02 May 2019

Big Law and the Susskind Thesis

'New technology, the death of the BigLaw monopoly and the evolution of the computer professional' by Michael Guihot in (2019) 20(3) North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology 405-469 comments
Much has been written recently about new technology disrupting the traditional law firm model of providing legal services. Susskind and Susskind predicted the failure of professions, including the legal profession, due in large part to the external pressure of disruptive technology. However, concentrating blame on the technology is misguided; it blames the tool used to disrupt rather than the root causes of the disruption. In short, computers do not kill lawyers. Neither is the disruption aimed at the profession as such, but rather at the business models of modern day legal practices that have developed under the auspices of the profession. Under the guise of a profession, the legal profession has established the barriers to entry that have allowed lawyers to hold a monopoly on providing legal services. The monopoly has allowed law firms to develop business models through which they have been able to charge high, sometimes extravagant, prices for their services. It has also produced barriers to innovation. Clients have begun to react to perceived consistent overcharging and inefficient services of the BigLaw firms that benefit from the monopoly at the same time that technologies are becoming more powerful and effective. Meanwhile, new and hungry legal service providers who provide alternative business models to law firms are also using new technologies to open access to law and erode the monopoly. Lawyers are facing increasing competition that is set to destroy the BigLaw firm model. The disruption, though, will not be limited to BigLaw, and will also impact smaller law firms and sole practitioners.