Apologies and thanks to Clay Shirky for providing the thought that kicks off this post. Clay wrote here about the malaise affecting the newspaper market in the face of new emerging technology.
There is a vibrant discussion over at linkedin (possibly subscription required) instigated by James Dunning of GeoTrupes wondering whether law is facing a similar crisis. I could not see however that that discussion had yet been linked to Clay’s debate.
Clay wrote in his very comprehensive post that “Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism.”
I feel that this is a wonderful provocation. If we, within law, were to challenge ourselves with the question “Society doesn’t need law firms. What we need is…?” then what answers or insights might we come up with?
I think that we, as lawyers, need to be having this debate. I am frequently reminded of Susskind’s very pithy observation that “Google wasn’t invented by librarians”
If we are not prepared to engage in this debate, then there are plenty of other commentators and service providers who will.
To close, consider this further excerpt from Clay Shirky’s argument, again transposing references to newspapers and journalism to law firms and law.
“And so it is today. When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.
There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.”
Chilling, isn’t it?