“The Uncertain Decade” Webinar Notes

Stefanie Santana
5 min readJun 26, 2020

My notes from Richard Susskind and Mark Cohen 3rd webinar

The “Uncertain Decade” is a series of free webinars presented by Mark Cohen and Richard Susskind, two of the most influential voices in Legal Tech in the world. Registration is open for the fourth and last edition of the series that will be held in late July.

On the third edition, held on June 25, Marc Cohen and Richard Susskind had an insightful discussion about:

1- Skills and education for legal professionals in the 2020s and

2- The UK vs The US, which country is better prepared for the upcoming decade?

1- COHEN: SKILLS AND EDUCATION FOR LEGAL PROFESSIONALS IN THE 2020s

Cohen divided his discussion into 3 topics: Skills, Education, and Legal Professions.

Skills: In this decade, legal knowledge is going to become a skill, not a practice. Twenty years ago, the practice was synonymous with the legal profession. Nowadays, the practice has shrunk due to automatization and machines capable of delivering legal services. This leads to a distinction that will become prominent this decade but it is still puzzling for some: The practice of law vs the delivery of legal services.

Technology and processes are becoming integral to the ability to serve clients. A study by Deloitte predicts that 40% of all legal tasks are going to be automated by the end of the 2020s. This should be good news for lawyers: most tedious tasks will be automated, giving them time to focus on strategic tasks that bring true value to clients.

In preparation for the upcoming changes, lawyers have to learn skills aside from the law: data analytics, business skills, and softs skills. Soft skills are every bit as important as core skills, in particular: collaboration, culture awareness, and emotional intelligence.

Education: Law schools will not be the only source of legal education, this is because most law schools’ programs are detached from the reality of the market. Law school prepares students to join law firms, both are in parallel. As law firms are no longer the sole providers of legal services, law schools will fall short in preparing students for this decade. This will lead to an increase in online learning tools as well as employers investing in re-training their employees as needed.

Legal professionals: Lawyers must accept they are now part of a diverse ecosystem, requiring collaboration with the different players of the field: data scientists, engineers, etc. This will likely be a challenge, as the legal culture is mostly homogeneous. Lawyers ought to be culturally aware and open to do things differently, otherwise, they risk becoming the marginal part of the delivery of legal services.

The work of lawyers is traditionally focused on labor intensity. In contrast, the modern legal professional focus on outcomes, scaling solutions, and efficiency. In addition, they have a customer-centric view, a greater focus on democratizing legal services, they constantly upskill themselves, and have a great sense of collaboration.

Following Cohen’s presentation, the presenters discussed the following topics:

Re-imagining legal education: What law schools should do? Should they teach other skills? Is there a place in the already busy curricula?

Law schools can follow the example of medical schools. These were forced to innovate due to technology. Nowadays, the focus of medical schools is on practical learning. Also, professors are excellent practitioners. Moreover, the study of law should not be confined to a single building, instead, students must be exposed to other relevant fields like business school and computer science.

An interactive pool asked attendees: To what extent must legal education and training be reimagined to change the way that lawyers are prepared for the new decade? 94% of attendees answered “Massively” and “Significantly”

What legal jobs will look in the future? With many legal tasks automated, a lawyer will have to make a choice between (1) try to compete against these technologies or (2) be part of building them.

Future graduates should have realistic expectations: the career opportunities of previous generations will no longer be available to them.

2- SUSSKIND: UK vs US, WHICH ONE IS BETTER PREPARED FOR THE NEW DECADE?

The comparison was made based on 7 factors:

a) Leading law firms: In the 90s, the US firms led the way in legal tech. Nowadays the UK is ahead. Local competition between UK firms to be ahead in legal tech could explain this shift.

b) General Counsels: Generally, GCs are concerned about changes in the legal landscape in both the US and the UK. They are unhappy with the status quo but not energetic enough to embrace change. Some claim to be “too busy to change” but this is equivalent to woodcutters claiming to be too busy to sharpen their ax.

c) Chief Operating Officer (COO): The US is ahead, there is a stronger movement to bring COOs into legal departments. At the moment, they are not making a significant impact, however, with more law firms developing their own technology, they will eventually have a significant impact on the industry. The legal culture could explain the lack of impact of COOs. Until culture parity is not attained (recognition of the COO as an important partner), there is going to be an unrealized potential.

d) Courts: Difficult to compare, because the US has many states with different jurisdictions, unlike the UK. The US does not have a single large initiative.

e) Regulators: Many reforms in the UK, the US seems to be more reticent.

f) Legal tech start-ups: There is more of a presence in the US. Also, US ventures have more traction than the UK ones, however, both seem to have experienced an explosion of new start-ups. In terms of regulation, the UK favors other models of legal services, while the US roots for more traditional practice.

g) Law schools: There is much more to be done in both the US and the UK, however, there are more research centers in the US. The US is ahead.

Following Susskind’s presentation, the presenters discussed the following topics:

Who is driving the change in the market? Outside forces. A cultural change or “culture parity” is necessary before inside forces could lead the change.

The UK vs the US, which one is more receptive to legal tech? In the UK, there is more openness to go out of the law firm paradigm. In the US, harder to separate the business of law and the practice of law.

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Stefanie Santana

Legal Technologist and chef aficionado | Currently in Tokyo | English, French & Spanish. Let’s Connect! LinkedIn: Stefanie V. Santana