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How Law Practice Will Become Like Off-the-Rack Suits

Posted Mar 2, 2009 9:50 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Law practice in the future will involve the mechanization of legal tasks into standard systems, creating job losses for lawyers who don't evolve, Richard Susskind argues in his new book The End of Lawyers?

Today law practice is like a custom-made suit—it is crafted to an individual client’s needs. But in the future, Susskind argues, standard legal tasks will be performed by software or done in a lower cost manner—they will be commodities like off-the-rack suits, explains a book review in The Lawyers Weekly.

Complex legal issues will be broken down into individual tasks, and lawyers will identify the best way to perform them. One this is accomplished, Susskind argues, these tasks may be handled by paralegals, by lower cost law firms or specialized overseas companies.

In this evolution, the “dominant species” of lawyer will be legal knowledge engineers who organize complex legal content and processes that will need to be analyzed and distilled into standard practice and computer systems, according to the book review.

“Adapt or die,” the review says. “That’s the stark option Susskind offers lawyers. The coming seismic shift in legal services will result in the demise of many law firms, the extinction of many legal fields, and will force many lawyers to scramble to find new lines of work.”

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