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Threats To Traditional Legal Practice: An Interview with Richard Susskind – Part 2

Threats To Traditional Legal Practice: An Interview with Richard Susskind – Part 2

Oliver Duchesne, Shopper Operations Affiliate at Priori, sat down with Richard Susskind to debate the way forward for regulation, know-how and the evolving relationship between the 2. Susskind is an esteemed writer, speaker and professor who focuses on the way forward for skilled providers, notably the regulation. In Part 2  of a 2-part interview that was additionally revealed on the Priori Weblog final week, Susskind and Duchesne unpack present and future challenges dealing with regulation companies, regulation college students and in-house authorized departments.

OD: Are you able to define the resourcing challenges dealing with in-house authorized departments?

RS: The “more for less challenge” is that in-house departments are anticipated to do extra work than ever earlier than however with much less assets. It’s captured greatest by common counsel who report that they’ve acquired extra authorized and compliance work to do than they’ve ever had earlier than, however they’re beneath strain to spend much less on exterior regulation companies and to scale back their very own inner headcount. We stay in a extra complicated, technology-based society the place we have now more and more troublesome authorized issues. I’ve by no means stated that the demand for authorized providers is declining. Quite the opposite. However there are critical questions on who will fulfill that market demand. Until regulation companies change the best way they ship and invoice providers, they will be unable to hold on as they’ve executed for the foreseeable future. In-house departments want larger authorized functionality however merely can’t proceed spending as they’ve completed prior to now.

OD: What do you see as the most important menace to the normal regulation agency?

RS: I feel one has to differentiate between prime regulation companies — there are perhaps twenty to fifty of those on the planet — and the remaining. For these excellent companies, loads of this dialogue is much less related within the short-to-medium time period provided that these companies stay tremendously worthwhile. Consequently, you’ll be able to perceive companions who say: “I’ve heard all the stuff about change before, but we’re doing as well as we’ve ever done.” And I do assume that conventional authorized service will nonetheless be required for a few years but. Nevertheless, I doubt that main companies will keep exempt from the pressures of change in the long run. So what are the most important threats to the main companies?

Priori’s Oliver Duchesne and Basha Rubin with Richard Susskind

First, an in-house group is rising that’s extra discerning and extra demanding than it was up to now. One of the best instance of that is the Company Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) the place hundreds of authorized operations and in-house professionals come collectively to deal with how the market can collectively innovate, use know-how and take into consideration new enterprise fashions. The approaching collectively of those people presents a really vital menace to the normal mannequin as a result of prior to now, regulation companies have relied on a moderately chaotic, disorganized group of in-house legal professionals who’re underneath fixed strain and really feel reliant on exterior regulation companies. The emergence of authorized operations professionals whose sole focus is ensuring that authorized departments perform extra effectively and cost-effectively, would require regulation companies to work and cost in another way.

The second strain confronted by conventional regulation companies is various suppliers akin to Priori and the Massive 4 accounting companies. Think about this – the Massive 4 every spend extra on coaching than the turnover of a lot of the largest regulation companies on the earth. They’re an order of magnitude bigger and have funding functionality, know-how, expertise, human assets fashions, and entry and credibility at board degree which exceeds any of the regulation companies.

The third issue is know-how. More and more, increasingly more of the work that we thought might solely be completed by clever human beings can now be accomplished by techniques.

The ultimate issue is decomposition, the thought that you could break down authorized work into element elements and have it delivered by totally different suppliers. We’re seeing the emergence all over the world of in-house counsel who retain conventional regulation companies for the troublesome, bespoke advisory work. Nevertheless, for the much less complicated authorized duties, akin to undertaking administration and doc assessment, they reap the benefits of alternatives to make use of workflow know-how or inexpensive suppliers. I feel giant regulation companies can be fallacious to consider that they’re immune from change. There’s additionally an incredible alternative for second tier companies to emerge as international leaders if they modify the best way they work and embrace new know-how. The subsequent 5 or ten years might be a interval of flux the place we’d see some main manufacturers fade and a few new companies emerge, exactly as a result of they embraced know-how and progressive methods of working.

OD: How is the “innovator’s dilemma” relevant to regulation companies?

RS: The “innovator’s dilemma” is a time period coined by Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Enterprise Faculty. It’s the concept when a market chief is doing very properly there isn’t an incentive for it to vary. You see this in two contexts within the authorized world. Once I’m addressing partnership conferences at main regulation companies, I discover it exhausting to persuade a room filled with millionaires that they’ve obtained their enterprise mannequin fallacious. Equally once I’m chatting with the perfect regulation faculties all over the world, I’ll say to them: “I know you’re still attracting the best people and placing these people in the best law firms, but the world is likely to change radically over the next couple of decades and surely you should want to be at the vanguard and leading edge of that change rather than responding and being on the back foot.” Each the main regulation companies and regulation faculties will have a tendency to reply by saying: “But do we need to change quite yet?” That’s the innovator’s dilemma – why would you need to destroy the mannequin that’s delivering so nicely for you immediately? Why shouldn’t we simply wait till it’s very clear that the time for change is upon us?

What Christensen highlights is that by the point market leaders react to the change, it’s typically too late. A well-liked instance of such a phenomenon is Kodak. They invented a lot of digital digital camera know-how. But they didn’t themselves embrace it and by the point they acknowledged the market had shifted, different gamers had quickly come to dominate. The purpose is that as a result of the market can transfer shortly, leaders can discover it very exhausting to adapt in time.

OD: What are your ideas on the continued relevance of the hourly price?

RS: The hourly price is greater than a pricing mannequin. It’s additionally a mindset. Most regulation companies are promoting human labor and when regulation companies come up with various charge preparations, they’re often evaluated in relation to what it will have value the shopper on an hourly billing foundation. I’m a terrific fan of what I name “task based billing” which is the concept you’re taking a posh piece of labor and break it down into duties. For instance, you possibly can divide a challenge into ten totally different duties and allocate seven of the duties as fastened charge sub-projects and be extra open-ended with the remaining three since you need individuals to be artistic and imaginative relatively than hemmed in.

The basic drawback with hourly billing is it incentivizes inefficiency, the place profitability comes from working as many hours because the shopper is prepared to pay for. However I feel that applies extra to junior legal professionals than senior legal professionals. When real specialists become involved, they’re so busy that their incentive, based mostly on their workload, is to be as environment friendly as potential. So I consider the higher a lawyer you’re and the extra in demand you’re from the market, the extra environment friendly you’re more likely to be and the extra sense it makes to make use of hourly billing. I feel to some extent the issues related with hourly billing will dissolve slightly than be resolved as a result of a whole lot of that work will not be given to junior legal professionals. Relatively, it is going to be given to various suppliers who shall be doing it on a hard and fast charge foundation or, in the long term, it is going to be completed by our more and more succesful techniques.

OD: Do you’ve any recommendation for present regulation college students or current graduates?

RS: Unusually sufficient, it’s the identical recommendation that I give to regulation companies once we’re discussing long-term methods. From my perspective, they each face a quite simple strategic choice: do you need to compete with the rising methods or do you need to construct the rising methods? By competing with the methods, I imply that you simply (as a person or a agency) settle for that these rising applied sciences exist however you aren’t satisfied that they’ll substitute the sort of work you do. Many regulation companies appear to be opting to compete – they will’t think about how their high-end work might be changed by know-how and they also plan on persevering with to ship their providers within the conventional approach. I name that competing with the techniques as a result of what we’re seeing is the emergence of know-how that’s providing an alternate method of delivering these providers. Now, I’m not saying that competing is a nasty technique for a agency or a poor profession plan for a person. However I’m saying that should you consider the thesis that machines have gotten more and more succesful, then over time there’s going to be much less and fewer for conventional human legal professionals to do. As such, the slice of the pie that legal professionals are capable of eat is diminishing. Competing is an fascinating technique and profession plan – to decide on a piece of the market that we all know is diminishing.

The choice is to construct the techniques that may exchange a variety of the present methods of working. That is very private to you at Priori. Lots of you’ve got made the choice that you simply don’t need to be conventional legal professionals and that you simply’d quite be concerned in a enterprise that’s changing the best way that conventional legal professionals work. I typically advocate the identical to different regulation graduates. Having stated that, I wouldn’t say “don’t practice as a lawyer”. Doing so provides you with credibility, expertise and confidence in tomorrow’s authorized world the place there might be exceptional alternatives to develop the techniques that may substitute our previous methods of working and, furthermore, assist ship elevated entry to justice and improved courtroom techniques.

To individuals at first of their profession I say that it’s a privilege to be alive right now of higher and extra speedy technological progress than humanity has ever witnessed. Do you actually need to say that your response to that is that you simply’re going to dedicate your lives to competing with these rising applied sciences?


Oliver Duchesne is a Shopper Operations Affiliate at Priori, the authorized market altering the best way in-house groups discover and work with outdoors counsel. He’s the creator of the Priori Digest, a weekly publication containing fascinating concepts, developments and factoids from the worlds of each regulation and know-how. Oliver holds a Bachelor of Arts (Philosophy) and Juris Physician from the College of Sydney.