[In the spirit of the developments we’ve been considering in this series, check out these technological innovations changing trial practice.]
The world of commoditized law dispenses legal advice not by lawyers in individual consultations with clients, but instead through IT distribution channels, to a wider market of similarly situated consumers. Legal content is subsumed into the greater context in which the advice is pertinent, so that the consumer (no longer a “client”) gets comprehensive, multidisciplinary advice in one stop shopping, without the need to separately consult a lawyer and other relevant professionals.
The creators of these products must be able to see the entire context in which the legal advice is needed, and then break down the legal aspects into separately implementable steps. In his book Tomorrow’s Lawyers, law futurist Richard Susskind calls this process “decomposing” the law, and provides examples of decomposing litigation and business transactions. The idea is to unbundle the law into its separately applicable components, combine the ones that have similar dynamics, and put them back together into steps that can be taken to completion after collecting pertinent data.
Expert lawyers do this already, dispensing advice in the context of one-to-one client relationships. The legal experts of the future will do this on a wider scale, creating more broadly applicable IT products embedded with legal advice.
- The creators of this new kind of legal advice will be much in demand in the new world of law.
- The means of entry into the professional will be altered to admit them into practice.
- As we saw last time, they will follow a career development path not encumbered by the former “training” model which in truth was driven by law firm economics.
- To help them serve the burgeoning legal commodities market and move more quickly to expert status, legal training in law school and law practice will increasingly promote systems thinking.
As for the law itself:
- These new experts will have a more direct and substantial impact on shaping the law.
- They will shape it around from the end-user’s perspective.
- As a result, the law will be reorganized into practicable modules, replacing historical knowledge/content areas such tort, contracts, real property, etc.
As the future’s expert lawyers conduct their decomposing, embedding, and reorganizing, they will need to deal with an unprecedented challenge: the sheer bulk of the law. Technology’s speed and storage capacity have resulted in a massive proliferation in the volume and complexity of the law. Although lawyers have access to sophisticated digital repositories of all this law, they typically use analog means to assimilate it.
- The analog processing of legal developments — i.e., by their assimilation into individual lawyer’s brains via CLE and similar means — is a holdover from the law’s analog past that will end in the future.
- What will replace it? Law by Algorithm. We’ll look at that next time.
Do these developments signal the end of legal solutions expertly-tailored to individual client needs? The surprising answer is, not at all. In fact, just the opposite: the law of the future will be more personally-tailored than it is now.
Further, when we agree with Larry Sanger that the world will still need experts for the foreseeable future, we may actually mean something beyond experts and expertise: we may be talking instead about a new kind of legal mastery.
- The future world of law will feature both experts and masters, and we’ll need them both.
We’ll be looking at these issues as well. Stay tuned!