Lawyers are a profession that are increasingly challenged to identify their distinctive skills and talents, and the capabilities they possess that cannot be readily replaced by advanced systems or by less costly workers supported by technology or standard processes.
Although professionals like doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, tax advisers, management consultants, architects, journalists, and the clergy (among others) play a central role in our lives such that we can barely imagine different ways of tackling the problems that they sort out for us, Richard and Daniel Susskind predict their decline in The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts.
The authors claim that we are on the brink of a period of fundamental and irreversible change in the way that the expertise of these specialists is made available in society. Technology will be the main driver of this change. And, in the long run, we will neither need nor want professionals to work in the way that they did in the twentieth century and before.
The Professions Are Antiquated
They argue that the professions are an artefact that we have built to meet a particular set of needs in a print-based industrial society. As we progress into a technology-based Internet society, however, the professions in their current form will no longer be the best answer to those needs. We cannot afford them. They are often antiquated, the expertise of the best is enjoyed only by a few, and their workings are not transparent. For these and other reasons, the authors believe today’s professions will be displaced by feasible alternatives.
The authors argue that in an Internet society, increasingly capable systems – from telepresence to artificial intelligence – will bring fundamental change in the way that the ‘practical expertise’ of specialists is made available.
While I digest the book, I wanted to mention it in this brief blog post as I explore what lawyers and other experts can do to move up the food chain to become trusted advisers.
The Legal Industry
The legal industry is the profession I’m most familiar with, but I’m sure you can probably see parallels to what’s happening in the legal industry in your own field.
The legal industry has already been transformed beyond recognition since the days when I first considered the solicitors profession as an option, and yet the Susskinds argue that much more radical changes are on the horizon.
When I was a teenager lawyers were not allowed to advertise, and de-regulation of the industry hadn’t even begun. For example, Solicitors had a monopoly in many areas of life such as buying and selling property. It’s ironic that I opted to qualify as a solicitor given that my impression of the profession back then was one of men sitting in dusty offices pouring over huge tomes.
The combined effect of competition from technology, less costly workers streamlined to work under more efficient processes, alternative methods of working and sites like Legal Zoom giving access to less expensive lawyer consultants have put the legal industry under considerable pressure to do more for less.
The End of Lawyers?
Richard Susskind is a technology futurist who has been commenting on the future of law for many years. In his ground-breaking book the ‘End of Lawyers he argued that the market is increasingly unlikely to tolerate expensive lawyers for tasks such as guiding, advising, drafting, researching, problem-solving, and more. Foreseeing the erosion or elimination of the jobs of many traditional lawyers Susskind predicted new law jobs emerging which may be highly rewarding, even if very different from those of today.
One such role he called the Hybrid lawyer, who will become increasingly multi-disciplinary in order to succeed. He described ‘legal hybrids’ as being quite different to the lawyers of today who already claim they are deeply steeped in neighbouring disciplines, as project managers, strategy and management consultants, market experts, deal-brokers, and more. As Susskind put it
“These forays into other fields are not strategically conceived, formally planned, or supported by rigorous training. They are rather ad hoc and piecemeal initiatives. In contrast, legal hybrids of the future will be superbly schooled and genuinely expert in these related disciplines and will be able to extend the range of the services they provide in a way that adds value for clients.”
As someone who has spent the last 10 years developing multidisciplinary skills through wider reading on business and brand. I’ve written Legally Branded, and Intellectual Property Revolution which focus on intellectual property in relation to branding, and then Brand Tuned – The new rules of branding, strategy, and intellectual property which is a book on branding. I’ve been interviewing guests on the Brand Tuned podcast on aspects of brand design and supported a few clients with their brand designs.
As well as all that, I’ve undergone formal education such as the Marketing Week Mini MBAs in brand management, and marketing, and also attended the Level C Masterclasses for Certification as a Brand Specialist and Brand Strategist.
Brand Tuned Accreditation
As such I have developed a depth of multidisciplinary skills and am now offering training to other lawyers who want to offer brand design advisory support as a service to their clients to guide them to develop better businesses and brands.
Undergoing the Brand Tuned Accreditation programme will enable lawyers and other professionals to fast track their new skills in order to play a bigger role in their clients’ lives and avoid the commoditisation that many corporate and IP lawyers and other professionals are suffering from.
Acquiring practical knowledge and experience in brand creation and brand protection is a solid basis on which to develop expertise and become what Susskind referred to as ‘superbly schooled and genuinely expert” in the related field in which you seek to work.
I’ve developed a prototype of the course that I’d love to discuss with lawyers, designers, copywriters, marketers and others who are making a strategic decision to provide wider brand strategy services in order to move upstream and avoid commoditisation of their expertise. Just head over to brandtuned.com and register for the Accreditation in order to learn more.