In 2000, Dr. Richard Susskind predicted that by 2005 people would have better access to the internet than to justice.
Sadly, he has been proven right.
In his book ‘Tomorrow’s Lawyers’ (2013), Dr. Susskind makes a number of predictions regarding the future of law and what it has in store for the new breed of lawyers. We will discuss them over a series of blog posts in the coming weeks. However, what struck me out most was a brief description of this ‘noble’ profession given towards the end of the book and what he expects from future generations.
Benevolent Custodians and the Jealous Guards
As per Dr. Susskind, there are two factions in the legal profession: one of the benevolent custodians and the other of jealous guards. The benevolent custodians are the ones who are looking to make law as inclusive as possible. For them, getting speedy justice, through whatever means possible, is the end goal. On the other hand, the jealous guards still try and guard the ‘conventional’ systems. They are the ones who see the law as a closely guarded ‘holy grail’, the access to which ought to be in the hands of the chosen few. These guards feel a sense of entitlement towards the legal process. They cringe at any deviation from the set process, or at any outsider helping them. He cites George Bernard Shaw’s quote which beautifully sums it all up – ‘all professions are conspiracies against the laity’. (Laity meaning laypeople)
Law, being an institution by its very nature, has had more of these jealous guards. He says:
the jealous guards wish to ring- fence areas of legal practice and make it their exclusive preserve, whether or not the activity genuinely requires the experience of lawyers and with little regard to the impact of this quasi- protec-tionism on the affordability and availability of legal service.
This mindset needs to change. As Dr. Susskind also points, the law exists for the progress, benefit, and better functioning of society and not to cater to the needs of the lawyers. We, as the next generation lawyers should be mindful of this fact.
The Power Drill Analogy
Once a group of new recruits was taken for a field visit. In front of them was a shining, new piece of a power drill, the company’s bestselling product. The manager then asked the freshers, “Tell me something, is this what we sell to our customers?”. His juniors, though confused, nodded their heads in approval.
The manager then produced a plank of wood with one neat hole drilled in it. The hole was made using their own power drill.
“This is what we actually sell our customer,” the manager said. “The drill is only a medium to serve our actual purpose, and that is what your focus should be on- to provide our customers with better tools which make it easier for them to drill holes.”
Dr. Susskind applies this lesson to the legal field. Barring a few exceptions, most lawyers today focus on the drill rather than the hole. He writes “Your elders will tend to be cautious, protective, conservative, if not reactionary.” and says that it is our (the next generation’s) job to be the change.
“The good lawyer is not the man who has an eye to every side and angle of contingency, and qualifies all his qualifications, but who throws himself on your part so heartily, that he can get you out of a scrape.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson