The world is subject to constant change and flux, much of which is triggered by the all-encompassing process of globalization, affecting societies and the way in which legal systems function and interact. With recent cuts to legal-aid depriving those most in need of representation, there has been a detrimental impact on the profession of lawyers as it denies them the opportunity to be able to deliver justice to everyone and indeed demands them to be flexible in areas of law if they are to succeed in the profession. Let’s think about new ways to be efficient, and perhaps consider the ways that clients can collectively share the costs so that cost per transaction decreases.
Being a lawyer isn’t all about making dramatic closing statements and reducing the jury to tears. The reality for many is hours and days combing critically through mind-numbing documents. Susskind’s premise argues that through technology, disputes will be resolved online due to information available via the internet which ultimately suggests that by 2030 clients will call the shots and the legal services will be shaped by marketplace. However I propose the opposite; technology will act to serve the legal profession.
In 2012, a judicial ruling in the US, judges have opened the door to ‘predictive coding’, a software designed to sift through millions of documents and spit out only those the lawyer may need, saving them time and also, more importantly clients’ money. Arguably therefore with the decreased prices, inevitably a range of classes will have access to justice and representation. Thomas Grick, a partner at the Schnader law firm in Pittsburgh argues this means ‘we can try cases that weren’t being tried because it was too expensive to get through discovery’. Here I suggest that the lawyer in 2030 will be more accessible to the public and technology, instead of hindering development, will enable the lawyer to gain access to information that perhaps they wouldn’t have before.
As a person with the aim of committing to an academic study in law I should like to be aware of these factors, taking on, in part Susskind’s premise. This theory offered by Susskind refers to a recognition that the predicted overload of ‘wannabe’ lawyers in undergraduate study education, once practicing lawyers combined with a changing ( albeit shrinking ) sector area due in part to reductions in public legal aid and businesses using accountancy firms to take up some of the roles of a lawyer , could make the current notion of a lawyer into that of a ‘craftsman’. In a similar way to the furniture maker, the jeweler, the ironsmith and tailor of bygone times, lawyers, as we recognise them now might too be destined to be a relic of the past in 2030. But I believe this refers only to viewing lawyers in the same way as they are now.
Instead I put forward that the future for lawyers is better understood by exploring the opportunities that it will hold; as a result of the changes occurring, so will the role, purpose and activity of the lawyer. Possible growth areas can be seen in the increase of legal representation in global and internal governance, legislation and trade but also in a British society where civil healthcare, new business, venture capital practices, the debates around intellectual copyright and environment law can be seen as prevailing sources for future legal transaction.
Still, the prediction of Susskind is indeed shocking. However this should come as no surprise because of how fluid and changing society, community and agents of governance are, either by deliberate social engineering, political will or by the sheer chaos of fiscal and social policy crashing against the condition of society. Indeed these predictions require a flexible approach and also flexible applications; it is worth considering that an academic study in law would actually be an ideal context for critical and logistical thinking to then apply in employment, the outcome of which may see future graduates using a background in law for other purposes than practicing in court. Moreover, though the numbers of law graduates may be at their highest (and the number of firms merging or closing is alarming) , I uphold this is due to the increasing numbers of future professions seeing law and a knowledge of rights as vital components in the modern age, essentially upholding the battlecry of the French revolution ‘Liberty, Fraternity, Equality’ which is crucial and not just in the legal profession.
It is logical to accept the need, role and practice of a lawyer in 2030. The challenge should therefore be thought of in terms of being prepared to envisage new opportunities as potential scenarios. For example, with the recent press reports of the police taking up counter space in supermarkets as a response to police stations being closed, it would not be beyond possibility that future lawyers find fewer legal offices to work in, nevertheless, as mentioned before, technology will aid lawyers in that it will allow them to access documents from their personal computer.
The importance of studying law will always prevail as human nature has an innate feeling of the need for justice and the good of humanity. Therefore in the recent case where Lindsay Sandiford, facing the death penalty has been denied legal aid, many people would agree with Aidan O Neil’s call for reprieve when he said that she is urgently in need of funding because she is without legal assistance. Additionally, Lord Neuberg a senior judge, identified that ‘if you start cutting legal aid you start cutting people off from justice, and that is dangerous…you may get them taking the law into their own hands’. Furthermore, in cases of white-collar crime such as Bob Diamond, former CEO of Barclays found fixing the libor, this draws individuals to the subject of law, moral right and wrong and the wish to study it further.