The legal profession has until early next decade to prepare for massive technological advances that will reshape the industry, according to a renowned legal futurologist.
That was the warning today from Professor Richard Susskind (pictured), speaking at the Law Society’s law management section annual conference.
Susskind said artificial intelligence will move forward at such a pace in the coming years that systems will be able to diagnose and respond to clients’ legal problems.
But the author of The End of Lawyers? said that rather than regarding this as a threat to the profession, this is now an opportunity for graduates to become knowledge engineers, designers and process analysts.
‘For the next five years the legal profession will work on using better human-resource models, delegate to paralegals, move to better locations and give lawyers far better systems,’ he said.
‘In the 2020s we will see technologies that change the way we work – you are no longer face-to-face advisers, you are a person putting in systems and processes.
‘It is not that there are no jobs in the future, but the 2020s will be a decade of redeployment not unemployment. It is not an emergency but over the next five years we have to prepare. More and more legal services will be enabled by the support of new technology. You can say "that is for the technology industry to sort out”, or you can be part of the technology industry.’
Susskind criticised law schools for ‘churning out 20th-century lawyers’ and said he had failed to convince a single one to adapt its teaching to consider artificial intelligence.
He said young people should not enter the law if they want to replicate the type of law seen in television shows such as Suits or The Good Wife.
‘If you are fixed on how we are working, then don’t go into law. Start preparing now. We as a profession have about five years to reinvent ourselves to move from being world-class legal advisers to world-class legal technologists.’