Tomorrow's Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future

Release Date: 
March 1, 2013
Oxford University Press, USA
Reviewed by: 

“Richard Susskind has the experience and authority to support his very novel arguments. . . . erudite and engaging at the same time.”

Considering the many recent articles about the current state of the legal profession, author Richard Susskind’s book, Tomorrow’s Lawyers, is relatively optimistic.

Like the recent The Lawyer Bubble by Steven J. Harper, author Susskind saves most of his ire for the hourly billing format of lawyer’s fees, “the dominant way of charging for legal services since the mid-1970s. In truth, hourly billing is not simply a way of pricing and billing legal work; it is a mindset and a way of life.”

Then he adds that hourly billing is simply a disincentive for attorneys to work as quickly and efficiently as possible. Moreover, this is in stark contrast to where the rest of the world has marched since the advent of Internet and our subsequent interconnectedness. Now price comparisons, immediacy, and transparency reign supreme in stark contrast to the traditional way of the legal profession conducting its business.

Mr. Susskind compares the legal system to clothing: on one end, it is bespoke—custom tailored for one individual—and on the other end, it is commoditized. Most people might look at the legal profession as wholly binary, wholly custom or wholly mass marketized.

The author, however, does not buy into this notion of binarism. Instead, he notes that the evolution of legal service has the following levels:

• Bespoke
• Standardized
• Systematized
• Packaged
• Commoditized

It is within those five levels, Mr. Susskind argues, that a nimble and future-oriented lawyer and law firm can find a successful path into the future.

The author continues similar dissection of other areas of the law: litigation, transactions, and the like, in each instance compartmentalizing them into their discrete parts.

As an international speaker and author on legal and business topics, the President of the Society for Computers, and the Law IT adviser to the Lord Chief Justice, as well as a professor at Oxford University, Richard Susskind has the experience and authority to support his very novel arguments.

More importantly, however, he manages to be both erudite and engaging at the same time.

Finally, the American lawyer may find that that the author’s repeated use of British jargon and perspective slightly jarring. Similarly, a lawyer that limits his practice to matrimonial disputes in Boise, Idaho, may also initially find less in common with Mr. Susskind’s global views. But once the author hits his stride the book becomes more accessible.

Unlike other views on the legal profession, Tomorrow’s Lawyers is more bullish and optimistic on the state of the legal practice—provided that the profession realizes that the world is changing and it must change as well in order to survive.

Unfortunately, this is a tall order for an industry that reveres its traditions and is notoriously resistant to change.