Imagine…The Lawyers Go First

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On my way to something else, I found the blog f/k/a… 

and its post about Richard Susskind’s new book, “The End Of Lawyers?”

Richard Susskind challenges the legal profession — not to try to prevent change and protect its traditional ways, but — “to find and embrace better, quicker, less costly, more convenient and publicly valued ways of working.”

Take a look at the series and substitute the word “accountant” everywhere you see the word “lawyer.”

Imagine, as some do, a public accounting firm owned by private equity, hedge funds, sovereign risk funds, venture capital or all of the above and run by non-professionals.

Outside investors will demand a very different type of law firm
In part four of The End of Lawyers?, the author says that new investors will not be wedded to business practices of the past

…I thought then, with complete conviction, that the delivery of legal services will be a very different business when financed and managed by non-lawyers.

I wondered what the legal world would be like if dominated or even strongly influenced by the retail industry, by the management methods and ethos of corporate boards, with the backing of venture capital, private equity and other forms of external financing? Would this herald a welcome liberalisation and demystification of the legal market or a lamentable collapse of its professional underpinnings?

I thought how improbable (and have since had this confirmed by specialists in the worlds of venture capital and private equity) that investors would choose to put cash into the traditional business model of most law firms – hourly billing, expensive premises, pyramidic organisational structures, and the rest.

If it were possible to start afresh and build legal businesses from the ground up, surely the hard-nosed investors would not replicate traditional legal service. They might buy a firm for its brand name but would no doubt bring to bear a more contemporary suite of tools and techniques for managing the delivery of legal services.

The new wave of investors and managers will surely find that individual law firms are over-resourced; and, further, that the legal profession itself is over-resourced. They will quickly recognise that, within and beyond law firms, there is enormous duplication of effort and reinvention of the wheel; and, in turn, that there are too many lawyers and too few smart systems.

And I reflected further that there would be no reason to suppose that investors would restrict themselves to legal services for consumers. It is wrong-headed to think, as so many lawyers do, that the greatest impact would be felt amongst those who undertake high volume, low margin work