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Susskind: Are Lawyers Becoming Obsolete?

Posted Oct 23, 2007 1:40 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A well-known lawyer and information technology expert is publishing a sequel to his decade-old book, The Future of Law, and the future he now foresees for many traditional attorneys isn't a bright one.

"Richard Susskind argues that that lawyers and the legal profession in their present shape face extinction—or at least are 'on the brink of fundamental transformation,' " reports the London Times.

Information technology and outsourcing of specific portions of what used to be a lawyer's job are eroding and will eventually eliminate the practice of law as we now know it, Susskind predicts. Thus clients, he contends, are increasingly unwilling to pay expensive lawyers for advice, research and drafting that “smart systems and processes” can do better.

But even though Susskind's new book, in draft form, is being published online by the London Times in six weekly excerpts (here is the first), it's not too late for those who disagree to have their say.

He is inviting online comments on his work so far, and intends to incorporate them in the final version of the book. It will be published next year by Oxford University Press, the newspaper reports.

“The challenge I lay down is for lawyers to ask themselves, with hands on hearts, what elements of their workload could be undertaken differently—more quickly, cheaply, efficiently or to a higher quality—using different methods of working,” says Susskind. In other words, as the Times puts it, "what are the core indispensable legal skills lawyers have and what can be replaced by less costly workers supported by technology or by lay people armed with online self-help tools?"

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