Tag Archives: End of Lawyers

The Law Firm as a Learning Organisation

“The shift to a learning culture is an aspiration; in practice it will take a long time and success in any organisation may be patchy, or even go into reverse on occasion.”  pg 15 Learning and Development 2020: A Guide For The Next Decade

It seems quite apt that my blog post following on from the previous one should look at this issue of developing a learning culture.

The quote is taken from Martyn Sloman’s excellent, and free, report on learning and development.  Follow the link above.

What do law firms have to do to develop a learning culture?

What unique obstacles are there, if any, within law firms?

What examples are there in the market place that demonstrate this learning culture aspiration, and how do they respond to it?

My own view is that competence is often narrowly evaluated within organisations including law firms.  We might see an excellent lawyer as someone who has the most remarkable knowledge of a certain area of law, and the ability to exploit that.

At the same time, however, we might see other skills as being sorely lacking.  Communication, presentation or effectiveness might all be close to nil with these shortcomings either overlooked or covered up.

It can be very difficult to accept that although we might be exceptional in one area that we are verging on the incompetent in others.  As a provocation I put forward the suggestion that future legal service providers might need very little in the way of specific legal knowledge.  They will always be able to access that particular commodity.  The new excellence may well, instead, be measured by accessibility, flexibility and alternative funding structures.

To my mind, the learning culture aspiration opens up a curiosity and an appetite to learn new ways of dealing, serving, working and thinking.  If we can do something to turn on that curiosity then my hunch is that we would see much more fluidity and responsiveness in the emerging legal services market.

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“Yeah! That told you, Susskind!”

More conservative reaction in the Law Society Gazette letter pages this week.

The letter author wonders “Will we now see Professor Susskind eat a large slice of humble pie, presumably at the creditors’ meetings of those defunct practices?”

This is because two large conveyancing factories/organisations folded last week. According to the letter author they were the “Biggest examples of firms who followed …Susskind’s regular entreaties… to `commoditise’ legal work.”

Not quite the point is it?

1. Just because those models failed does not mean that legal practice can remain static.

2. Those ventures failed because of the downturn in the property market and economy generally and the massive reduction in bank interest rates, not because of lack of need for legal practices to adapt to technological advances.

3. Susskind does not suggest that legal services should be commoditised in any event. That is a frequently repeated shorthand reduction of the argument. There are no less than 3 levels of work between the conventional bespoke level and the far side of commoditisation.

What Susskind advocates, if I have understood the book correctly, and I think I have, is not that we rush to commoditisation at all. Instead, consider where we provide value to our clients, and where the intervening grades of service might enable us to provide those services in a fashion more in keepng with the markets changing demands and expectations.

At this time when we are celebrating Darwin’s life and writing, it seems to me that an analogous situation is seen in our own profession between those who embrace evolution – a word Susskind does use in place of commoditisation – of legal services and the legal profession’s equivalent of creationist thinking.

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“The End of Lawyers?” and the Power of Po

Susskinds Evolution of Legal Services

Susskind's Evolution of Legal Service

Much has already been written about Richard Susskind’s book “The End of Lawyers?” This article is not intended to serve as a review of the book, although for the record I found it to be well written, respectful if occasionally mischievous and cogently argued.

Instead, my purpose is to put “The End of Lawyers?” into the new emerging legal environment and to explore possible reactions to the book. I will be concluding that instead of seeing “End of Lawyers?” as heralding the end, it can, instead, enable us to move forward positively and creatively.

By way of recap, Susskind argues that the way in which legal services are currently provided is facing inevitable change. That change will be driven by an “Evolution of legal services” from the current conventionally Bespoke level, through to Commoditised services.

It is well worth keeping this whole spectrum in mind, as one response to Susskind’s argument has been to reduce it to a binary choice between fully bespoke service and a perception of remote, automated, online processes.

Susskind’s position is far more nuanced than that and it is within those distinctions that an of opportunities can be uncovered.

This is the first part of a serialisation of 6.  If you would prefer to receive the whole article now then please simply contact me @neildenny

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