Richard Susskind's keynote address at ABA TECHSHOW 2009 was fabulous. I'm sure many who live blogged or live Tweeting during it agreed, but I wanted to pass along my thoughts before reading theirs. As any of you know, Susskind has written several books about the legal profession, including the most recent, The End of Lawyers?: Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services. (More details on book here.) I understand that the video of this presentation will be posted to the TECHSHOW website in a few days or weeks and I'll note it here when it is.
His observations were very insightful and interesting. For example, he notes that business clients feel their lawyers are quite good at reacting to situations. But the clients wish there was more in the way of proactive legal services. Prevailing in litigation is good, but avoiding it is even better. Or, as Susskind put it, they would rather have a fence at the top of the cliff than great ambulance service at the bottom. (Of course, we all know that clients are more prone to contact their law firms when an ambulance is required rather than fence bulding.)
Even after the world economy rights itself, he believes there will be continued pressure of clients wanting more legal services for less money. One of his long-held beliefs is the huge impact that emerging technologies will have on the legal profession. Technology advances can be sustaining or disruptive. Many lawyers seem to think that the technology changes have peaked, and business will go on as before. Most of us attending ABA TECHSHOW this week agree with Susskind that there is more disruption ahead.
As Allison Shields and I were discussing after his speech, many have criticized his book without reading it. I'd encourage you to buy the book and read it. Of course, if you are prone to worry, reading it before bedtime might not be the right idea.
UPDATED to include Dennis Kennedy's live blogging notes from the program.