Roberta M. Gubbins, Esq.
I Write Content--You Practice Law

Draft Three / blog

The legal world is changing.

Lawyer Richard Susskind

“Come with me on a journey into the future,” said Richard Susskind speaking to law students, lawyers and friends of the legal world at Michigan State University College of Law in East Lansing, MI recently.

“Try to anticipate the world as it will be in the future,” said Susskind, “and then you will be at the right place in the future to meet it.”

“For example,” he said, “Black and Decker makes power tools. One day at a meeting of executives, the trainer put the picture of the power drill on the screen and asked what is it we sell? The group answered ‘we sell power drills. That is not what we sell,’ answered the trainer, ‘we sell what our customers want and what they want is the hole. And your job is find ever more creative ways to give the customers what they want. “

“That’s your challenge, too,” he said to the packed audience. “What is the hole in the wall? What is the fundamental value we will bring to the communities we serve?”

That value is legal knowledge and he recommended that the lawyers think of ways to impart that knowledge to clients faster, quicker and cheaper.

Legal services, he said, are unaffordable, whether they be for the man in the street or the multi-national corporation. He sees the challenge for the next ten or fifteen years to be how to deliver more legal services at less cost.

He recommends two strategies, the efficiency strategy and the collaboration strategy. “In the spirit of online collaboration, why can’t all those with the same problem go to one advisor and share that advice amongst the group,” he asked.

The efficiency strategy means cutting the cost of legal services. “What I see in all the places I visit is repetitive, administrative work being done by young lawyers where their skills are not needed at all. “

He argues against the one-to-one basis of giving legal advice. “we can find ways to make that information available to all.” He calls it multi-sourcing, noting that many legal problems can be solved with standard documents such as wills, landlord/tenant agreements, or basic contracts.


By 2050, one desktop computer will have more processing ability than all of humanity put together. More people in the world have mobile phones than toothbrushes.

He urged lawyers to embrace the technology, which can allow video conferencing with clients, other lawyers, expert witnesses, or the courts. He mentioned Watson, the computer with Artificial Intelligence, which won the Jeopardy challenge, as an example of a machine created to solve legal problems.

The future for lawyers includes accepting technology, changing the way lawyers do business. There are a whole new sets of jobs for new lawyers, he said, including legal knowledge engineer, legal technologists, lawyers who have other skills in addition to law skills, legal process analysts, on-line dispute resolution consultants or legal risk managers. 

“Yes,” he concluded, “I accept that we will have less of a need for the one on one consultant advisor but there will be a whole bundle of legal services that will be needed.  The remarkable challenge you have coming into the profession is not just joining an established profession but in shaping the new profession.”

My book of light-hearted commentary of lawyers and the law will be out as an e-book soon. Look for it at your favorite e-book seller.

Roberta GubbinsComment