This interview with Richard Susskind causes one to stop and think deeply about the Future of Law.  The analysis and predictions summarized in the interview about Susskind’s latest book bring to the forefront some long term concerns.  These theories and thoughts that have been on the minds of legal professionals for years without substantive preventive actions.   Actions necessary for the continued cultural and economic success of the legal industry which commoditization and technology advances threaten.

In-house counsel concerns dominate big firm business.  Big firms have not invested enough thought and strategic planning into knowledge management to assure in-house counselors of a readiness to meet the demands caused by the demands of electronically stored information.  In-house law departments don’t have the resources necessary to meet the technical demands of today’s legal business environment.  Offering a comprehensive, strategic approach to ESI would be a powerful competitive edge.

The telling quote for me from this interview is this comparison between UK and US firms.

The latter have invested more, for example, in knowledge management and in online legal services. Understandably, the best of the US firms have not yet seen why they should bother. Business has been very good without that stuff, thank you very much.

Today’s credit crunch and the demands of in-house counsel to cut costs and deliver high service means that business as usual will not cut it any more.  Innovations will become standard operating procedures.  Firms should begin to implement strategies that will keep them as a key service provider to their bread and butter corporate clients.

Strategies related to records management for ESI, e-discovery response, and environmental sustainability will increase in importance.   Firms that provide protection to corporations on those fronts will be the firms that survive the future of law.

One more interesting note about this interview caught my attention.  For now, it’s impact is limited to the UK but Susskind briefly touched on the “Legal Services Act”  that will allow “alternative business structures” for the legal services industry.  Susskind predicts that the co-mingling of non-lawyers and lawyers in the legal services industry will increase in importance and the future of “new-look” services.  I predict that the US will continue to to wrestle with alternative services as well and that the co-mingling here will be a struggle that esteemed attorneys will reluctantly embrace.  Alternative businesses to-date have been a mostly attorney only industry and that may have led to some missed opportunities.