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by Vault Law Editors | June 14, 2010


In The American Lawyer, Aric Press reviews The Vanishing American Lawyer, the new book by George Washington University law professor Thomas Morgan. Morgan posits a “somewhat dire” future for the profession:

“What this book predicts … is that the interaction of law with increasingly complex economic and social issues will make distinctively legal questions less common and make many of the skills now honed in law schools less relevant.” In [Morgan’s] view, highly specialized lawyers—often working out of large globe-straddling firms—will serve their clients as one of many agents addressing a problem. Some of the work now done by lawyers will be done by others, and vice versa. “For better or worse,” he writes, “most of tomorrow’s lawyers will resemble what we today call business consultants more than they will call to mind Clarence Darrow or Atticus Finch.”

The book also outlines a “regulatory agenda” that lawyers and law firms will face in the coming decade:

Law schools will be urged to break from their mold, but first will have to free themselves from the dead-hand accreditation rules that strangle creative deans … Is it time to federalize the regulation of lawyers? Will (or should it be, when will) the U.S. rules regarding outside investment in law firms change to mirror the new regimen now being born in the United Kingdom? And, of course, Morgan's favorite: Is the practice of law still a profession? Was it ever?

The Vanishing American Lawyer seems to be thematically and substantively akin to legal industry futurist guru Richard Susskind’s The End of Lawyers? with its emphasis on disintermediation, external investment, commoditization, and the diminishing importance of “traditional one-to-one consultative advisory bespoke service delivered on an hourly billing basis.” In particular, Susskind touts the transformative potential of external investment:

Well, there’s two kinds of change in life, isn’t there, there’s evolution and revolution, and it’s quite hard as a government to be anything other than evolutionary. In my heart I feel the whole legal services sector needs some revolution, and this is what external investment brings, it brings people who aren’t burdened by the past, there’s no legacy, it’s a blank sheet of paper with a big market. 

(This quote is from a podcast interview with Susskind, blogged about here.)

-posted by brian


Filed Under: Law

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