Expert predicts role change for lawyers

Hazel Vidler

If lawyers are to succeed in an IT-dominated market they must become "legal information engineers" rather than legal advisers, according to Richard Susskind, technology consultant for Lord Woolf's access to justice inquiry.

Speaking at the launch of his book, The Future of Law, earlier this month, Susskind claimed the legal profession was on the brink of the type of revolution not experienced since the 15th century when the invention of printing led to the development of a sophisticated judicial system.

Susskind, who is also special adviser to Masons, said the development of IT meant lawyers and non-lawyers alike now had ready access to legal information.

And he said the development of an IT-based legal system would mean that the law would be fully integrated into the public's daily lives leading to "a living law" which was readily accessible and continually being updated.

Susskind stressed this was not bad news for lawyers. Although their roles as legal advisors might diminish, they would still be needed to use their legal expertise to analyse, systemise and classify the mass of information that was now available.

He said lawyers would become "providers" and their clients users of information. And with the law becoming far more accessible, legal action would largely be preventative rather than reactive.