SCL 2006 Lecture: The Next Ten Years

January 1, 2006

In 1996, Professor Richard Susskind OBE, a past chairman of SCL, gave the Society’s annual lecture. At the event, he launched what was to become a legal best-seller, The Future of Law (Oxford University Press). His book laid out a 20-year period of change for the law and it is no exaggeration to say that its central theses still echo in the rooms of law firms and other organisations whenever long-term strategies are discussed. Since his last SCL lecture, Richard has publicly addressed more than 50,000 people on this subject, has written around 100 related columns in The Times, and has advised leading law firms and governments around the world.
In this year’s lecture, ten years on and half-way through the transition he anticipated, Richard will review progress over the last decade and then present his revised predictions for the next ten years. He will claim that the pace of development in the coming decade will be more profound than during the last. Moreover, enabled through emerging technologies, there will be transformations in:

  • the nature of legal service

  • the way lawyers work

  • relationships between lawyers and their clients

  • legal training and learning

  • dispute resolution.

The most arresting of these themes concerns the new model for legal service. Richard sees an evolutionary path, running from the bespoke legal service which remains the norm to the commoditisation of legal service. It is a five-stage path which leads through standardisation and systemisation. Richard deals with, and encourages others to deal with, the inevitability of IT-enabled and online legal service and will confront the difficult aspects of commoditisation.

In the context of dispute resolution, he will look closely at the changes that are taking place and at the changes that will take place in e-filing, electronic disclosure and online dispute resolution. Lawyers’ methods of working and their working relationships are to see major changes influenced by second-generation KM and by technology which encourages (and perhaps requires) greater collaboration and an appreciation of the importance of online communities. Richard feels that wikis, blogs and webinars have not begun to realise their potential for changing working methods – for example, a partner in charge of a major transaction might keep a daily limited-access blog and would thereby create a more powerful KM tool than could be contemplated by existing techniques.

What Richard espouses with unwavering passion is that the rate of change is exponential and that lawyers are still playing on the edge of massive change. He warns against the idea that we are already approaching the finishing line in the race to harness IT in the provision of legal services. Those attending the lecture are likely to leave emboldened and reinvigorated by Richard’s enthusiasm.

The SCL 2006 Lecture is sponsored by Sweet & Maxwell. The venue for the event is the Royal Society in London. The lecture will be followed by a reception. Admission is £25 for SCL members (plus VAT) and £35 (plus VAT) for non-members. You can book online or contact

Admission for the event is limited and members are advised to apply promptly for places for themselves and for guests at what is likely to be one of the most talked about events in the SCL calendar.