It’s the end of the law as we know it…

Posted on April 8, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Uncategorized, Web 2.0 |

Many lawyers may be unwilling to face the music, but the legal profession is undergoing a dramatic transformation even as we speak.

I’ve believed this for a while and was thrilled to hear Richard Susskin’s brilliant keynote speech at the ABA’s TechShow last week in Chicago.  His speech was the highlight of the event for me.  His main points resonated with me and it was wonderful to hear someone speak (with a British accent, no less!) of many of the very issues I’ve been mulling over this past year.  And, even better–he gets it–he really gets it!

First off, let’s dispel some misunderstandings that have occurred as of late in the legal blogosphere regarding his speech.  My round up of comments at Legal Tweets was not intended to be all inclusive, nor was it intended to mislead.  Rather, it was simply a list of tweets that I found to be most interesting.  The round up certainly did not accurately summarize the main points raised during the keynote speech.

Secondly, let’s acknowledge outright that Susskind specifically noted in both his speech and his book, The End of Lawyers?, that litigation practices would be affected the least by technological changes due to the very nature of the practice.  Litigation matters, including criminal defense, are very fact specific.  Further, litigating attorneys must necessarily appear in court.  This requirement is unlikely to change any time soon, and, I would hazard to guess that most litigation attorneys are quite happy with that fact, thank you very much.

Now, let’s get to the meat of Susskind’s speech-his premise that the legal field is undergoing a fundamental change that will affect the vast majority of legal practice areas. The impetus behind the change is the technological advances occurring at an unprecedented rate.  The world has changed in ways we couldn’t have envisioned just 10 years ago-and the legal field is not immune from these changes, despite its repeated attempts to stick its collective heads deeply into the sands of time.

Lawyers relish the idea of looking backward, not forward.  Lawyers cling to precedent, “the way it’s always been done”, even as the rickety old lifeboat which has always kept them afloat falls apart and is replaced by better, more advanced flotation devices.

The legal field is changing–not will change–is changing.  Technology’s momentum cannot be stopped, nor can the end result of the momentum be accurately predicted.

As one of the smartest guys around, Gary Vaynerchuk, states in the following video, there’s no way to predict exactly where technology will take us, nor is there any reason to do so.  The intelligent among us will make it a point to stay on top of technological advances and will be at the forefront of change, as it occurs.

Those who make the change work for their law practices will profit and survive.  Those who ignore it, quite simply, will not and will fade away just as the dinosaurs did when they were unable to adapt to rapid change.

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3 Responses to “It’s the end of the law as we know it…”

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Lawyers relish the idea of looking backward, not forward. Lawyers cling to precedent, “the way it’s always been done”, even as the rickety old lifeboat which has always kept them afloat falls apart and is replaced by better, more advanced flotation devices.”

This comment makes it clear to me that
the changes to come are being made for
and by those who haven’t got the vaguest
idea what law is supposed to be about.

Law is about precedent, nothing else.
The change proposed simply allows a
judge–or anyone–simply to call it the
way he or she sees it.

Judges have been doing that since
the Robert Bork hearings suggested
that might be all right. One U.S.
Supreme Court decision written by
former Chief Justice William Rehnquist
even suggested that there may be a
right, but alas there may be no
remedy for a violation of that right.

What we have here is not the end of
law as we know it, but the ad hoc
creation of a new field, for bullies
with or without the knowledge of
technology to stick it to the rest
of us. I am still look for a title
for my take on the law–if I were
to follow up on this, I suppose
I would call it “Legal arrogance–
the making of a new reich.”


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