observe one of perception and I am reminded that there is no such thing as truth, only perception. The particular quote you have must be reflected in the context with which it was said –

    “I think lesson one for law students is, to be frank, to disabuse themselves of the thought that legal practice tomorrow might look anything like legal practice today. If you are about to enter the profession when you’re my age, 48, the legal world’s going to look wildly and vastly different”

    I have my perception of the point he was making, particularly in the context of a) his book and b) the rest of the podcast and my perception would be that he was not trying to make an age argument. But it’s just my perception.

    I’m nore interested in what others thought of the rest of the content, it’s an interesting argument which affects us all.

  8. Let me explain where I am on this.

    Richard Susskind is quoted as saying…

    “If you are about to enter the profession by the time you’re my age, 48, the legal world’s going to look wildly and vastly different.

    Applying the golden and literal rule of construction to these words, taking a small draft of Rioja to aid me with the complexities of modern construction, I come to the view that Professor Susskind was in fact saying this…

    (a) if ‘you’ enter the profession now

    (i) at the age of 23 – when you get to the age of 48, it will be a very different legal profession and

    (ii) if you are an old git and are, in fact, 48 when you enter the profession, then the world won’t look any different than it is… because you are 48.

    In the alternative premises, taking the datum point of a 23 year old entrant, the difference between 48 and 23 is 25 years. If one adds 48 and 25 one comes up with an age of 73 and if you are still able, at that age, to see the world at all – because you have eluded the grim reaper – you ought to be playing golf, spending time with your wine cellar or be doing other things than worrying about the legal profession.

    This last observation applies only if you have no aspirations to higher judicial office – but at 73, you are caught by the rule against perpetuities and must retire at 70 – unless Lord Phillips can persuade Jack Straw before he loses office at the next election to change the law.

    I hope that my observations are of some help – but I repeat my view, stated earlier, that Richard Susskind did not intend by his words to take an ageist stance. I am, as it happens, older than Professor Susskind by 8 years and did not feel the tremor of ageist discrimination when I talked with him !

    SW… we shall meet and have a drink next week… you have my mobile. I got your email and will reply..

  9. On a more serious note – the ideas which Richard Susskind comes up with are interesting and one thing is certain – time, perhaps a very short time, will prove him right or wrong.

    The important thing about the issues raised is that they are interesting, they are provocative, they will shape some of our thinking – and, for my part, I hope they do.

    I thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to put questions to Richard Susskind, as I do with all those who take time to answer my questions – and it is beneficial to all that we do live in changing times.

    I do feel, however, to address SW’s points properly – that the profession, in parts, does have an ageist attitude (name me a walk of life which is not when it comes to employment?) – but there are still many firms and some sets of Chambers, in-house law departments who value the experience older entrants bring from other walks of life into the practice of law. It is more difficult for older entrants and this is, I suspect, true of many professions or vocations where the training is long and the career path slow.

  10. The aspect Susskind raises about disintermediation of lawyers in a number of possible scenarios is the area that particularly interests me. We’ve seen the disintermediation of many parts of professions across the spectrum and it is a fair assertion to believe that elements of legal service can be too. Most of the debate I have seen seems to centre on whether this is right or wrong, which to me is largely like the kind of debates music executives were having circa 1999 on downloadable music. It will happen, it’s just yet to be determined how.

    Whilst many of Kurzweil’s prophetic statements on The Singularity are yet to be realised we are moving ever closer to it. Systems like ALIS are pushing these boundaries and if you follow Moore’s Law of computing will be vastly more capable in just a few years.

    It actually opens huge possibilities for a very creative and wider ranging legal services market, but requires very different thinking in terms of business models. That’s going to be the hard part.

    http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2009-09/08/soon,-your-laptop-could-be-your-lawyer.aspx

  11. Pingback: Oh what a lovely day…. « Charon QC

  12. Ordinarily, I do not respond to critics (I would have no time in life left for anything else), but I wanted to confirm (because the accusation of ageism is a serious and a personal one) that charonqc is correct in his analysis.

    The transcript should read: ‘If you are about to enter the profession, by the time you’re my age, 48, the legal world’s going to look wildly and vastly different’. I had hoped by my voice that there would be a comma after ‘profession’.

    I was thinking of my sons (21 and 20) and their friends – that by the time they are 48, the legal world will be very different. Nothing more than that.

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