The Future of Law

Providentia recently concluded its thought-provoking four-part webinar series on The Future of Law, featuring renowned legal industry analyst and predictor Richard Susskind.

Below you will find a summary article for each of the four Richard Susskind webinars, and two video summaries from Providentia’s David Ryan from the third and fourth webinars.

For this first webinar in our exclusive four-part series with Richard Susskind, Richard spoke about the key drivers of change happening in the industry, focusing on the importance of adopting a client-centric approach and embracing technology for innovation. David Lancelot from LawVu, our sponsor, provided his perspective, emphasizing the role of innovative legal service providers in disrupting the traditional law firm model.

Key Message from Richard Susskind

Richard Susskind delivered an engaging presentation on the future of legal services and the key drivers of change in the industry. He emphasized the importance of adopting a “power drill mentality” – focusing on the fundamental value provided to clients (the hole in the wall) rather than just improving existing ways of working (the power drill itself). Susskind also highlighted the distinction between automating current processes and innovating entirely new ways of delivering legal services, stressing that the most impactful uses of technology often fall into the latter category. As he put it, “Yes, of course, we can automate what we already do. But it’s this notion of looking at existing and emerging technologies and puzzling out if this can allow us to serve perhaps a wider range of people and clients, or perhaps to serve our existing clients more deeply.”

Susskind identified three main drivers of change in the legal industry: the “more for less” challenge, the advent of new providers like the Big Four and legal tech startups, and the increasing capabilities of technology itself. While much “innovation” in law firms so far has been more about process improvement and automation (“first generation innovation”), Susskind believes the future lies in transformative “second generation innovation” that fundamentally changes business models and ways of working. He encouraged legal providers to pursue strategies of optimization, transformation, and diversification. Quoting Alan Kay, Susskind challenged the audience to actively shape the future: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it…what future are you going to create for yourselves?”

A Reply from David Lancelot

David Lancelot from LawVu, our sponsor, praised Susskind’s insights and stressed the importance of reframing the challenge of doing more with less as an opportunity for disruption in the legal services industry. He emphasized the role of innovative legal service providers, like Providentia, in evolving the traditional law firm model. Lancelot believes that focusing on efficiency is driving the necessary disruption, both in legal services and in-house legal management. As he put it, “Working around the edges of things to me is not how we’re gonna disrupt the industry.”

Lancelot echoed Susskind’s view on technology as a key driver of change, seeing it as “the scalable engine room that allows legal functions to become the strategic advantage.” He argued that technology can free up legal professionals to become more creative and innovative, moving beyond “not fit for purpose solutions” like legacy legal tech. Lancelot advocated for holistic in-house solutions that integrate various aspects of legal work, as they “can significantly drive efficiency, accelerate the business, and unlock the potential of the creative and innovative legal teams to do the kind of work that I think Richard is is talking about, which is solving the problems of the customers as opposed to solving the problems of lawyers.”

Closing Summary

As the legal industry continues to evolve, it is crucial for legal professionals and organizations to embrace change, adopt a client-centric mindset, and harness the power of technology to drive innovation and efficiency. The question remains: how will you and your organization adapt to the changing landscape and create value for your clients in the years to come?

In the second part of Providentia’s exclusive webinar series with Richard Susskind, we delved into the role of AI in the evolving legal landscape, focusing on the distinction between automation and innovation and the potential long-term impact of AI on the legal industry. Richard was joined by Mark Ross, Principal and Growth and Markets Leader – Legal Business Services at Deloitte Tax LLP, who provided practical insights on AI adoption in the legal sector.

Key Message from Richard Susskind

Richard Susskind discussed the distinction between automation and innovation in the context of AI’s impact on the legal industry.

He believes that while AI will not transform the legal world in the short term, it will have a profound impact by 2030 and beyond. Susskind stated, “Do I think AI will turn the law and legal practice and the courts on its head or in their heads over the next couple of years. I really don’t. There’ll be a huge impact. But I don’t think it’s going to completely transform, as pundits would have us believe, the legal world in the short term.” However, he emphasized that “in the long term, 20-30 years and beyond,… the way we practice law, the way we resolve disputes, the way we teach law will be fundamentally, irreversibly, pervasively changed by AI.”

Susskind provided a historical overview of AI’s development, highlighting the launch of ChatGPT in 2022 as a significant milestone. He cautioned against fixating on the current limitations of AI systems, as the underlying technologies are expected to improve dramatically in the coming years. “Think about this, the power of neural nets… The performance of neural nets is doubling every 3 and a half months… [which] means basically the power of neural nets within 5 years will actually increase 300,000 fold.”

Regarding the impact of AI on legal jobs, Susskind introduced several new roles, such as legal design thinkers, legal process analysts, and legal knowledge engineers, who will be responsible for designing the systems that replace current ways of working. He emphasized the importance of building these systems rather than competing with them, stating, “We should be building the systems that replace our old ways of working. I don’t think it’s just an opportunity. I think it’s also an obligation.” Susskind also stressed the need for lawyers to focus on what AI means for clients and society, rather than just for the legal profession itself, drawing parallels with the medical field’s emphasis on patient outcomes.

A Reply from Mark Ross

Mark Ross began by reflecting on the pace of technological change in the legal industry, quoting Susskind’s observation that “less happens in 5 years than one might predict, but more happens in 20.” Ross discussed recent Deloitte research surveying 3,000 business leaders, finding high excitement about generative AI (79% anticipated “substantial transformation” within 3 years) yet relatively low legal adoption so far: “The legal risk and compliance function [ranked] below HR, below supply chain, below manufacturing, below marketing, below sales, below, of course, IT.”

Ross highlighted practical use cases Deloitte is seeing with clients, especially in contract lifecycle management. “Right now we are seeing generative AI tools…creating checklists that analyze contractual agreements to determine if your organization’s requirements for that particular type of transaction are being met.”

Closing Summary

As AI continues to advance and transform various aspects of the legal industry, it is essential for legal professionals to embrace the opportunities and challenges it presents. By focusing on innovation rather than mere automation, and by developing the skills necessary to design and build AI-powered systems, lawyers can position themselves to thrive in the future legal landscape. Ultimately, the successful adoption of AI in the legal sector will require a commitment to client-centric services and a willingness to adapt to new ways of working. As Susskind and Ross have highlighted, the question is not whether AI will transform the legal industry, but rather how legal professionals will choose to shape that transformation in the years to come.

In the third installment of Providentia’s exclusive webinar series on the Future of Law, Richard Susskind delved into the evolving role of in-house lawyers and the strategies they should adopt to remain competitive in the face of increasing pressures and technological advancements.

David Ryan, Founder and Managing Counsel at Providentia, provided practical insights and perspectives based on his extensive experience working with major tech companies

Key Message from Richard Susskind

In this presentation, Richard Susskind discussed the future of in-house lawyers and the strategies they should adopt to remain competitive. He identified five main pressures facing in-house legal departments: controlling costs, managing risk, demonstrating value to their organizations, understanding and exploiting technology, and finding time to plan for the future rather than just firefighting.

Susskind argued in-house lawyers needed to shift from short-term management to long-term leadership and adopt a “vision-based” rather than “legacy-based” approach to strategy. As he put it, “The great leaders put today to one side. They have a vision of, say, 5 to 7 years hence an exciting, bold vision and then join their organization, and the people who work with them, often in unlikely circumstances, to drive towards that vision.”

Susskind emphasized the transformative potential of artificial intelligence, arguing it would enable many legal tasks to be automated or executed by less qualified people using technology. However, he saw this as an opportunity for in-house lawyers to “retool and retrain and become directly involved in building the systems that replace your old ways of working.” Susskind encouraged in-house lawyers to reframe how they think about their role and the fundamental value they provide. “Organizations don’t actually want in-house lawyers. What they want is the outcomes you bring…So what we need to do is think deeply about the outcomes…and how you might deliver these outcomes more to a higher standard.”

He saw the future business of in-house lawyers as encompassing design thinking, process analysis, knowledge engineering, and risk management.

A Reply from David Ryan

David Ryan’s response to Richard Susskind’s presentation focused on the practical aspects of succeeding as an in-house lawyer and the importance of adapting to the discontinuous changes in the legal industry.

Drawing from his extensive experience working with major tech companies, Ryan emphasized that hiring the right candidates goes beyond traditional metrics like law school pedigree and firm experience. “When we look at resumes,” he explained, “we’re looking for what you would imagine we would be looking for: a good law school, strong academic performance, and recognized law firms.” However, he also highlighted the importance of business experience and acumen.

Ryan stressed that succeeding as an in-house lawyer requires more than just technical legal skills. He referenced a survey of 24,000 lawyers in the US called “Foundations for Practice,” which found that characteristics and competencies were more important than technical legal skills. Quoting the survey, Ryan said, “Intelligence on its own is not enough. Technical legal skills are not enough. [Lawyers] require a broader set of characteristics, professional competencies, and legal skills that, when taken together, produce a whole lawyer.” He advocated for lawyers to become “expert generalists” or “T-shaped professionals” with deep legal expertise complemented by skills in other areas like business leadership, intellectual property, governance, risk, compliance, and cybersecurity. As he put it, “the objective of change should be for you to become a different lawyer, so that you can do different work and work in different ways that add more value to your clients.”

Additionally, Ryan touched on the need for law firms to change their billing practices in response to client demands. Ryan advocated for value-based pricing. While this approach may lead to lower short-term profitability, Ryan believes it fosters long-term client relationships, which are ultimately more valuable.

Closing Summary

As the legal landscape continues to evolve, driven by technological advancements and changing client demands, in-house lawyers must adapt and redefine their roles to remain relevant and competitive. By embracing a proactive, vision-based approach to strategy, developing a broader set of skills beyond traditional legal expertise, and actively participating in the creation of innovative legal solutions, in-house lawyers can position themselves as invaluable assets to their organizations.

Ultimately, the success of tomorrow’s in-house lawyers will depend on their ability to deliver outcomes that align with their clients’ needs and expectations, while continuously adapting to the discontinuous changes shaping the legal industry.

In the final session of Providentia’s four-part series with Richard Susskind, we delved into the topic of BigLaw and the alternatives, exploring the challenges faced by traditional law firms and the emergence of new models and providers in the legal industry. Richard discussed the impact of ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ on BigLaw and the likely influence of the Big Four accounting firms. David Ryan, Founder and Managing Counsel at Providentia, provided his insights and experiences, highlighting the importance of adapting to changing client needs and leveraging knowledge assets

Key Message from Richard Susskind

Richard Susskind’s presentation focused on the future of “BigLaw” and the alternative models and providers challenging its traditional business model. He emphasized the importance of “outcome thinking,” where lawyers focus on the practical and emotional effects of their services rather than just how they have always worked.

While BigLaw firms are profitable and prestigious, Susskind argued that they face challenges such as clients’ willingness to find alternative providers, high fees, and a business model that may not be sustainable in an era of increasingly capable AI systems.

As he put it, “The market will show no loyalty to our traditional ways of working. If AI systems emerge that can deliver the outcomes clients want in ways that are cheaper or more convenient, less costly, as I say. Then the market, II think, will move to these alternative ways of working.”

Susskind outlined eight alternative models for delivering legal services and highlighted the Big Four accounting firms and legal tech startups as key players in this space. Although Big Law firms often believe they are an exception to these trends, focusing on “bet the ranch” deals and disputes, Susskind countered this view. He noted that general counsel are indicating that price-insensitive work is a declining category and that the belief in the immunity of big deals and disputes ignores the threat of decomposition and disaggregation.

He concluded by emphasizing that the question should not be “What is the future of BigLaw?” but rather “How in the future will clients solve the problems to which big law is their current best answer?” Susskind predicted that by 2030, the legal landscape will look very different, with alternative legal service providers and AI-empowered in-house legal departments playing a significant role in solving clients’ problems.

A Reply from David Ryan

In his response to Richard Susskind’s presentation, David Ryan acknowledged that while there isn’t much disagreement between them on the topic of BigLaw and its alternatives, he aimed to provide further insights.

Ryan noted that most BigLaw firms have resisted calls to remake their business model due to continued profitability. However, based on his personal experience, he believes they are starting to adapt, by agreeing to more alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) and investing in legal tech. As Ryan put it, “My own experience is that they are starting to remake themselves. They are agreeing to more alternative fee arrangements. They’re certainly investing in legal tech and in other types of non law firm businesses. And it’s just a start.”

He emphasized that the changes BigLaw firms are making are reactive rather than proactive, in response to the emergence of Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs) and the Big Four accounting firms.

Ryan restated Richard’s emphasis on the importance of the emotional outcomes clients seek from legal services, stating, “What clients want from lawyers and law firms is an outcome that has both practical and emotional aspects.” He argued that Big Law’s vast repository of legal and market knowledge is a significant asset that, if leveraged effectively, could help them prosper.” If they can learn to turn that knowledge into value other than by billing human time, or, in addition to billing human time, BigLaw, in my view, will continue to prosper.”

In conclusion, Ryan suggested that while BigLaw firms will continue to be the best choice for highly complex, high-stakes matters, innovative law firms like Providentia serve as a complementary alternative, offering experienced attorneys at a lower cost. As Ryan put it, “We’re providing these legal skills and the business noose to advise and support clients to successful, practical, and emotional outcomes at a fraction of the cost of BigLaw.”

Closing Summary

As the legal industry continues to evolve, driven by technological advancements, changing client demands, and the emergence of alternative service providers, BigLaw firms face a critical juncture. To remain competitive and relevant, they must embrace a more client-centric approach, focusing on delivering outcomes that address both the practical and emotional aspects of their clients’ needs.

By leveraging their vast repositories of legal and market knowledge, and exploring new ways to deliver value beyond the traditional billable hour model, BigLaw firms can position themselves for success in the changing legal landscape. However, they must also recognize the growing role of alternative providers, such as the Big Four and innovative law firms like Providentia, which offer complementary services and experienced attorneys at a lower cost.

Ultimately, the future of the legal industry will be shaped by those who are willing to adapt, innovate, and put their clients’ needs at the forefront of their strategies.

David Ryan discusses Tomorrow's In-House Lawyers
David Ryan discusses BigLaw and the Alternatives

Richard Susskind

Professor Richard Susskind OBE KC (Hon) is the President of the Society for Computers and Law, the founder of Remote Courts Worldwide and since 1988 has advised six chief justices as Technology Adviser to the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. He is the world’s most cited author on the future of legal services. His work has been translated into 18 languages and he has been invited to speak in over 60 countries. Richard wrote his doctoral thesis on AI and the law at Oxford University and went on to co-develop the world’s first commercial AI system for lawyers.

Praise for Richard Susskind’s international bestseller ‘Tomorrow’s Lawyers’:

Far and away the best analyst and predicator of the evolution of the legal marketplace is Richard Susskind.

American Bar Association Journal

Susskind holistically and deftly weaves together the disparate threads of the legal mosaic that will collectively transform the legal function as we know it.


Richard Susskind
Professor Richard Susskind OBE KC (Hon)