I have just listened to an interesting webcast of an interview of Richard Susskind here. Susskind is promoting his new book, The End of Lawyers?: Rethinking the nature of legal services, having written several groundbreaking books on the use of IT and technology in the internet in the past.
Susskind covers quite a wide range of legal IT related topics in the interview, but it is some of the comments at the end which are most worrying (for lawyers). Both he and his interviewer make the point that lawyers are not (on the whole) natural innovators and tend to be resistant to new developments, particularly if they are making a good income as they are.
However he believes (and I have to say that I agree with him) that technology and the internet will have huge implications for the profession, and it is worrying that the Law Society and the government are planning new rules and regulations for the future of the profession, without really taking these properly into account.
For example one thing he mentioned was shared knowledge on forums and how this may develop in the future. In fact however this is happening right now, as there are a number of consumer forums where people exchange information about legal matters, for example this forum here on tenancy deposits. Shared knowledge of this kind could well reduce the need to use qualified lawyers in the future.
The conclusion, more or less, was that there will always be a place for some lawyers and the subject is an interesting discipline in itself, but that the profession has probably passed its high point and things will never be the same again. He also made the point that new lawyers are entering an uncertain profession and many law students should be prepared to use their law degree for something other than practising as a lawyer.