Do a Google on Richard Susskind and see for yourself how he’s acknowledged as the “global guru” on the integration of law and the new paradigm “paraprofessionals” that will be dominated by technology. Here’s your introductory informed opinion on what Susskind is predicting for the legal profession


How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts


A Future Law Perspective


John G. Kelly

B.Com., LL.B., M.Sc. (international relations) M.A. (Jud.Admin) F.CIS


Richard Susskind, the acknowledged guru on where the practice of law and the legal profession are heading, has joined forces with his son, Daniel, and journeyed into the general professional ream with the publication of yet another controversial book, “The Future of the Professions”[1]. As is the case with the legal profession, their predictions which which are predicated on the impact of technology in the current information age, are grim for the following reason.


Individual practitioners, from other disciplines, will tend to acknowledge that a major shake-up in all professions is long overdue-other than their own. So deeply are they entrenched in the traditions of their professions and so profoundly immersed in working practices of the past, that most professionals find it hard to conceive that their knowledge and experience-their practical expertise-might be made available in different ways.


What are these different ways?


  • Technology is enabling what has traditionally been associated with professional work to be commoditized and done by an emerging class of paralegals and technology savvy professionals, or, in some instances by technology systems, through the application of Artificial Intelligence “AI”.
  • Professionals are captive to utilize the “what has been learned” method to solve problems rather than what can or might be learned from what we presently don’t know and how to apply it by leveraging it with technology.
  • Traditional professions have developed service delivery models in which “the expertise of a very few is being bestowed on a few”. Professional firms, particularly in law and consulting are in the process of being “disrupted” by innovative networks of IT professionals designing easily accessible and affordable IT application that are proving impervious to traditional regulatory barriers that control entry and service delivery
  • The concept of professionals being granted self-regulated monopoly powers in the public interest to assure the quality and ethical standards of a professional service is being replaced by easily accessible “on line reputation systems” which encompass reliability along with objective reports on quality of the service.
  • Clients are primarily interested in purchasing professional services that are affordable, reliable and comparatively cost cost competitive that will enable them to leverage a service with self-help within their own personal knowledge base and accessible IT.
  • Consumers understand the merits of professionalism but want expansion/liberalization of categories within professional silos. The term “para”, which connotes working beside and/or reporting to needs to be replaced with broader categories of independent para-professionals. In any event, the public and a growing cadre of creative/alternative providers are proving adept at circumventing formal professional networks by using adaptive technology. The professions will either have to adapt to this new world of integrated professional and independent para professional services or become increasingly marginalized.
  • The traditional “professionals only membership” professional practice model of partnerships is an anachronism in the new professional services environment. Professional “supermarkets”, e-commodity service providers, multi-disciplinary organizational structures, alternative business structures(ABS) in the legal profession, creative networks, in-house centres of professional expertise, etc. reflect the new architecture of professional services work.


To quote:


  • “In summary, knowledge has four special characteristics. It is non rival in that it does not diminish what is left for others. It has a tendency towards non exclusivity, in that it is difficult to prevent non-payers from using it. It is cumulative in that its use and reuse in turn give rise to new knowledge. And it is digitizable, in that we can often turn it into machine –processable bits. Practical expertise, one particular type of knowledge, shares these four special characteristics.”
  • Technology also shares these four special characteristics.


Quandary for professions; how to profit from the delivery of practical expertise in the digital age


  • The current models for professional education and training are outdated. Professional education is too long, prohibitively expensive, delivered in antiquated modes of learning experiences and exploitive to the extent it is associated with unpaid/underpaid internships. Professions need to jettison their over reliance on academia, go “back to the future” and embrace skilled-craft learning based apprenticeships that embrace technology.


A Future Scenario for the Professions by the Susskinds:


“The professions are our current solution to the challenge in a society of supporting people who need access to practical expertise. Yet affordable access to this expertise remains inadequate. If the price of keeping the personal interaction is maintaining this status quo, then the personal touch is also an indulgence we cannot afford

Instead we might turn, for example, to a para-professional, someone with sufficient insight into an area of expertise as well as the genuine capacity to empathize. By disengaging the application of expertise from the communication with the recipient (this itself is a type of decomposition, this moves us, in part, away from the traditional model of production and distribution of practical expertise towards the paraprofessional model. In both cases, though, human beings are still involved”


Query: What is the Paraprofessional Model?





How the Legal Profession Can Leverage Law into the Mainstream Professional Services Paradigm by incorporating a New Breed of Paraprofessionals into the Service Mix



Reflect on the above Susskind quote on how this relates to the Practice of Law


the expertise of a very few is being bestowed on a few”.





[1] Richard Susskind, Daniel Susskind Oxford, The Future of the Professions, Oxford University Press. (2015)

Posted in Future Law Perspectives.