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Richard Susskind advises decision-makers to look to the future for guidance

The Legal Education and Review (LETR) research team should aim to ‘invent the future of legal education and training' through the innovative use of new technology and the emergence of new roles, instead of merely improving existing models, according to Professor Richard Susskind's ‘Provocations and Perspectives', paper published today, 17 October 2012.

Professor Susskind OBE, who published the paper as part of the research stage of the Review, which is currently underway, points to the danger of the Review advocating a streamlined version of the current regime. This would be out of date within a few years, due to the rapid changes currently taking place in the legal services market, he says.

Setting the scene for predicting what the future legal services market will need, he advises decision makers to:

  • take account of factors such as probable changes in the economy, emerging information technologies, the way in which legal services are likely to be delivered, and the new providers of legal services
  • ask what the fundamental purpose of legal training and education may be in the future
  • use information technology innovatively to deliver new methods of training and working, rather than just to streamline existing processes - for example by providing simulated legal practice environments.

Susskind also highlights the likelihood of the changing role and decrease in numbers of traditional lawyers, to be replaced by a much wider range of legal jobs and activities than at present.

Although he admits that it is difficult to accurately predict the future, Susskind identifies three trends:

  • the ‘more-for-less' dilemma where both corporate and individual clients are demanding more legal services at lower cost
  • the inevitability of transformation in societal and economic structures, due to information technology
  • the liberalisation of legal services through the Legal Services Act 2007, giving rise to new service providers and new ways of delivering legal services.

As a result of these trends, the paper argues, legal work will be ‘decomposed', with each activity being undertaken in the most efficient, cost effective way possible. This means that routine, repetitive, process-based and administrative work will no longer be undertaken by traditional lawyers but increasingly outsourced to other new and emerging legal providers and role holders.

The paper highlights the central role IT will play in this, and the fact that market leaders and thought leaders are advocating greater take-up of so-called ‘disruptive' technologies - those which fundamentally change and challenge conventional ways of learning and working. Susskind argues that a legal education and training regime that will be fit for tomorrow's purpose must, therefore, be driven and enabled through technology.

In summarising the paper, Susskind draws on the fact that the LETR is the first major review of its kind for many decades. Given the changes which have happened during that time, and the anticipated changes in the next two decades, he proposes that a framework is put in place to constantly measure and appraise adjustments to the Review's proposals every three to five years, to ensure it remains relevant.

Professor Julian Webb, who heads up the LETR Research Team, said: "It is important that the Review builds on as good an understanding as possible of how the delivery of legal services is likely to change in the foreseeable future, and of the ways in which legal education and training could better prepare tomorrow's lawyers for those changes.

"As an independent and highly respected thought leader in the field, Richard Susskind is extremely well-placed to comment on the trends and challenges ahead. We welcome his report as a thoughtful and sometimes provocative contribution to the Review. Its conclusions will be helpful in developing the research team's final report and recommendations."

The Review will also be considering the recently published Briefing Paper produced by Professor Rob Wilson of Warwick Institute of Employment Research, which examines the changing pattern of legal services employment in England and Wales and its possible implications for legal education and training. The Wilson Reportis also published on the LETR website.

The Review will produce its report in December 2012. It will then be up to the three legal regulators who commissioned the review – the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bar Standards Board and ILEX Professional Standards (IPS) - to consider individually how they will take forward the proposals.

More information on LETR.


Note to editors

Professor Richard Susskind OBE is an author, speaker, and independent adviser to major professional firms and to national governments. His main area of expertise is the future of professional service, with particular reference to information technology. He has worked on legal technology for over 30 years. He lectures internationally and has been invited to speak in over 40 countries and has addressed audiences (in person and electronically), numbering more than 200,000. He has written and edited numerous books, including Expert Systems in Law (OUP, 1987), The Future of Law (OUP, 1996), Transforming the Law (OUP, 2000), The Susskind Interviews: Legal Experts in Changing Times (Sweet & Maxwell, 2005), The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services (OUP, 2008) and has written over 100 columns for The Times. His work has been translated into 10 languages.

He has advised on numerous government inquiries and, since 1998, has been IT Adviser to the Lord Chief Justice of England. In 2003, he was appointed by the Cabinet Office as Chair of the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information, a position he held until 2008. Richard is President of the Society for Computers and Law and is Chair of the Advisory Board of the Oxford Internet Institute where he is also a Visiting Professor. He also holds professorships at Gresham College, London, and the University of Strathclydein Glasgow.

Richard has a first class honours degree in law from the University of Glasgow and a doctorate in law and computers from Balliol College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of the British Computer Society, and was awarded an OBE in the Millennium New Year's Honours List for services to IT in the Law and to the Administration of Justice.

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