New Zealand Law Society - Be demanding of law firms

Be demanding of law firms

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In-house lawyers should be more demanding of law firms, according to internationally renowned futurist Daniel Susskind.

Daniel Susskind and his father, Richard Susskind, authored the book The Future of the Professions. (Richard Susskind is also very well known for his numerous books, including The Future of Law (1996), The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services (2008) and Tomorrow’s Lawyers (2013).

Published in January this year, The Future of the Professions looks at how technology will transform the work of human experts.

How this relates to in-house practice will be a focus of Daniel Susskind’s address at the upcoming ILANZ Conference.

“Unlike my father, I have not advised in-house lawyers, nor studied them in depth,” Mr Susskind says.

“However, it is clear from the research that we undertook that the recipients of professional service should be heavily involved in changing the way that service is delivered.

“Certainly, in-house lawyers should be more demanding of law firms. Without being nudged quite vigorously, few law firms are likely to change of their own accord.

“Next, in-house lawyers might find it useful to start with a blank sheet of paper. Rather than looking at what is done today and how it might be done more efficiently, a more fundamental exercise would be helpful.

Asking basic questions

“We have in mind something like a ‘legal needs analysis’ or a ‘legal risk analysis’ of organisations, asking basic questions about what needs and what risks are the most important to address.

“After that, we suggest that in-house lawyers themselves carry out legal process analysis: once they have settled on what work needs to be done, they analyse the underlying processes in great detail, they break the work down into component parts and they identify the best way of resourcing each of the component parts (whether that be, for example, internally, by a law firm, by outsourcing, or off-shoring, or indeed – and crucially – by systematising).

LawTalk asked Mr Susskind: What are the three main coming events, developments and trends that will impact on the legal profession (particularly on-house lawyers) and how can lawyers prepare for these?

The first main trend, Mr Susskind said, was the growing cost pressures on lawyers.

“Across all professions, our research shows there is what we call the ‘more for less’ challenge, that is, the need to deliver more legal service at less cost.

“From major multi-nationals to individual consumers, the imperative will be to find ways of reducing the cost of legal work.”

The second main trend is new competition.

“Partly because of liberalisation but often because it is possible, as we say, to ‘decompose’ legal work and some component parts do not require traditional lawyers, there are many new providers coming into the legal market – such as accounting firms, major legal publishers, and innovative start-ups.

“And thirdly, there is technology, which is not simply streamlining traditional ways of working. It is also enabling the delivery of legal services in entirely new ways (for example, online document automation systems).

“This third element is my main interest and the subject of our book, The Future of the Professions,” Mr Susskind says.

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