Together with Lena Haffner, I recently had the opportunity to listen to a brilliant discussion between Richard Susskind and Mark A. Cohen on The Transformation of Legal: Technology, Data, and Human Adaptation. Our key takeaways are as follows:

  1. The fundamental revolution in law (and other professions) will come about when we move from one-to-one consultative advisory service to one-to-many online or embedded service. Income will come not from selling people's time, but from licensing content. If law firms will not change to this extent Mr. Susskind is highly confident that other alternative providers will instead grasp the opportunity "to make money while others sleep".

  2. Conventional lawyers will not be as prominent in society as they are today. Clients will not be inclined to pay expensive legal advisers for work, that can be undertaken by people with less legal expertise, but who are supported by smart systems and standard processes. There will be new jobs for lawyers such as legal design thinker; legal knowledge engineer; legal no-coder; legal technologist; legal hybrid legal process analyst; legal project manager; legal data scientist; legal data visualizer R&D worker; digital security guard; ODR practitioner; moderator; legal management consultant; legal risk manager. Focusing on knowledge management will be key.

  3. The second-generation law firms are still to come. Partners in first-generation firms do grasp the arguments in favour of innovation, but they do not feel it in their hearts and bones. They are not emotionally invested, whereas second-generation partners are already beneficiaries and feel they are a part of a different and unfolding future. When it comes to strategy, first-generation law firms participate in defensive innovation. They concentrate more on not being left behind than on leaping ahead of competitors. They focus on avoiding competitive disadvantage. Contrast that with second-generation firms who engage in proactive innovation. They regard innovation as an opportunity, rather a threat. Their aim is to secure sustainable competitive advantage.

  4. Most of the current lawtech start ups are working on systems and services that, in broad terms, enhance rather than replace traditional legal services. Tech companies will increasingly, become key players in a discussion of legal industry transformation.

  5. ChatGPT is a prototype and even if there are flaws that include occasional factual inaccuracies and gibberish, ChatGPT-4 is slated to be released soon and promises to be a much improved version. Critics recall that initially many said Wikipedia was unusable because birth data was initially inaccurate.

  6. Humanizing the legal function: According to the speakers, we have forgotten what law is for. We have to remember that law is about human interaction - preserving social order and advancing cohesion. People are the essence of law's purpose. A legal system that is accessible and affordable only to a small segment of the population cannot foster respect for the rule of law, nor can it promote a willingness to compromise, a key ingredient of the common good.

While it still feels that change is only occurring gradually, what appears is that we are already experiencing developments that where unthinkable just a year ago. In that sense, while ChatGPT may currently not always provide perfect or correct answers (by the way, neither do humans), one can imagine what happens with the exponential growth in computing power and these models evolving over time. That means in order to have a competitive advantage, it is key to be fully committed to developing the systems and processes that will replace our old ways of working.

Thanks to my co-author Lena Haffner, Innovation Manager, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP.

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