Michael Rappaport’s article about Richard Susskind in this week’s Lawyers Weekly entitled “The end of lawyers as we know it” made me smile. Why? Because the more people who write about what the future of law holds, the more I realize that I am heading down the right track in developing Dynamic Legal Forms. In his article, Michael Rappaport not only repeats what has been repeated many times about Richard Susskind’s new book – The End of Lawyers – but also provides some valuable insight into how Richard Susskind’s predictions are coming true. Those predictions relate to what Richard Susskind’s calls disruptive legal technologies – which will reduce the cost of legal services by forcing lawyers and non-lawyers to be more innovative to solve existing problems (e.g. high cost, delays, etc.). The author provides examples such as Cybersettle (an online dispute resolution service that provides effective alternatives to the judicial system for settling high volumes of fairly low-value disputes), out-sourcing, e-filing, and online legal commmunities such as LegalOnRamp as ways in which technologies can be harnessed to change the game as it’s currently being played.
Although lawyers won’t be out of a job any time soon, those that tend to practice in fields that can be replaced with disruptive legal technologies (such as automated document assembly) will continue to see lower margins over time and less clients heading their way. Free legal information – in the form of guides, books, blogs, articles, forums, etc. will help unveil the mysterious cloud around what exactly lawyers do, thereby emplowering people to do it themselves or shop around for those who offer better value for their services. Electronic marketplaces – such as Dynamic Legal Forms – will also help connect lawyers with people in need of their services.
Finally, as Michael Rappapport notes in his article, four new breeds of lawyers will emerge from this paradigm shift to displace traditional lawyers:
- Enhanced Practitioners: support the delivery of standardized, systemized, and packaged legal services.
- Legal Knowledge Engineers: organize vast quantities of complex legal content and processes that needed to be analyzed and distill and then embody them in standard working practice and computer systems;
- Legal Risk Managers: focus on anticipating and pre-epting legal problems that will reduce the reliance on in-house counsel; and
- Legal Hybrids: multi-disciplinary practitioners who provide sophisticated legal advice that bridges specialties.
All in all, I can’t help but smirk as I realize that the future is what we make it. Now back to work…