I do, however, take issue with one of his predictions that the demand for solo and small firm attorneys will largely disappear within the next seven years. Susskind argues that the increasing prevalence of do-it-yourself sites for legal consumers, such as Rocket Lawyer and Legal Zoom, will soon reduce the number of solo and small firm lawyers serving legal consumers. "This will be the end of lawyers who practice in the manner of a cottage industry," he said. "I do not see much of a future (beyond 2020) for most small firms in liberalized regimes."
First, although legal consumers are already able to bypass lawyers for certain transactional law needs such as the creation of wills by taking advantage of do-it-yourself sites, consumer-side litigation will never disappear in the U.S. Solos and small firms will always be needed to handle, at the very least, criminal defense matters, personal injury lawsuits, family law cases, small business litigation, and real estate closings. If legal consumers discover that the legal forms that they created using online services have multiple errors, there will be an increasing demand for small firm lawyers to pick up the pieces.
Second, even if Susskind's prediction about solos is true, it will take much longer than seven years to decrease significantly, especially in the U.S. Liberalization has not yet reached our shores and there are few signs that it will be embraced quickly. Couple this with the high percentage of existing solo/small firms and the trend of large firms laying off lawyers and reducing new hires laid off and unemployed recent graduates have little choice but to join to the ranks of solos and small firms because the non-legal employers and positions envisioned by Susskind don't exist on a grand scale at this point in time.
But fundamental change is at hand. I highly recommend this book to all astute, forward-thinking lawyers who seek to innovate the delivery of legal services in response to consumer demand driven by technological change. At the end of the day, as Susskind says, the legal profession exists to meet the needs of its clients, not the other way around: "As I often remind lawyers, the law is no more there to provide a living for lawyers than ill health exists to offer a livelihood for doctors. It is not the purpose of law to keep lawyers in business. The purpose of lawyers is to help to support society's needs of the law."
Tomorrow's Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future
by Richard Susskind
Oxford University Press
Paperback, 224 pages
Attorney Nicole Black is director of business development at MyCase. Black is based in Rochester, N.Y., and is the author of the American Bar Association book Cloud Computing for Lawyers. Email: email@example.com